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No deal amid Leveson Inquiry talks

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The main sticking point for parties discussing the Leveson Inquiry report is whether any new watchdog would be backed up in law

The main sticking point for parties discussing the Leveson Inquiry report is whether any new watchdog would be backed up in law

The main sticking point for parties discussing the Leveson Inquiry report is whether any new watchdog would be backed up in law

Cross-party talks on press regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry broke up with the parties still no closer to reaching an agreement.

Officials said Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour have failed to come to an agreement on the main sticking point - that any new watchdog must be be backed up in law.

Key differences also remain over the data protection reforms recommended by Lord Justice Leveson in his 2,000-page report on press ethics.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller hosted the talks, which will resume next week when they will focus on the draft legislation drawn up by the Government.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said: "Cross-party talks this morning were constructive, but key points of difference remain.

"The Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary have been clear that they do not feel that statutory underpinning is necessary to achieve a tough independent self-regulator as outlined by the Leveson principles.

"We remain of that view, and feel that the case for statutory regulation has not been made. We also have unresolved concerns about how any 'verifying body' would work, as well as concerns around data protection."

The meeting focused on plans unveiled by Labour last week that would put the Lord Chief Justice at the head of a panel which decides if a new press watchdog is up to scratch. Its six-clause draft Bill also included a requirement that ministers and public agents protect press freedom.

A spokeswoman for shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said: "We had detailed discussions about our Bill this morning at what was a constructive meeting. A few issues of detail were raised but we made clear we are prepared to be flexible. It is clear that all parties agree that our Bill would give effect to Leveson's central recommendations.

"However, the Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary appear to have a philosophical dilemma about whether they want a Bill at all, but we look forward to seeing their draft Bill which they plan to publish early next week. We agreed to have extended talks on Tuesday where we will discuss Maria Miller's draft Bill and Oliver Letwin's plans for a Royal Charter. There are also ongoing discussions about the party leaders meeting ahead of the Christmas break."

PA