CULTURE Secretary and Basingstoke MP Maria Miller has unveiled her vision for a new press watchdog.

Her proposal is for the press to create a regulator to hear complaints and investigate wrongdoing.

Newspapers and magazines that sign up to the regulator could be fined up to £1million if they break the rules.

The plans include a legally binding Royal Charter to create a ‘recognition panel’ which would oversee the regulator to ensure that it is doing its job properly.

The panel would consist of up to eight members, and would exclude editors, publishers and politicians.

Mrs Miller, who has been at the heart of the debate over press regulation, said the proposal would result in a tough new regulator that would not hinder press freedom.

“It would see the toughest press regulation this country has ever seen, without compromising press freedom,” she said.

“I have been clear that the status quo is not an option and that we need tough independent self-regulation.

“Equally, I have said that I have grave concerns about a press bill and am not convinced that it is necessary on the grounds of principle, practicality or necessity.”

On November 29, Lord Justice Leveson published a 1,987-page report into “the culture, practices and ethics of the press”.

The Leveson inquiry, which lasted 15 months, was sparked by revelations of phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World newspaper.

The judge recommended forming an independent, self-regulatory watchdog backed by statute.

Mrs Miller’s proposal dampens fears that a watchdog backed by legislation would erode press freedom.

A Royal Charter is legally binding but does not need to be voted on by Parliament.

The Conservatives are now negotiating with Labour and the Liberal Democrats over the plan’s small print.

Mrs Miller wants a decision on whether to push ahead with the proposals to be made by February 21.