Culture Secretary denies plans to legislate for stricter press regulation

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CULTURE Secretary Maria Miller has poured cold water on claims she is preparing to legislate for tighter regulation of the press.

Following a meeting with the Culture Secretary and Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin yesterday, campaign group Hacked Off said it understood she was planning two pieces of legislation to underpin a new “verifying body” established under Royal Charter to monitor the operation of a new press watchdog.

The campaign group – which represents victims of press intrusion – said the proposal made “no sense” and urged ministers to implement the recommendations of last month’s Leveson Report in full.

A spokesman for Mrs Miller’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said she believes that statutory underpinning is not necessary to achieve the principles for regulation set out by Lord Justice Leveson.

The spokesman said the ball was still in the court of the ­industry, which has been told to come up with a blueprint for a self-regulation body which would be independent and ­effective in dealing with ­complaints.

Mr Letwin has floated proposals for a Royal Charter, which were discussed on Wednesday by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, although the three party leaders reached no agreement.

It is understood Mr Letwin envisages setting up an independent body under Royal Charter, with responsibility for verifying the new voluntary system of self-regulation and ensuring it is working effectively. Reports suggested he has accepted it would require parliamentary approval, though it is not clear if this would mean legislation.

Following the meeting, Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart said Mr Letwin and Mrs Miller had told him they plan two pieces of legislation – one to underpin the verifying body and the second to put in place incentives for the press to join the self-regulation body.