Culture Secretary Maria Miller has pleaded for cross-party unity over the political response to the Leveson Inquiry as she warned new laws may be needed if the press could not establish an independent and effective regulator.

Despite the deep divisions over Lord Justice Leveson's call for legislation to underpin the new regulator, a recommendation which Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected, Mrs Miller insisted there was widespread agreement over the need for change.

Opening a major Commons debate on the Leveson findings, Mrs Miller said MPs must not become "polarised" over the report's central principles.

But she was subjected to a barrage of questions from MPs pushing rival views on the need for legislation.

Mrs Miller insisted there was "more that unites us than divides us", despite the spilt within the coalition Government over the need for statutory underpinning, with the Liberal Democrats siding with Labour in calling for legislation.

The Culture Secretary said: "We must not allow this debate to polarise us. We all agree on the need for a tough and independent regulator for the press ... we all agree that the suffering of the victims and their families cannot be allowed to happen again.

"We all agree that the status quo is not an option. It is the responsibility of this House to ensure that whatever is put in place is effective.

"This is common ground, let us put to one side the politics and let us turn our focus on the principles."