PLANS to introduce legislation which could make newspapers liable for legal cases regardless of the result, have been slammed.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched a consultation on press regulation, asking for views on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

If brought into effect, it would make newspaper publishers liable for the costs of claimants in libel and certain privacy actions, regardless of whether or not they win the case in court.

The consultation closes at 5pm on January 10 and asks whether Section 40 should be revoked and whether the Leveson Inquiry should be terminated.

John Baron, Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay, says he opposes the concept of Section 40.

He added: “I have misgivings about implementing Section 40 because I instinctively dislike state regulation of the press and fear the chilling effect it may have on journalism if enacted.

“If newspapers know they will face all legal costs even if their story is 100 per cent true and accurate, it is not hard to see how editors may think twice before uncovering corruption and wrongdoing.

Mr Baron added that the legislation would not be in the public interest, and serve as a “victory for the rich and powerful.”

He said: “I would imagine these considerations would weigh particularly heavily on local newspapers, which do not often have the resources of the national titles to cover high legal costs.

“Such a situation would seem to me to be a victory for the rich and powerful, and would not be in the public interest.”

Sir Vince Cable who has warned that press “scandals” such as those which sparked the Leveson inquiry will happen again if the Government abandons plans for regulation.

But Rebecca Harris, Tory MP for Castle Point, echoed Mr Baron’s views, adding that newspapers on smaller budgets are likely to “lose out.” She said: “I think that local newspapers are likely to lose out in this really,

“The problem is the relaxed approach larger papers take when it comes to printing stories.

“They would be able to defend themselves in libel cases as they have larger budgets to fall back on.

“I support the Government in whatever decision they take after the consultation, but think this will make the smaller papers far more cautious.”

The Echo contacted Mark Francois, James Duddridge, Jackie Doyle-Price, Stephen Metcalfe and Sir David Amess for comment, but received no reply.