The Government is ready to use legislation to enforce effective regulation of the press if the industry fails to set up a genuinely tough and independent self-regulatory body along the lines set out in last week's Leveson Report, Culture Secretary Maria Miller has warned.
Prime Minister David Cameron last week voiced "serious concerns and misgivings" about Lord Justice Leveson's recommendation of legislative underpinning for a new regulator, but addressing MPs on Monday, Mrs Miller made clear it had not been ruled out as a last resort.
The Culture Secretary was speaking in a House of Commons debate on the eve of Tuesday's Downing Street summit with newspaper editors at which she expects to hear what progress the industry has made on its blueprint for a replacement for the Press Complaints Commission.
Meanwhile, an online petition launched by campaigners Hacked Off, calling for the full implementation of Leveson's recommendations - including statutory underpinning - had attracted almost 135,000 signatures by the end of this afternoon.
Mrs Miller told MPs "the status quo is not an option" following Leveson's account of "outrageous" intrusion by elements of the press which the PCC failed to prevent.
She warned: "The Prime Minister is clear - we will see change. That change can either come with the support of the press or - if we are given no option - without it. Be in no doubt that if the industry doesn't respond, the Government will."
She confirmed that the action envisaged by ministers "would include legislation" if the industry's proposals fall short of Leveson's principles that a new regulator must be truly independent and able to impose big fines on newspapers which misbehave.
"We will not accept a puppet show with the same people pulling the same strings," she told MPs.
Mrs Miller's comments came after cross-party talks with Labour culture spokeswoman Harriet Harman and Liberal Democrat Lord Wallace, whose leaders have both voiced support for legislation.
Labour sources characterised the talks, which lasted around 30 minutes, as "constructive" and said leader Ed Miliband was still hoping to find a way of moving forward on the basis of consensus.