Britain's three main politicalparties struck a compromise deal on a new regulatory system forthe country's newspapers in the early hours of Monday morning, alawmaker said, hours before what was to be a divisiveparliamentary vote on the issue.
The government came under pressure to put a new regulatorysystem in place after a judge-led inquiry and a series ofarrests laid bare a culture of phone hacking and malpractice insome parts of Britain's scandal-hungry press.
The deal is expected to see a new press regulator set up,the introduction of fines of up to 1 million pounds ($1.5million), and an obligation on newspapers to print prominentapologies where appropriate.
"I think we have got an agreement which protects the freedomof the press, that is incredibly important in a democracy, butalso protects the rights of people not to have their livesturned upside down," Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of theopposition Labour party, told ITV TV.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller, a member of the rulingConservative party, played down how much her party had beenforced to compromise.
A deal spares Prime Minister David Cameron what was shapingup to be an embarrassing political defeat in parliament thatwould have deepened rifts in his coalition government and ends along-running debate that has exposed close ties betweenpoliticians and the press.
Harman said the deal would be put to the lower house ofparliament later on Monday, but that she hoped a vote could beavoided and that "everybody will be agreed".
The three parties got a deal after agreeing to enactlegislation in the upper house of parliament to ensure the newsystem cannot be easily altered or watered down later.
The three parties had been divided over whether a new pressregulator should be enshrined in law and over how its memberswould be chosen.