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Cameron and Clegg in unprecedented split over future of the Press ahead of Lord Leveson's report
23:20 GMT, 28 November 2012
The Coalition was heading for an unprecedented split last night after David Cameron and Nick Clegg clashed over the future of Press regulation.
As Lord Justice Leveson prepared to deliver his verdict today in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, the Prime Minister and his deputy were locked in talks over how to respond.
For the first time, Mr Clegg has asked Speaker John Bercow whether he can make a separate statement after the PM if the two cannot reach agreement.
Collision course Prime Minister David Cameron (right) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have clashed over the future of Press regulation
Mr Clegg was said to be 'actively pushing' for new laws to regulate newspapers – a move that would end 300 years of Press freedom. Mr Cameron, however, is understood not to want to back any 'Leveson law' at this point.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Cameron made clear that the current system of Press self-regulation is 'not an option' and said the victims of abuses should be 'uppermost' in people's minds.
He also promised cross-party talks with Liberal Democrats and Labour, but suggested he wanted an 'independent' regulator rather than one in which the state was involved.
Challenged by Tory MPs who oppose any new Press law, the Prime Minister added: 'I would agree that a free Press is absolutely vital to democracy.
'We should recognise all the Press has done and should continue doing to uncover wrong doing, to stand up to the powerful, this is vitally important.'
Last night a source said the talks between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg at No 10 had been 'good' and that the pair were making progress.
Campaigners: (From the left) Steve Coogan, Hugh Grant and Max Mosley give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry
Earlier, Hugh Grant, the actor and spokesman for Hacked Off, a campaign group calling for an end to self-regulation, insisted newspapers could no longer be allowed to 'mark their own homework'.
He revealed on Channel 4 News that he had personally given 'about 20,000' to Hacked Off, but refused to name any of its other wealthy backers.
Britain's oldest political journal has declared it will refuse to abide by any regulatory system backed by law. The Spectator said it would not accept any scheme that 'subordinates Press to Parliament'.