§ Mr. John Smith (Lanarkshire, North)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,a reference of the proposed purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times by Mr. Rupert Murdoch to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.The matter is, I believe, specific. The present owners of these newspapers appear to have reached agreement to sell them to Mr. Murdoch, and that agreement in turn requires the approval of the Secretary of State under the Fair Trading Act 1973. I assume that an application for his approval has already been made.
This issue is also important. The acquisition of these newspapers by Mr. Murdoch will create a very large concentration of newspaper power in one ownership, precisely the circumstances that Parliament had in mind when it passed the newspapers mergers reference provisions of the 1973 Act.
I appreciate that assurances have been given by Mr. Murdoch, and I appreciate the concern over employment and the desire to keep both newspapers in existence. I believe, however, that if a reference were made, coupled with a request for an early report, proper examination of this large concentration of newspaper power could be made within the several weeks that have been set aside by the parties for negotiations.
I believe that the matter is urgent, because a decision must necessarily be imminent. The sooner a reference is made the sooner can a report be made available for the consideration of us all.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock today—in fact, he gave it on Friday—that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,a reference of the proposed purchase of The Times and The Sunday Times by Mr. Rupert Murdoch to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.I listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I am satisfied that the matter raised by him is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 9. Does the right hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House?
§ The leave of the House having been given—648
§ Mr. Speaker
The motion for the Adjournment of the House will stand over until the commencement of public business tomorrow, when a three-hour debate on the matter will take place.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I take this opportunity, through you, to ask the Leader of the House to make a statement at the first possible opportunity concerning the rest of tomorrow's business? It would be intolerable if the British Nationality Bill, which raises fundamental constitutional issues—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman should raise that matter through the usual channels. It is not a point of order for me. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is for me to answer points of order, not the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While I appreciate that you have sole right to decide who shall speak in a debate, may I ask you to note that when you asked Members to give their support to the application under Standing Order No. 9 not one Conservative Member stood? Perhaps therefore, if a large number of Members want to take part in the debate, you will note that lack of interest among Conservative Members and you will not call them to speak.
§ Mr. Speaker
I should explain to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that, strictly speaking, it is not necessary for 40 hon. Members to rise unless there is an objection. It is only in the case of an objection that the agreement of 40 Members is necessary. I have taken note of the hon. Gentleman's comments.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
I am aware that I do not have the same substance in politics or in any other way as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), but many other hon. Members will have noticed that I stood, so he is wrong.
§ The motion stood over under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) until the commencement of public business tomorrow.