The Daily Telegraph has taken the unusual step of publishing details of a conversation between one of its reporters and a ministerial adviser in an attempt to highlight what it believes would be the dangers of any statutory regulation of the press.
On Wednesday the newspaper reported that Joanna Hindley, an adviser Maria Miller, had attempted to warn the paper off writing about the culture secretary's expenses claims, by reminding it of the role the department played in developing a new system of press regulation.
"Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about," Hindley is said to have told the paper.
Labour MP Toby Perkins said it would be "crass and shameful if Maria Miller's office really used threat of her role in Leveson to suppress a negative story".
Hindley is also said to have told the reporter to discuss the “people a little higher up your organisation”.
Earlier this week the Daily Telegraph reported that Miller had allegedly misused £90,000 of expenses, a charge she denies.
Labour MP John Mann has complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that Miller’s parents lived in a property designated as her second home whilst she was also claiming parliamentary allowances to cover the costs of the rent.
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told the Daily Mirror: "Mrs Miller’s special adviser raised concerns with a journalist about the nature of an approach to Mrs Miller’s elderly father.
"Her advisor noted Mrs Miller was in regular contact with the paper’s editor and would raise her concerns directly with him.
"However, this is a separate issue to ongoing discussions about press regulation. Mrs Miller has made the Government’s position on this clear."
The Daily Telegraph is strongly opposed to any statutory regulation of the press, including the statutory underpinning of independent self regulation as recommended by Lord Justice Leveson.
Journalists do not usually report their conversations with advisers. But the Daily Telegraph said it had decided to disclose what Hindley is said to have told its reporter "amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press".
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