HC Deb 08 November 1966 vol 735 cc1143-4
Q2. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister what action he proposes to take over the threat to the Press due to growing control of newspapers and journals by a handful of concerns.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade already has wide powers under the Monopolies and Mergers Act, 1965, to protect the public interest against possible damage arising from newspaper amalgamations. He will not hesitate to use these powers whenever appropriate.

Mr. Winnick

Would the Prime Minister not agree that there is a great deal of concern in the country at the fact that one or two concerns are taking over so many newspapers and publications? Is there not a danger that very soon all the independent national newspapers will be squeezed out? Would my right hon. Friend consider this as a matter of urgency and consider appointing a Royal Commission on the future of the British Press?

The Prime Minister

There was a Royal Commission on the future of the British Press some time ago. I think that the only case recently at national level which my hon. Friend may have in mind is the proposal for the merger of The Times and the Sunday Times. That has already been referred to the Monopolies Commission and we must await the Report of that Commission.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the right hon. Gentleman look at another aspect of the threat to the Press and contact the editors of local newspapers, who feel that the threat to their liberty of expression in editorials is the greatest threat they face?

The Prime Minister

I was not aware of any threat to the editors of local newspapers concerning their editorials. It is a fact that many editors of local papers find their editorials written for them in London by proprietors.