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Parties at odds over press deal
Ed Miliband has urged MPs to 'stand up for the victims' of press abuse by enshrining a new press regulator in law in a crunch Commons vote
David Cameron is embroiled in a war of words with Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband after the parties hammered out a deal on a new system of press regulation.
The Prime Minister insisted the agreement on a royal charter, struck in the early hours of Monday morning, avoided the need for a law to control newspapers.
But his Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts said there would be statutory underpinning, with legislation guaranteeing that the system could not be watered down.
Mr Cameron said: "It's not statutory underpinning. What it is is simply a clause that says politicians can't fiddle with this so it takes it further away from politicians, which is actually, I think, a sensible step."
Mr Cameron added: "What we wanted to avoid and we have avoided is a press law. Nowhere will it say what this body is, what it does, what it can't do, what the press can and can't do. That, quiet rightly, is being kept out of Parliament. So, no statutory underpinning, but a safeguard that says politicians can't in future fiddle with this arrangement."
The Prime Minister added: "I'm delighted with this deal. I've always wanted two things and that is a strong regulator to stand up for the victims and we have got that and also a proper defence of press freedom and we have got that.
"What's happened is that everyone has accepted my argument for a royal charter. Why does that matter? Well I thought it was important to avoid a press law, a law that said the press can do this, the regulator's got to do that. That would be dangerous, that's not going to happen and that's what we secured and that's why this is a good deal."
The row centres on a clause being inserted into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in the Lords later. It does not explicitly refer to the Royal Charter that will establish the new press arrangements, but Labour and the Lib Dems said the effect would be the same.
It reads: "Where a body is established by royal charter after 1 March 2013 with functions relating to the carrying on of an industry, no recommendation may be made to Her Majesty in Council to amend the body's Charter or dissolve the body unless any requirements included in the charter on the date it is granted for parliament to approve the amendment or dissolution have been met."
An Opposition source accused the Conservatives of trying to save face, insisting: "This is not a little bit of statute, this is not a dab of statute, this is statute pure and simple."