10:39am Thursday 29th November 2012
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Divisions in the coalition Government over Press regulation burst into the open as it was confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will make a separate statement to the House of Commons after David Cameron responds to the Leveson Report.
House of Commons authorities confirmed - for the first time since the Coalition was formed in 2010 - that the Liberal Democrat leader will address MPs following the Conservative Prime Minister's statement.
The announcement follows talks between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg over the long-awaited Leveson Report into the ethics and standards of the Press, which will be published at 1.30pm.
The two men had hoped to be able to agree a united Government response to be delivered by Mr Cameron. Their failure to agree on a single message means it will be much more difficult to achieve the cross-party consensus on Leveson, which both Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband backed at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons on Wednesday.
Mr Clegg is understood to favour some form of statutory underpinning for Press regulation, while the Prime Minister is believed to be more wary of involving the State in policing the newspapers. A senior Liberal Democrat source sought to play down the significance of the decision to make a separate statement, insisting it was "not some massive coalition clash".
The announcement that Mr Clegg was to make his own statement was made following fresh talks between the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Cameron, after an initial meeting on Wednesday night.
Mr Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in July last year in response to revelations that the News of the World commissioned a private detective to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002. The probe, set to cost around £6 million overall, heard months of dramatic evidence from celebrities, media figures, politicians and the police.
Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000-page report is due to be unveiled at 1.30pm, with the judge widely expected to suggest a new newspaper regulator underpinned by law.
Mr Cameron will deliver his statement to MPs in the House of Commons at 3pm, followed by a response from Mr Miliband. MPs will have a chance to debate the PM's statement before Mr Clegg addresses them. Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, will respond to the DPM.
The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have been poring over the report with key officials since Downing Street received half a dozen advance copies 24 hours ahead of publication on Wednesday. The two-statement arrangement appears to reflect a failure in that time so far to come to a settled Government position.
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