HC Deb 02 July 1996 vol 280 cc822-54

13A.—(1) No one person may at any time hold—

  1. (a) a licence to provide a national Channel 3 service or Channel 5, and
  2. (b) a licence to provide a national radio service.
  3. (2) No one person may at any time hold—
    1. (a) a licence to provide a local radio service or local digital sound programme services, and
    2. (b) a licence to provide a regional Channel 3 service whose coverage area is to a significant extent the same as that of the local radio service or of any local digital sound programme service provided by him.'

No. 36, in page 125, line 32, leave out `1(2)(b)' and insert '1(2)(aa), (b)'.

No. 37, in page 125, line 40, after '1(2)(a)' insert 'or (aa)'.

No. 38, in page 125, line 43, leave out '13' and insert '13A'.—[Mr. Knapman.]

Mr. Sproat

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 126, leave out lines 8 to 12.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 40.

Mr. Sproat

Amendments Nos. 39 and 40 are minor drafting amendments that are consequential on the removal of local radio services from the scope of the order-making power in paragraph 14(1) of schedule 2. As local radio is no longer subject to an order made under paragraph 14(1), paragraph 14(4) is redundant.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 40, in page 126, line 23, leave out 'sub-paragraphs (4) and (5)' and insert 'subparagraph (5)'.

No. 152, in page 126, line 37, at beginning insert 'Subject to sub-paragraph (1A)'.

No. 41, in page 126, line 38, leave out '13' and insert '13A'.

No. 153, in page 126, line 39, after 'paragraph' insert '12A or'.

No. 154, in page 126, line 42, at end insert— `(1A) For the purposes of paragraph 12 and any order under paragraph 12A, a person shall not be treated as holding a licence to provide a local radio service merely because he is a director of a body corporate which holds the licence.'

No. 42, in page 126, line 46, leave out from beginning to end of line 19 on page 128.—[Mr. Knapman.]

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I beg to move amendment No. 102, in page 129, leave out lines 32 to 37.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 260, in page 129, line 32, leave out from 'newspaper' to 'may' in line 34.

No. 261, in page 129, line 34, leave out '20' and insert '10'.

Government amendments Nos. 43 and 44.

No. 262, in page 129, line 37, at end insertp— '(d) a domestic or a non-domestic satellite service.'.

No. 162, in page 129, line 41, at end insert— '(2A) If as a result of a takeover a person who owns or controls newspapers with a circulation market share above the percentage specified in paragraphs 4(1) and (2) becomes the holder of a licence to provide a Channel 3 service, the Independent Television Commission shall not for that reason alone revoke that licence unless a period of 12 months from the takeover has elapsed and the newspaper proprietor has failed to reduce the market share of those newspapers he controls to below the specified percentage.'.

No. 263, in page 130, line 7, at end insert— '(6A) Any person who immediately prior to the date of coming into force of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Act 1996 was both the proprietor of a national newspaper and the holder of a licence to provide any of the services mentioned in sub-paragraphs 1(a) to (d) of paragraph 4 above shall, within three months of that date, take such steps as are necessary to comply with the provisions of that paragraph.'.

Government amendments Nos. 45 and 46.

Dr. Cunningham

Amendment No. 102 addresses one— of the most controversial aspects of the legislation—the regulations on cross-media ownership. The amendment seeks to delete that part of the Bill which contains the limit on cross-media ownership by national newspapers.

At present, any newspaper group with more than 20 per cent. of the national market share is not allowed under the Bill to hold a licence to provide a regional national channel 3 service. In practice, that provision affects only two companies—Mirror Group Newspapers and News International.

In seeking to abolish the limit, Labour has been portrayed as advocating no controls on media ownership. That is certainly not the case. The Bill contains two other important provisions that we fully support: first, the rule whereby no single television supplier may accumulate more than 15 per cent. of the total television audience and, secondly, the important public interest tests that may be applied by the Independent Television Commission and which are contained in paragraphs 7 to 12 of schedule 2.

In advocating lifting one restriction on cross-media ownership, it is important to spell out why we believe that this is such an important issue. In Britain, we have a large number of newspaper groups which, whether we like them or not, have managed to flourish over a period of years. More recently, there has been major growth in the television market as well as concentration of ownership. The future of the media, which is important to us all, is likely to continue broadly in the same way. Some people believe that newspapers are in long-term decline and that the future lies much more in broadcasting and the development of multimedia companies.

I do not believe that we should commit ourselves to opposing the development of cross-media ownership or the growth and success of large companies. The idea of a Britain where large numbers of small companies make high-quality television programmes for the local area in which they broadcast while the Berlusconis and Bertelsmanns compete across Europe and the world is not a realistic proposition. One of the implications of the Bill as it stands is that Mirror Group Newspapers is denied ownership of a channel 3 licence, while the Berlusconi and Bertelsmann empires are not. Other European multi-media groups could purchase such licences, but Mirror Group Newspapers and News International could not.

The Government have got themselves into a terrible mess. There are seven major newspaper groups, five of which are to be allowed to enter the television market. Another, News Corp, is already a major player in television. BSkyB is currently about third in the viewing figures when the public service broadcasters are discounted, and all credit should be given to it for the initiative, investment and innovation that it has brought to television broadcasting in this country. It is obvious that satellite broadcasting will be increasingly important and influential as the technology develops.

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The practical implication of the proposals is that a single newspaper group—a successful British newspaper group that wants to expand into broadcasting—is being prevented from doing so. It is a coincidence that it happens to own a newspaper that supports the Labour party; the arguments would be the same regardless. We have been accused of being politically partial in this matter, but, if there is any real argument for political partiality, it is exactly the other way round: the Government's friends are being looked after in the legislation, and the single newspaper that supports Labour is being excluded.

The Government's explanation has been, first, that the 20 per cent. limit was arrived at intuitively: it seemed about right to everyone. Some would say that it is completely arbitrary, while others would argue that it is not arbitrary at all—that it was set deliberately to have the effect that I have described—but there is no rational argument for it. Some will argue that the 15 per cent. rule in television is equally arbitrary, but I do not agree with that. At present, apart from the public service broadcasters—the BBC, Channel 4 and S4C—no broadcaster has more than 6 per cent. of the market. The 15 per cent. rule is there to prevent further market concentration by a single company. The 20 per cent. rule, however, cuts a swathe through an existing newspaper market, placing newspapers on opposite sides of an artificially erected barrier. That is why we have suggested that the limit on cross-media holdings should be lifted, and that other regulatory mechanisms should be used to protect the public interest. That is what the ITC was constructed to do, and that is what the powers in the Bill allow it to do.

If the amendment is not accepted, we shall support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). As is well known, he and I do not always agree on these matters in the context of the Bill, but we both see a considerable case for amendment No. 162, which is intended to allow a newspaper with more than 20 per cent. of the national market to become a television licence holder, and then to be allowed up to 12 months' grace in which to divest itself of some of its newspaper holdings.

On 21 May, in Committee, the Minister said: the hon. Gentleman will none the less see in paragraph 10 of part IV of schedule 2 on page 108 of the Bill that if theDaily Mirror wanted to acquire a channel 3 interest, it could have 12 months in which to divest itself of, for example,The People, or of whatever title it decided upon, in order to bring itself under the 20 per cent. ceiling. It could therefore make the takeover and then divest itself '.—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 21 May 1996; c. 423–24.] There is indeed a measure of dispute about whether the Bill actually provides for such circumstances, but, in subsequent correspondence with members of the Committee, the Minister wrote that while the Mirror Group, or any other group holding over 20 per cent., could make a bid for a Channel 3 licence and indeed have the bid accepted, before they had made the necessary divestment, that Group could not take over and own the Channel 3 station until after the divestment. That statement directly contradicts what the Minister said in Committee. The Government have apparently gone back on the commitment that everyone—including people outside the House—thought that the Minister had given, and I expect an explanation from him. Amendment No. 162 puts that commitment firmly in the Bill, and, given what the Minister said in Committee, the Government should be duty bound to accept it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who has taken an interest in these matters, has tabled amendments which—although I cannot encourage the House to support them—would at least be fairer than the current position. They would exclude all the major newspaper groups from owning channel 3 licences. That might not be sensible in other respects, in that it could block the development of multimedia ownership, but at least it could be seen as fair among large newspaper groups. Because we support the development of multimedia ownership, however, we shall not support those amendments.

Unless this change is made, one newspaper group, Mirror Group Newspapers, will be denied the opportunity given to all other media companies in the group's area of operation—in its sector—and its development will be severely curtailed. There will also be a further imbalance in the power, influence and profitability of the British press. That is the long-term implication of the Bill's proposals.

It is argued that the amendments would benefit the Murdoch empire as well, but I do not consider that the circumstances are the same. First, if News Corp wanted a channel 3 licence, it would have to divest itself of not 3 per cent. but a massive 18 per cent. of its newspaper holdings to bring itself within the 20 per cent. threshold. Most people know that that is highly unlikely. Secondly, why should a company with a major interest in BSkyB bother to acquire a channel 3 licence when it is already making significant strides in the market, and has already publicly announced massive investment in digital satellite broadcasting?

It appears—I shall say this as gently as I can—not only that the Minister has gone back on the commitment that he gave in Committee, but that behind the scenes, in discussions that we all know to have taken place between officials of the Department of National Heritage and Mirror Group Newspapers and its representatives, commitments have been made and broken, and proposals that have apparently been accepted have subsequently been rejected. The Government have handled the whole issue very badly, but it is not too late for them to correct the position, and I urge them to do so.

Mr. Gale

I wish to speak to amendment No. 162, tabled in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition. Let me make it abundantly clear that I do not support amendment No. 260. I am astonished that the Opposition should table any amendment that is remotely likely to allow News International a further stranglehold on the British media, and I expect not only my hon. Friends but Opposition Members to oppose it.

Amendment No. 162 simply seeks to place in the Bill the undertaking that the Minister gave to me in Committee. As the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) mentioned, in Committee the Minister said: if theDaily Mirror wanted to acquire a channel 3 interest, it could have 12 months in which to divest itself of, for example,The People, or of whatever title it decided upon, in order to bring itself under the 20 per cent. ceiling. It could therefore make the takeover and then divest itself, rather than the other way round,".—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 21 May 1996; c. 423–24.] In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who was the Chairman of the Committee, the Minister said: I would like to make clear that while the Mirror Group, or any group holding over 20 per cent., could make a bid for a Channel 3 licence and indeed have the bid accepted, before they had made the necessary divestment, that Group couldnot take over and own the Channel 3 station until after the divestment. I have discussed this matter privately with the Minister and I am sure that he will not quarrel with what he said to me at the weekend, that it was his understanding that Mirror Group Newspapers—or, indeed, any other newspaper group, but we are talking about the Mirror group—could acquire a channel 3 company. That is the important part on which we seek clarification. If the Minister can give me the answer that I want, I shall not pursue the matter further.

I appreciate that the Mirror group would like more freedom, but I would settle for clarification as, I believe, would the Mirror group. I am told that it can acquire a channel 3 licence, but that it cannot control it until it has divested itself ofThe People or another newspaper. The confusion between us appears to be precisely what is meant by "acquire" and "control". My understanding from our conversation was that the Mirror group could acquire a channel 3 licence, could buy all the shares, and leave the existing management in place while it divested itself within 12 months of newspaper holdings to bring itself within the 20 per cent. If it did that, there would be no problem and when it had divested itself of the requisite amount the ITC would approve the licence and the group would take over control as well as ownership.

It now seems that the group can acquire in the sense that it can sign on the dotted line and agree the price but that it cannot transfer the shares. That might seem merely semantic, but for the fact that David Montgomery, the chief executive of Mirror Group Newspapers, has told me that the City would not wear that; that it would not be possible to finance that kind of deal.

My interest in this matter is not to support the Mirror group: it does not support my party, it has certainly done me no favours, nor do I expect it to. As the Minister knows, my interest in the matter is purely one of equity. I do not care what political party the group supports and I am satisfied with the 20 per cent. figure, as was the Labour party in another place. It is only since the Bill came here that there has been confusion and concern among Opposition Members about the 20 per cent. As I say, I am happy with the 20 per cent. and I think that theDaily Mirror management has accepted it—provided that it is free to acquire the shares and then to divest, which is what the Minister said in Committee and what we all understood would be the case.

I do not suggest, and I slightly resent the fact that the right hon. Member for Copeland seemed to suggest—unless I misunderstood him, which I often do—that the Minister had in some way deliberately misled the Committee or the House.

Dr. John Cunningham

indicated dissent.

Mr. Gale

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I withdraw my suggestion and thank him for his clarification. I certainly do not suggest that the Minister has in any way deliberately misled the House. However, it is important for all concerned to clarify this matter now at the 11 th hour and to make abundantly clear precisely what the Minister seeks to allow anybody with a holding over 20 per cent. to do. If, as he has said, one can acquire the shares but not control, everybody would be reasonably satisfied. However, if all that one can make is some sort of half a deal and then divest, it is unlikely to be workable. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me the assurances that I seek in the name of fair dealing. It is as simple as that.

8.15 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

I have a rather peculiar declaration of interest. For nine years I was a member of the staff of theDaily Mirror when it was one of this country's great newspapers and was directed by Hugh Cudlipp. I do not write frequently for newspapers in the Mirror group, although I write for a number of other newspapers. I therefore have a peculiar disinterest in the interests of the Daily Mirror and in the amendment that my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has moved.

I hold no particular brief for Mirror Group Newspapers, and if the amendment sought only to favour that group I would not have risen to speak. Although my right hon.

Friend the Member for Copeland, from his position on the Front Bench, has some sort of party political interest to pursue, from the Back Benches I rise loftily above such considerations. I am trying to deal with extremely important issues relating to communications policy which are involved in the amendment, in the schedule and in the part of the Bill with which we are dealing.

Much of the Bill is extraordinarily old-fashioned and backward looking. If I am called to speak on Third Reading I shall say more about that. It is an extraordinary Bill from a Conservative Government who claim to believe in the free market. The restrictions that it imposes on cross-media ownership are extraordinary not only because they come from a Conservative Government, but because they appear at a time when the whole nature of communications is changing.

Day after day, one reads in the specialist press about a coming together of newspapers, television, radio, computers and telephones. That development cannot be stopped and I strongly welcome it. The Bill, and particularly the part that we are debating, stands futilely in the way of that. Those developments will take place but the Bill will interfere with them in a partial and illogical way. This is not the moment to go into the utter idiocy of the calculation of rules about audiences and the nonsense of believing that one can estimate the proportion of 15-year-olds who watch or listen to television or radio programmes. Among adults that is absurd, but as the idea comes from the Department of National Heritage, it is neither silly nor absurd but absolutely characteristic.

While we debate this dull, drab Bill—little in its scope, if large in its number of pages and clauses—in other countries massive changes are under way. Microsoft and the National Broadcasting Corporation have got together to provide a 168-hour-a-week news service, which moves between the television screen and the computer, so that a viewer can amplify the news coverage as she or he wishes. All sorts of other developments are taking place. Later this year, it will be possible to have a device by which one can receive the Internet on the television set rather than on computer. Interactive computer games will be available on cable television. The whole communications landscape has changed while the Bill has been going through the House of Commons and since I spoke on Second Reading—even then, in a critical manner.

Because there is no logical consistency in the Government's policies on these matters, ITV companies are able to gobble each other up almost at will—one hardly knows any more which owns which—but unless the Bill is changed as a result of the amendment, it will mean not an organic and sensible growth of media ownership in this country, but a Procrustean interference in media growth, which will do no one any good and will do the country less good than anyone else.

As has been pointed out, in general, to abide by the restrictions in the Bill, newspapers could be faced with the absurdity of having to cut their circulation to meet the market share provisions. No newspaper can easily do that. What a newspaper group can do—and we are dealing with newspaper groups—is precisely what is being talked about and has been written about in the press in the past few days. For example,The Times reported that, in order not to be restricted by the provision—which my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland is trying to relax—Mirror Group Newspapers is thinking of sellingThe People. What good would it do to take a newspaper from the ownership of a group that is able to cross-subsidise it, if it needs to, if the newspaper is in trouble? Mirror Group Newspapers can do that and allow such a newspaper to float freely.

Right hon. and hon. Members may not have much of an opinion ofThe People, but that is not the point. The whole point about a democracy is that, in a democracy, newspapers of which one does not have a high opinion must have as much right to publish and as much chance of survival as newspapers of which one does, subjectively, have a high opinion.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I understand the sentiments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) in moving the amendment and I have listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), but is he saying—perhaps if this is not the position, he will soon put me right—that he does not want any restriction on ownership, and that in a democracy all such restriction is an impediment to technological development in the media, because I do not go along with him on that?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend has a right not to go along with me. Restrictions of this rigidity, stringency and artificiality can only damage this country's communications.

Mr. Winnick

So no restrictions?

Mr. Kaufman

I am not saying that we should get rid of all restrictions—although there is an argument for saying that in a world in which this country's communications groups, with the exception of some of the largest groups, are tiny compared with those outside—so I do not give my hon. Friend quite the answer that he would like to have.

Let us forget aboutThe People, although in a democracy it has as much right to publish and to seek an audience as anyone else, and consider the two other newspapers that are under the aegis of Mirror Group Newspapers:The Independent andThe Independent on Sunday. Under its new editor, The Independent is becoming a remarkably interesting and vibrant newspaper which deserves much support. I say that again with a declaration of non-interest in that I rarely write for it and it is in competition with newspapers for which I do write.

Mr. Winnick

It must be one of the few.

Mr. Kaufman

I am open to offers. Could anyone say that it would be a good idea for these rules, restrictive as they are on Mirror Group Newspapers, to compel Mirror Group Newspapers to consider divesting itself ofThe Independent, which it rescued and which is becoming a remarkably interesting and individual newspaper? That will do no good. It will not even benefit newspapers with whichThe Independent competes, because a newspaper such asThe Guardian must improve—and, by God, it has scope to improve—to compete with a lively newspaper such asThe Independent.

Newspapers are not only publications that one purchases over the counter. It is not simply in the United States that Bill Gates is financing an Internet newspaper edited by the former editor of theNew Republic. On the front page ofThe Daily Telegraph, in the bottom left-hand corner, one will find that we can getThe Daily Telegraph on the Internet—an excellent idea. I hope that more and more newspapers will do that.

Other newspapers are expanding in different ways. Associated Newspapers owns Teletext, about which the Government have performed gyrations and acrobatics during the passage of the Bill. It also owns a cable channel. Mirror Group Newspapers owns a cable channel. I am all in favour of such diversification and diversity. I favour much more cross-media ownership, because that is good for the media and for creating more newspapers and publications, both in print and on the Internet.

If the Government persist in such a restrictive attitude, even for the short period of office remaining to them, they will be helping Britain to remain a tiddler in the international communications pool. That is not good for Britain. In relation to this part of the Bill, it happens not to be good for Mirror Group Newspapers, but the interests that I am talking about go far wider than that. I hope that the Government will listen seriously to the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland and accept his amendment because, apart from anything else, it will spare him from having to introduce a new Bill in the middle of next year.

Mr. Maclennan

It is odd that, in this debate about competition policy, the Opposition have at no time mentioned the interests of the consumer, whose concerns should be at the heart of the matter. We have heard from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) about the desirability of commercial expansion—empire building is what it might have been called in the days of old Labour—and the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) asked whether Mirror Group Newspapers was being unfairly treated. What we have not heard from the Labour party's spokesman in this debate is any indication of Labour's understanding of the purpose of competition policy, to protect the diversity and plurality of the channels of communication to the public.

The futuristic picture of the right hon. Member for Gorton is one that we can all enjoy speculating about, but it is the future. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is happening."' It may be happening, but the effects will take some time. No doubt other regulatory measures will be taken to ensure that the changes are properly reflected when they constitute a significant threat to plurality and diversity. At present, they do not. The right hon. Gentleman might take a very different view if, after the next election,The Sun was able to say once again, "It wasThe Sun wot won it", not only in the newspaper but in news broadcasts on terrestrial channels.

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The risk of over-concentration is not fanciful. I do not consider that News Corp, for other reasons of regulatory policy, including the nationality exclusions, is likely to be in a position to dominate in that way. However, the static view, that the relationship between companies will remain roughly the same as now, is an improbable picture of what is likely to happen over the next decade. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about legislating not for all time, but for the short term. That is not irresponsible, but is entirely necessary.

I do not think that anyone has argued that the 20 per cent. threshold can be justified in terms of any particular principle. That is a point I argued in Committee. The percentage threshold approach was argued by the Labour party when the Bill was introduced in the other place. Lord Donoughue argued that 25 per cent. would be an acceptable percentage because it would deal with the Mirror group problem.

Dr. John Cunningham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maclennan

In a moment.

The notion of a percentage threshold was accepted by the Labour party in another place, and 25 per cent. was held to be the appropriate figure because it would bring the Mirror group under the net.

I have no doubt that the Government were aware when they proposed 20 per cent. that the Mirror group was being caught on the wrong side. For that reason, I too would have accepted a movement to 25 per cent. When the Bill was in Committee, the Labour party's spokesmen argued that 25 per cent. would have been appropriate. The only reason they did not push that was the order in which the amendments arose. They said that they could not vote on that, and that therefore they would vote on the other approach—the one that they are pushing tonight—in amendment No. 102. That is a risky route, and we should not take it.

I am not alone in arguing that point. Many media interests, not only newspaper groups, are in favour of retaining what the Government have proposed. Granada and LWT have pointed out the risks of following the advice of the right hon. Member for Gorton. The House is wise to take some heed of those warnings.

If the Bill has to be changed in seven years, I do not think that that will mean that it has not served a purpose. There is nothing wrong with dealing with things as they are. That is better than having one's head in the clouds, which I suggest has been the case with the right hon. Member for Gorton during a number of debates on broadcasting.

Mr. Kaufman

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman means about my head being in the clouds. For some time now, everything that I have talked about in all the debates on broadcasting—whether on the BBC charter, this Bill or at other opportunities—has been happening at the time or has come to pass. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that a description of developments in communications which are changing the nature of our world and our society means that my head is in the clouds, I fear that it is his head that is in the clouds.

Mr. Maclennan

The right hon. Gentleman knows, because I have made it clear, that I am not denying that those developments are taking place. What I am asserting, and what I assert again, is that they do not constitute a threat to diversity and plurality. Indeed, they may assist that process. As things stand, the narrow concentration of press ownership in the hands of a relatively small number of groups in this country could constitute a significant threat to diversity in the short term. That is what we have to deal with in the Bill.

I do not think that the Mirror group has been well served by its political friends, given the way they have twisted and turned around the question of the 25 per cent. market share. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) goes some way towards helping to deal with the injustices, and I have no hesitation in subscribing to it.

It is reasonable that the Mirror group should be in a position to acquire a channel 3 television station and, within 12 months—the grace period allowed by that amendment—divest itself. That position, as it was understood by Committee members, appeared to be supported by the Minister in Committee. There have been the most extraordinary tergiversations in the Department of National Heritage since that time. Candidly, I cannot understand how the Minister has got himself into this position. He is an extremely straightforward Minister, and I can assume only that the affair has been taken out of his hands.

It was clear from what the Minister said in Committee—the hon. Member for North Thanet quoted his words—that he intended that the matter should be dealt with in the way proposed by the amendment. His letter of 28 June to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and other members of the Committee is incomprehensible in terms of the sequence of historical events—it does not lie squarely with what he said before—and makes no sense in English. I cannot imagine how it could be interpreted by a court of law.

I hope that the hon. Member for North Thanet has been drumming up some support for his amendment among his hon. Friends, and I hope that the Minister has had time to take into account the evident injustices to the Mirror group, which the amendment would go some way to addressing.

Another matter has been raised, probably with many members of the Committee, by the GWR Group. It concerns amendments Nos. 44 and 46. I feel that I should raise this matter, although I recognise that it is not as exciting as some of those we have been discussing so far. It concerns the Government's withdrawal of market share threshold on newspaper ownership of digital audio broadcasting, which GWR points out offers the newspapers the opportunity to enter DAB through the back door.

GWR says that, if DAB is to be the medium of the future, the amendments allow newspapers to move straight into that broadcast medium. The concerns expressed by the GWR Group include the lack of sufficient DAB spectrum for local multiplexes, and the fear that it will be further exacerbated by the added competition of free access by dominant newspaper groups.

ILR has already been put into an invidious position regarding access to local DAB multiplexes. The BBC local radio services and independent national radio have guaranteed access to their appropriate multiplexes. However, independent local radio has no such guarantee, and the lack of clarity will be compounded by the relaxation of newspaper ownership laws.

This group of amendments is probably among the more important matters that we have had to consider in the debate on this Bill. I must confess to having found the Labour party's position very disturbing if it is a reflection of how it may behave if it was ever to form a Government. We must take its position seriously. I can assume only that the freedom of opposition allows it to canter down this rather circuitous route. I sincerely hope that it does not put itself in hock to substantial newspaper interests if it is entrusted with government.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

I shall be brief, particularly as the Labour Chief Whip is in the Chamber. I shall speak to the amendments in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell)—amendments Nos. 260 and 261—and to those that are only in my name, amendments Nos. 262 and 263.

I listened with great care to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), whose views I always take very seriously. I think that he is wrong on this occasion, but I acknowledge that his position is well thought out, and one which he has held for a long time and argued consistently. I think that he has allowed himself to become dazzled by technology. I am much more interested in the quality of what appears on television, and the implications that that has for the future of our democracy.

Regulation in the British television industry has worked, and the only reason we have something worth defending is that it has worked. If regulation had not worked, or if we had not regulated in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, we would have nothing worth defending now. But we have something that is worth defending, which is why we must reflect carefully on where the future lies.

I should also like to comment on amendment No. 102, which was tabled in the name of my hon. Friends. I listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said, and I accept that there is a certain logic in the Opposition amendment. Whatever percentage one selects—whether it is 20 per cent. or 10 per cent.—by definition it will be arbitrary. Everyone understands that. But to accept his argument, one must have a touching faith in regulators' abilities.

As I understand it, the Opposition's position is to take off all artificial limits on the size of a newspaper company's market share before it moves into television, and to substitute a public interest test. To enforce that public interest test, one obviously must rely on the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which has let us down very badly in the past, or on the Independent Television Commission, which has done better than the MMC. But I do not think that either of those institutions—even if they were beefed up—is necessarily capable of facing up to the mighty and enormous vested interests we face.

I should be much happier with amendment No. 102 if someone could convince me that those institutions were up to the task, that there would be a totally revamped MMC, and that behind it would lie the political will to stand up to those corporations. I believe that it is a responsibility of politicians to intervene in the broadcasting marketplace.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was the shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, he wrote to the Director General of Fair Trading—who was then Sir Bryan Carsberg—to ask what he thought the limit should be on media ownership. Sir Bryan wrote back to him—I gave a little cheer when I read the letter—saying, in effect, that it was not a responsibility that could be shuffled off on to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission; it was a matter for politicians. It was for politicians to decide. He was absolutely right.

It is a matter for politicians to decide, and that is why I tentatively offer alternatives to the Opposition's position. My amendment Nos. 260 and 261 offer two alternatives. They are, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland conceded, more logical than the Government's position, even if they are not his first preference.

8.45 pm

My first amendment is that no national newspaper should be allowed to buy into television. As I said, that is my first preference, everything else being equal. I want diverse media, and I think that that is an essential precondition of a democracy.

My second amendment, amendment No. 261, which is also in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby, provides that only newspapers with less than 10 per cent. of the market may buy into television. That would have the effect—which I commend to the House—of excluding all our tabloid newspapers. It would not discriminate only against theDaily Mirror; it would discriminate against them all.

The argument for such discrimination is quite simple. Those who brought us junk journalism will bring us junk television if we let them, and we should not. There is nothing about those corporations' stewardship of our popular newspapers that suggests any reason why we should be nice to them. We had yet another disgraceful display with the recent European football championship of why we do not want the people who control those newspapers also to get their hands on television.

Amendment No. 262, which is in my name only, adds non-domestic satellite television to the categories listed in schedule 2. That would have the advantage of inviting Mr. Murdoch to choose between his television assets and his newspaper assets. I am neutral as to which he should choose, but, should he choose to stick with his newspapers, owning four national newspapers is too many in a fragile democracy such as ours. In my broadcasting Bill, newspaper corporations would be allowed to own one daily and one Sunday newspaper, and all the others would have to be put on the market. However, we are not discussing my Bill.

My amendment No. 263 would give any corporation that owns more than the limits allowed in the other amendments three months to divest.

As I said, I believe that the free flow of information is a precondition of democracy. I believe that diversity of ownership—the more the better—is the best guarantee of that. I do not believe that big is beautiful or necessary. We talk about the need to compete with mighty American corporations and with one or two of the big European ones. I do not think that we will ever be able to compete on that scale.

Ultimately, a handful of American corporations—probably American, but there may be one or two European corporations, and perhaps one Japanese among them—will eventually dominate most of the earth. I do not want to see us included as an offshore part of a great empire.

We have already reached a situation in this country in which Mr. Murdoch is so big that even the Conservative party—which helped to create this monster—is afraid of him. As politicians, we recognise that it is not possible to win an election withThe Sun against our party. I do not think that Labour has won an election since Mr. Murdoch took control ofThe Sun. The best that we can hope for—and, by God, we are doing our best—is a surly neutrality at the next election, and we can expect that only once. I do not want somebody who has mishandled the newspapers he owns being given greater access to television.

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend over-estimates the influence of the press. In 1970, the Labour party lost the general election even though it was supported by bothThe Sun and theNews of the World.

Mr. Mullin

As my right hon. Friend knows,The Sun was a quite different animal in 1970. He and I both worked for theDaily Mirror in the days when it was a good newspaper—which it is not now.

Some 18 months ago, I introduced the Media (Diversity) Bill, which would have implemented one or two of the proposals in these amendments, as well as one or two other things. When I presented the Bill, I referred to those who are currently running our media as unscrupulous megalomaniacs. That resulted in my being invited to lunch, one by one, with all of them. They were charming and eloquent—not in any way the stereotype of a media baron. One by one, they sought to persuade me that big was beautiful, that they would be extremely responsible were the market to be allowed to let rip, and that we should regulate in general terms but not impose any limits on size. I am afraid that I was not persuaded.

Some of the arguments about the advantages of new technology were advanced at the time that Mr. Murdoch broke the unions at Wapping. I must say that, in some respects, he had a good case for doing so, bearing in mind some of the abuses in the newspaper industry. Those abuses could not be justified, and I would not try to do so.

It was argued that, as a result of all the new technology, there would be a flourishing of new titles—a thousand flowers would bloom, and a thousand schools of thought would prevail. A number of new titles did emerge, but they are all dead now, exceptThe Independent. Of course,The Independent is not independent any more, primarily because Mr. Murdoch unleashed a price war in a ruthless attempt to sink his rivals. That was his objective. I believe that some of that philosophy will be extended to television ownership if we let the tabloid media barons into television ownership.

I listened to Viscount Rothermere on "Desert Island Discs" the other day. He is another whose interests would be affected by the amendments. He was idly musing whether he would allow one of his principal newspapers to support the Labour party at the general election. In a democracy, we should not need to persuade any of those people to back one political party or the other. I do not think that their stewardship of their assets has been acceptable in a democracy. I do not want them to extend their interests into television.

Of course, theDaily Mirror has already done so in a small way. It has ventured into cable television—something that was much remarked upon in Committee.

The small audience enjoyed by its cable channel gets topless darts and Newsbunny. It is not just the same values that are being imported—it is the same people. Mr. Kelvin McKenzie now gives us junk television where before he gave us junk journalism.

With great reluctance, I will support the Opposition amendment. It has a certain logic, but it is entirely dependent on the powers that it gives to the MMC and the ITC. When the time comes, I will, with permission, press my amendment No. 261 to a Division.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

The choice between amendment No. 102 and amendment No. 261 is a choice between all and nothing. In effect, amendment No. 102 would allow any newspaper to take control of a television station or channel, whereas amendment No. 261 would not allow any tabloid newspaper to take control of channel 3. I support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), as I believe that we should exclude the tabloids from channel 3.

Although I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) about the desire of the newspaper proprietors and the big publishing houses to become multimedia giants with a powerhouse of information at their disposal across diverse media, that is really just their science fiction dream about what they have to become for competitive reasons, rather than a wish to make a genuine contribution or to improve themselves.

What will those people gain by becoming multimedia giants? It is fashion rather than competence. I do not know what they could possibly add to existing terrestrial television stations, which have been producing successful programmes, which have been successfully run and which have done a good job in serving their areas. They should not now be prey to takeover by giant newspaper groups. Would the newsrooms be merged? That would be disastrous for television news. The disciplines are different and the training, instincts and requirements of the journalists for balance and impartiality are different. Will there be synergy? Where can synergy possibly come from in that sort of takeover? Apart from cross-advertising between television and the newspapers, I can see no synergy. Will the quality of the journalism be improved? Will they bring the same balance, impartiality and fairness that characterise the tabloids—theDaily Mail is a classic example—to the newsrooms of television? What can they really contribute? The only experiments by the big newspaper groups in cable television have been disastrous.

I quite like Live TV, and I watch it when I get home late at night. It has a sort of low sexual stimulation—but it certainly is not Kelvin McKenzie's finest contribution to journalism. I think that Newsbunny is a great innovation. Indeed, the Conservative Front Bench has a Newsbunny—he is called a parliamentary private secretary. He sits behind the Minister saying, "Eee, get that," as a reaction to the Minister's approach. Newsbunny is a great idea, but it is not an astounding innovation that will revolutionise television, any more than topless darts will.

Where the media barons have experimented in television, they have made no real contribution. Channel One surely refers to the number of viewers rather than the title of the station. It is certainly not a great innovative station. I do not believe that they can add anything to television. If they want to be international players in an international market—they tell us that they want to be big so that they can compete internationally—the only way to achieve that is to make programmes.

The strength of this country is in production. The quality of British programming is the strength. If those people want to compete internationally, they could easily buy a production house and put money into it. Most production houses are short of money. Investment in production would make the newspaper groups international players. They do not have to own a television station and a television newsroom to make a contribution. They want to buy a slice of a monopoly to cushion themselves from the inevitable decline of print and the rise of television.

Too often, the desire to take over television stations is a formula for failure. The formula for successful businesses is to stick to what they are good at. I do not know why newspapers do not do that. The only justification for a newspaper group getting into television is that offered by Rupert Murdoch, who has been very successful—all praise to him—because he took a risk. He saw the opportunity to put the Sky channels on the Astra satellite.

We cannot—it would be unrealistic—penalise Rupert Murdoch for being successful, which is why I do not support amendment No. 262. He is the one person who has made a contribution to television. That powerful contribution has made all our lives and the diversity of viewing better. If other newspaper groups wanted to contribute, why did not they seize the opportunity that Murdoch seized right at the start, and get themselves on Astra?

I live in the real world. I am new Labour. I recognise that the righteous—a group which includes me and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South—do not necessarily prevail in the real world. I do not think that our amendments will be acclaimed. The backs of the heads of my Front-Bench colleagues have been especially inscrutable while I have been speaking. They have not been nodding the sort of ready assent that I would have expected for our amendment.

I therefore assume that we shall have to support amendment No. 102, which I hope will be successful. So we move from nothing at all to all. That is a rational position, because there is no logic in the distinction that the Government have drawn. If some newspaper groups are to be allowed in, all must be allowed in—especially the one that has made a contribution to television. The distinction is based on prejudice—prejudice against theDaily Mirror because it is Labour, and against Murdoch because he is successful. I cannot stand such prejudice on the Government's part. I shall enthusiastically support amendment No. 102, while, in my heart of hearts, wanting amendment No. 261.

9 pm

Ms Roseanna Cunningham (Perth and Kinross)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) for using a phrase that characterises some of the interventions on amendment No. 102—he mentioned being "dazzled by technology". That is what is happening.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) was right to talk about the current reality. I occasionally look at newspapers on the net but, for the foreseeable future, like everyone else, I shall get my news from actual newspapers, television and radio. That will be the case for most people for some time. To pretend otherwise is to live in a fairytale world. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) does not know his way around the Internet. That is probably true of a great many hon. Members.

There is a certain irony in the fact that we should be debating this matter now. Clearly, six months is a long time in terms of new Labour policy, as the people of Scotland have recently discovered to their cost. Labour's backsliding referendum proposal shows how much can change. It did not take it six months to make that turnaround. The policies that were proudly proclaimed in the winter have been shed at the first sight of the sun.

The leader of the Labour party said as recently as last year that the then shadow National Heritage Secretary, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), has already laid out the principles which should govern this area—diversity of content, plurality of ownership, regional strength, quality of programme-making and the avoidance of excessive dominance by any one company. I do not understand how the Labour amendment achieves any of those.

Cross-media ownership greatly concerns many hon. Members who recognise the threat to democracy and competition inherent in large cross-media corporations. Those are grave anxieties. I suspect that we should therefore consider Labour's motives in tabling the amendment with some cynicism. I presume that Tony Blair's jaunt to the News International conference in Australia last year is now getting its pay-back.

That Labour's amendment will favour the Murdoch press, among others, at the expense of the effective control of media ownership is a price that it seems willing to pay for the prospect of a gentler run in the forthcoming general election, as if adopting Tory policies on social and economic affairs is not going to be enough. The real lesson is: new Labour, no principles. Whether on the Scottish constitution or on this issue of media ownership, we are effectively seeing a two-faced Labour party. I am confirmed in my view that neither Tory Blair nor new Labour can be trusted.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady should know that she must not refer to hon. Members by their surname.

Ms Cunningham

I was referring to the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair).

It is hard to see how the Labour amendment can be supported by anyone. I was therefore pleased to see the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South—clearly without the support of Labour Front-Bench Members. I must admit that their sentiments are preferable to the Government's proposal, which seems designed to exclude just one or two newspaper groups, but would allow others into the market.

Amendment No. 261 would effectively prevent all UK tabloid newspapers from buying into television. The misuse of the word "national" has been frequent tonight: many other hon. Members will agree that the United Kingdom is not a nation. The amendment would prevent cross-ownership between those UK tabloid owners and the new television services. Ultimately, that is a far better protection for democracy, which, thankfully, is still an important principle for some of us.

Mr. Winnick

I know that the Whips are keen to proceed to a vote, so I shall not delay matters for much longer.

Mrs. Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

indicated assent.

Mr. Winnick

I see that the Labour Whip on duty is nodding her head in full agreement.

This debate, however, is one of the most important on the Bill, so there is some justification for expressing a view, however briefly. I well understand the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). Knowing the Government, I am sure that, if the Mirror group supported the Conservative party, the difficulties that my right hon. Friend seeks to resolve would not exist. The Government's political bias will come as no surprise to anyone.

I remain extremely concerned about the vast concentration of media ownership. Many of my hon. Friends agree that far too much of the national press is already owned by a handful of powerful companies. That position has existed for some time. I therefore see no justification for further strengthening those immense powers by allowing what would be, to all intents and purposes, a free-for-all over cross-media ownership. I therefore see much merit in the amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin).

In a democracy, it is always dangerous to allow a handful of people to have immense power.

Mr. Kaufman

The Whips.

Mr. Winnick

My right hon. Friend mentions the Whips, but their powers are indeed slight compared with the vast powers of those who dominate the media. It is undesirable and unhelpful when, in a parliamentary democracy, some people have the vast powers described by some hon. Members tonight. It is perfectly understandable that political parties are keen to have the support of one or two individuals who own vast numbers of newspapers and television channels. The fact that that is part of the present political process illustrates the point that I am making: it is unhealthy and undesirable. It is not possible entirely to avoid a concentration of media ownership in relatively few hands, but there are very few hands—far fewer than existed 50 years ago.

I accept that the television regulations at least allow minimum standards to be established. Last week, I read inThe Times a letter from a former chief executive of a television company, who is anxious about poor standards of popular television shows in Britain. Having been to the United States and watched some of the popular shows there, he had reached the conclusion that we were not so bad; but surely that means only that certain regulations have come into force over the years, setting minimum standards.

This is a very important part of the Bill. The debate about whether far too few people have far too much power in this country will continue, because those of us who share my views believe that that power should be diminished, not strengthened. That is why it is important that there should be effective powers and regulations on cross-media ownership. It is undesirable for Mr. Rupert Murdoch or others to have excessive power.

The Government have not gone about things in the right way. My right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland made one or two valid points, but I believe that the excessive power of a few private individuals should be diminished as soon as possible, and I am not alone in that.

Mr. Dafis

I shall be the briefest speaker of all in this important debate. It is important that I stand up and be counted, as I did in Committee.

The situation is astonishing—or at least it would have been regarded as astonishing some time ago. An amendment that was presented in Committee by Tory free-market Back Benchers is now being brought back by Labour Front Benchers. The effect of the amendments would be identical.

We can speculate about the motives. The rational case was presented by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). He spoke about the fact that the boundaries between the various media are dissolving before our eyes. The pleasant reality is that those boundaries are there, and that crossing them is a significant act.

What of the other possible motives? The motive that I ascribed to Labour Front Benchers in Committee was to embarrass the Government by inflicting a defeat, by aligning with certain right-wing Tory Back Benchers. It did not work because on this matter I was prepared to support the Government, as was the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan).

Labour may be trying to out-Tory the Tories—it is doing that quite a lot these days—or it may be trying to please certain powerful vested interests, for goodness knows what reasons.

Whatever the motive for tabling the amendment, its effect would be to deregulate—a word that we often hear from Conservative Members—in a way that, I understand, the ITC does not approve of. The effect is to deregulate and, through market forces, to facilitate the process of aggregating power and influence in fewer, already very powerful, hands, in the key area of the mass media, so hugely influential on political developments, civil rights and so on.

I and my party want no part of that. We shall associate ourselves with the purpose and spirit of amendments Nos. 260 and 261, and we shall vote against amendment No. 102.

Mr. Sproat

The issue of the 20 per cent. national newspaper market threshold—covered by amendment No. 102—has been debated at considerable length at each stage of the Bill's passage. Our policy objective is to prevent national newspaper groups that enjoy a dominant position in the market from becoming dominant broadcasters, and vice versa.

I have heard nothing this evening that shakes the Government's belief that it is right, in the interests of plurality and diversity, to pursue that objective. The Government also remain convinced that it is right for Parliament to give a clear idea of the cut-off point at which a newspaper group is judged to be simply too large to be permitted to control our major broadcasters. We believe that that cut-off point should be at 20 per cent. of the national newspaper market.

Mr. Hoon

Will the Minister explain how the Government decided that 20 per cent. was the definition of a dominant position?

9.15 pm
Mr. Sproat

The Government started off by saying that there should be a cut-off point—and, as the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) will know, his noble Friends in the other place also reached that conclusion—whether it be 15 per cent., 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. The Labour party now suggests that there should not be a percentage, but that there should be some other test. We looked at what other countries do—the French have a 20 per cent. cut-off and the Italians have a 16 per cent. cut-off.

We thought that 20 per cent. was a good place to start, so we fixed on that figure. We had to choose a figure because—as the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) rightly said—we do not want a dominant newspaper group to become a dominant terrestrial television group. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said that the cut-off should be 10 per cent.

As I said, the Italians have set the cut-off point at 16 per cent., the French have set it at 20 per cent. and Labour Members' noble Friends in the other place started off by saying that it should be set at 20 per cent. and then changed it to 25 per cent. I do not mind that; I am merely making the strong point that a cut-off point had to be fixed, and 20 per cent. seemed to be a decent level—there was a precedent for it.

Mr. Kaufman

The Minister responded to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) by proclaiming the virtues of 20 per cent. Why does he have the power in the Bill to change that figure? If the Government are so sure that the figure is right, why do they want the power to change it to something that they say is wrong?

Mr. Sproat

I have no such power in the Bill. Clearly, when the convergence develops—or converges more, if I can use that tautology—it may be sensible to look at those matters again. At every stage of the Bill, we have said that what we are debating now is what seems to be best in 1996. Nothing is more certain than the fact that technology will advance, and no one proclaims that more frequently and rightly than the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). In five years' time or less, we may return to the matter and decide that 20 per cent. is not the best level at which to fix the threshold. The hon. Member for Ashfield asked me why we chose 20 per cent. and I gave him the precedents and the options—some countries set a lower level and other countries set a higher level.

We do not consider that it is appropriate to rely on public interest test considerations alone to regulate cross-ownership between newspapers and broadcasters, as has been suggested by some Labour Members. The general danger in doing so is that it would subject the regulators to the pressure that influence and circumstance can bring to bear. Moreover, great uncertainty would be caused in the media market, as no one could be clear in advance what rules would be applied. Above all, any decision by the House now to remove the 20 per cent. threshold would send a clear signal to the regulators and to the courts that even a newspaper market share above that could well be perfectly compatible with owning channel 3 licences.

I come to Government amendments Nos. 43 to 46. In Committee, the Government agreed that they would allow individuals and bodies corporate from outside the European economic area to control digital programme services and licences for television and radio. Having conceded the case for foreign ownership of digital sound programme services, I believe that it would be inequitable for us to retain the restriction preventing United Kingdom newspaper groups with a market share of 20 per cent. or more from being allowed to apply for such licences. The amendments achieve that objective.

I come now to my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale). I do so willingly as he has had something of a triumph with this legislation, in that he persuaded us to amend various provisions during its passage in Committee. In this case, my hon. Friend's amendment would allow a national newspaper group that was above the 20 per cent. threshold to acquire a channel 3 licence and then have a 12-month grace period from the date of the acquisition to reduce its newspaper market share. My hon. Friend asked fairly whether I would spell out the Government's position in that area. I shall do so gladly—it is a complicated matter.

If Mirror Group Newspapers or any other group that has more than 20 per cent. of the market wants to bid for a channel 3 licence, it can certainly do so. I shall take theDaily Mirror as an example, but the same thing applies to other parties. It would go to the ITC and say, "We have 23 per cent. of the national newspaper market and we want to bid for the Loamshire Television channel 3 licence. We are prepared to divest ourselves of 3 per cent. and we shall do that by selling the following assets." The group could then divest itself of the assets immediately, or it could make the bid. It is perfectly straightforward—many companies must divest themselves of their assets under competition law because they need the cash to buy something else. There is nothing extraordinary about that.

The group could sell its assets before it made the bid, or it could tell the ITC that it wanted to pass the conditional public interest test. It could then bid and reach an agreement with Loamshire Television. As soon as the group complied with the condition of selling its assets, it could acquire Loamshire Television. It is a perfectly straightforward process that has many precedents in other areas of commercial life. That is how it would be done—if the Mirror group or anyone else wishes to do it, they should readHansard and see.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the Minister address directly the comments of the chairman of the Mirror group to the Secretary of State? I shall quote from the letter that he wrote to her. He said: You said that you fully understood that to do so"— that is, to notify the ITC in the way that the Minister suggests— would signal to the world that we were likely to attempt such an acquisition. You acknowledged that, should the acquisition fail, we would be left with the worst of both worlds having sold an asset and missed our target". For that reason, the Secretary of State accepted the submission that is embodied in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale).

Mr. Sproat

If the chairman of the Mirror group were to say that to me, I would simply reply that it is normal in commercial life that, when one wishes to buy an asset, one may have to take a decision about selling another asset in order to do so. It is a perfectly straightforward commercial decision—it may not be an easy one, but it is not unusual. Companies do it all the time. If the Mirror group wants to do that, it can; if it does not, it need not.

If the Opposition press the amendments to a vote, we shall oppose them.

Dr. John Cunningham

The Minister has described a process which, in other circumstances, would involve providing market-sensitive information to the public. He is suggesting that Mirror Group Newspapers give a clear signal to the television sector that it is about to bid for a channel 3 licence. That is an absurd proposition, and he knows it.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) quoted from correspondence that is widely available. The Secretary of State told the Mirror group personally that she understood that the proposition would not work. It is not only that the Minister has changed his ground from the position that he took in Committee, but the Secretary of State has changed her position from the one that she took in conversations with people from the Mirror group. However the Government wriggle and twist and turn on the issue, they know that they are in a mess. The rules are not fair or rational.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), who spoke for the Welsh nationalists, did not learn much or listen to much in Committee. He accused us of tabling an amendment that was tabled in Committee by two Government Back Benchers. If he had read the amendment paper properly, he would have seen that the equivalent of amendment No. 102 was tabled in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie). The hon. Gentleman is wrong about that.

What actually happened in Committee was that Government Back Benchers recognised the force of the arguments of Labour Front Benchers. The hon. Member for Colchester, South and Maldon (Mr. Whittingdale) admitted that again today on television. He said that the Government's position was illogical.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

indicated dissent.

Dr. Cunningham

It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, because we all heard the hon. Member for Colchester, South and Maldon say it.

The reality is, as the Minister would recognise in any other circumstances, that the Government have, unwittingly or otherwise, rigged the legislation. The Bill might even be subject to legal challenge in the European Court of Justice. The Minister mentioned maintaining diversity and avoiding dominant positions, but the legislation conveniently omits to take into account the regional newspaper ownership of United Newspapers and, especially, Associated Newspapers. If their regional newspaper ownership were taken into account, they too would fall foul of the proposals.

The Minister's response to the debate was inadequate. The explanation that he gave in response to the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) was also inadequate. For those reasons, we shall press amendment No. 102 to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 302.

Division No. 166] [9.26 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Evans, John(St Helens N)
Adams, Mrs Irene Fatchett, Derek
Ainger, Nick Faulds, Andrew
Allen, Graham Field, Frank(Birkenhead)
Armstrong, Hilary Flynn, Paul
Ashton, Joseph Forsythe, Clifford(S Antrim)
Austin-Walker, John Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Banks, Tony(Newham NW) Foulkes, George
Barnes, Harry Fraser, John
Barron, Kevin Fyfe, Maria
Battle, John Galbraith, Sam
Bayley, Hugh Galloway, George
Beggs, Roy Gapes, Mike
Bell, Stuart Garrett, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony George, Bruce
Benton, Joe Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, Gerald Godman, Dr Norman A
Berry, Roger Godsiff, Roger
Betts, Clive Golding, Mrs Llin
Boateng, Paul Gordon, Mildred
Bradley, Keith Graham, Thomas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Griffiths, Nigel(Edinburgh S)
Brown, Gordon(Dunfermline E) Griffiths, Win(Bridgend)
Brown, N(N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gunnell, John
Byers, Stephen Hain, Peter
Caborn, Richard Hall, Mike
Callaghan, Jim Hanson, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Ronnie(Blyth V) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell—Savours, D N Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Canavan, Dennis Henderson, Doug
Cann, Jamie Heppell, John
Chisholm, Malcolm Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Church, Judith Hinchliffe, David
Clapham, Michael Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Eric(Midlothian) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Tom(Monklands W) Hogg, Norman(Cumbernauld)
Clelland, David Home Robertson, John
Coffey, Ann Hood, Jimmy
Cohen, Harry Hoon, Geoffrey
Connarty, Michael Howarth, Alan(Strat'rd-on-A)
Cook, Frank(Stockton N) Howarth, George(Knowsley North)
Cook, Robin(Livingston) Howells, Dr Kim(Pontypridd)
Corbett, Robin Hoyle, Doug
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Kevin(Doncaster N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Robert(Aberdeen N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Roy(Newport E)
Cummings, John Hutton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence lllsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim(Covy SE) Jackson, Glenda(H'stead)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Helen(Shef'ld, H)
Darling, Alistair Jamieson, David
Davidson, Ian Janner, Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(Llanelli) Jenkins, Brian(SE Staff)
Davies, Ron(Caerphilly) Jones, Barry(Alyn and D'side)
Denham, John Jones, Jon Owen(Cardiff C)
Dewar, Donald Jones, Martyn(Clwyd, SW)
Dixon, Don Jowell, Tessa
Donohoe, Brian H Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dowd, Jim Keen, Alan
Eagle, Ms Angela Kennedy, Jane(L'pool Br'dg'n)
Eastham, Ken Khabra, Piara S
Etherington, Bill Kilfoyle, Peter
Lestor, Joan(Eccles) Purchase, Ken
Lewis, Terry Quin, Ms Joyce
Liddell, Mrs Helen Radios, Giles
Litherland, Robert Randall, Stuart
Livingstone, Ken Raynsford, Nick
Lloyd, Tony(Stretford) Robertson, George(Hamilton)
Loyden, Eddie Robinson, Geoffrey(Co'try NW)
McAllion, John Rogers, Allan
McCartney, Ian Rooker, Jeff
Macdonald, Calum Rooney, Terry
McFall, John Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Rowlands, Ted
Mackinlay, Andrew Sedgemore, Brian
McLeish, Henry Sheerman, Barry
MacShane, Denis Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McWilliam, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Madden, Max Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, David(Shettleston) Smith, Andrew(Oxford E)
Marshall, Jim(Leicester, S) Smith, Chris(Isl'ton S & Fsbury)
Martin, Michael J(Springburn) Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent)
Martlew, Eric Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Maxton, John Snape, Peter
Meale, Alan Spearing, Nigel
Michael, Alun Spellar, John
Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley) Steinberg, Gerry
Milburn, Alan Stevenson, George
Miller, Andrew Sutcliffe, Gerry
Mitchell, Austin(Gt Grimsby) Taylor, Mrs Ann(Dewsbury)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James Taylor, Rt Hon John D(Strgfd)
Thompson, Jack(Wansbeck)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Timms, Stephen
Morgan, Rhodri Touhig, Don
Morley, Elliot Trickett, Jon
Morris, Estelle(B'ham Yardley) Turner, Dennis
Morris, Rt Hon John(Aberavon) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mowlam, Marjorie Walley, Joan
Mudie, George Wardell, Gareth(Gower)
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Watson, Mike
O'Brien, William(Normanton) Wicks, Malcolm
O'Hara, Edward Williams, Rt Hon Alan(Sw'n W)
Olner, Bill Wlliams, Alan W(Carmarthen)
O'Neill, Martin Wilson, Brian
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Winnick, David
Pearson, Ian Wise, Audrey
Pendry, Tom Worthington, Tony
Pickthall, Colin Wray, Jimmy
Pike, Peter L Wright, Dr Tony
Pope, Greg Young, David(Bolton SE)
Powell, Sir Ray(Ogmore)
Prentice, Bridget(Lew'm E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prentice, Gordon(Pendle) Ms Janet Anderson and
Primarolo, Dawn Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Ainsworth, Peter(East Surrey) Batiste, Spencer
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Bellingham, Henry
Alexander, Richard Bendall, Vivian
Alison, Rt Hon Michael(Selby) Beresford, Sir Paul
Allason, Rupert(Torbay) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Alton, David Booth, Hartley
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Arbuthnot, James Bottomley, Peter(Eltham)
Arnold, Jacques(Gravesham) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Ashby, David Bowden, Sir Andrew
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Bowis, John
Aspinwall, Jack Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Brandreth, Gyles
Atkinson, David(Bour'mouth E) Brazier, Julian
Baker, Nicholas(North Dorset) Bright, Sir Graham
Baldry, Tony Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Banks, Matthew(Southport) Brown, M(Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Banks, Robert(Harrogate) Browning, Mrs Angela
Bates, Michael Bruce, Ian(South Dorset)
Budgen, Nicholas Greenway, John(Ryedale)
Burns, Simon Griffiths, Peter(Portsmouth, N)
Burt, Alistair Grylls, Sir Michael
Butcher, John Hague, Rt Hon Wlliam
Butler, Peter Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Butterfill, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Campbell, Menzies(Fife NE) Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Carlile, Alexander(Montgomery) Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, John(Luton North) Harvey, Nick
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth(Lincoln) Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Carttiss, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Cash, William Hawksley, Warren
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayes, Jerry
Chapman, Sir Sydney Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael(Rochford) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth(Ru'clif) Hicks, Sir Robert
Coe, Sebastian Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Colvin, Michael Hill, Sir James(Southampton Test)
Congdon, David Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas(G'tham)
Conway, Derek Horam, John
Coombs, Anthony(Wyre For'st) Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Simon(Swindon) Howell, Rt Hon David(G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Sir Ralph(N Norfolk)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hughes, Robert G(Harrow W)
Couchman, James Hughes, Simon(Southwark)
Cran, James Hunt, Rt Hon David(Wirral W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina(S D'by'ire) Hunt, Sir John(Ravensbourne)
Curry, David(Skpton & Ripon) Hunter, Andrew
Dafis, Cynog Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Davies, Chris(L'Boro & S'worth) Jack, Michael
Davies, Querrtin(Stamford) Jackson, Robert(Wantage)
Day, Stephen Jenkin, Bernard
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jessel, Toby
Devlin, Tim Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Jones, Gwilym(Cardiff N)
Douglas—Hamilton, Lord James Jones, leuan Wyn(Ynys MÔn)
Dover, Den Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham)
Duncan, Alan Jones, Robert B(W Hertfdshr)
Duncan Smith, lain Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kellett—Bowman, Dame Elaine
Durant, Sir Anthony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Kirkhope, Timothy
Elletson, Harold Kirkwood, Archy
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David(Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela(Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan(Brecon) Knight, Rt Hon Greg(Derby N)
Evans, Nigel(Ribble Valley) Knight Dame Jill(Bir'm E'St'n)
Evans, Roger(Monmouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George(Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Fabricant, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Field, Barry(Isle of Wight) Legg, Barry
Fishburn, Dudley Leigh, Edward
Forth, Eric Lennox—Boyd, Sir Mark
Foster, Don(Bath) Lester, Sir James(Broxtowe)
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus(Shipley) Lidington, David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
French, Douglas Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter(Fareham)
Fry, Sir Peter Llwyd, Elfyn
Gale, Roger Lord, Michael
Gallie, Phil Luff, Peter
Gardiner, Sir George Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Garel—Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Lynne, Ms Liz
Garnier, Edward MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gill, Christopher MacKay, Andrew
Gillan, Cheryl Maclean, Rt Hon David
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Maclennan, Robert
Goodson—Wickes, Dr Charles McLoughlin, Patrick
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McNair—Wlson, Sir Patrick
Gorst, Sir John Maddock, Diana
Grant, Sir A(SW Cambs) Madel, Sir David
Greenway, Harry(Ealing N) Maitland, Lady Olga
Malone, Gerald Smith, Sir Dudley(Warwick)
Mans, Keith Soames, Nicholas
Marland, Paul Spencer, Sir Derek
Marlow, Tony Spicer, Sir James(W Dorset)
Marshall, John(Hendon S) Spicer, Sir Michael(S Worcs)
Marshall, Sir Michael(Arundel) Spink, Dr Robert
Martin, David(Portsmouth S) Sproat, Iain
Mates, Michael Squire, Robin(Hornchurch)
Merchant, Piers Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Michie, Mrs Ray(Argyll & Bute) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Mills, Iain Steen, Anthony
Mitchell, Andrew(Gedling) Stewart, Allan
Mitchell, Sir David(NW Hants) Streeter, Gary
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Sumberg, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Sweeney, Walter
Moss, Malcolm Sykes, John
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Nelson, Anthony Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Neubert, Sir Michael Taylor, John M(Solihull)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Taylor, Matthew(Truro)
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, Sir Teddy(Southend, E)
Nicholson, David(Taunton) Temple—Morris, Peter
Norris, Steve Thompson, Sir Donald(C'er V)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Page, Richard Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Patnick, Sir Irvine Townend, John(Bridlington)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Townsend, Cyril D(Bexl'yh'th)
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tredinnick, David
Pickles, Eric Trend, Michael
Porter, Barry(Wirral S) Trotter, Neville
Porter, David(Waveney) Twinn, Dr Ian
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tyler, Paul
Powell, William(Corby) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rathbone, Tim Viggers, Peter
Redwood, Rt Hon John Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rendel, David Walden, George
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Walker, Bill(N Tayside)
Richards, Rod Wallace, James
Riddick, Graham Waller, Gary
Robathan, Andrew Ward, John
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waterson, Nigel
Robertson, Raymond(Ab'd'n S) Watts, John
Robinson, Mark(Somerton) Wells, Bowen
Roe, Mrs Marion(Broxbourne) Whitney, Ray
Rowe, Andrew(Mid Kent) Widdecombe, Ann
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sackville, Tom Wigley, Dafydd
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Wilkinson, John
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Willetts, David
Shaw, David(Dover) Winterton, Mrs Ann(Congleton)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Wood, Timothy
Shepherd, Sir Colin(Hereford) Yeo, Tim
Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge)
Shersby, Sir Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Sims, Sir Roger Dr. Liam Fox and
Skeet, Sir Trevor Mr. Richard Ottaway.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 261, in page 129, line 34, leave out '20' and insert '10'.—[Mr. Mullin.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 73, Noes 303.

Division No. 167] [9.40 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Bayley, Hugh
Ainger, Nick Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Ashton, Joe Berry, Roger
Austin-Walker, John Campbell, Ronnie(Blyth V)
Banks, Tony(Newham NW) Campbell-Savours, D N
Barnes, Harry Canavan, Dennis
Clapham, Michael Mackinlay, Andrew
Clwyd, Mrs Ann MacShane, Denis
Cohen, Harry Madden, Max
Corbyn, Jeremy Mahon, Alice
Corston, Jean Marek, Dr John
Cousins, Jim Marshall, David(Shettleston)
Cunningham, Roseanna Maxton, John
Dafis, Cynog Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(Llanelli) Mitchell, Austin(Gt Grimsby)
Davis, Terry(B'ham, H'dge H'l) Mullin, Chris
Ewing, Mrs Margaret O'Brien, William(Normanton)
Flynn, Paul Pickthall, Colin
Fyfe, Maria Purchase, Ken
Galloway, George Radice, Giles
Gapes, Mike Rooney, Terry
Godman, Dr Norman A Salmond, Alex
Godsiff, Roger Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Gordon, Mildred Simpson, Alan
Hardy, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Home Robertson, John Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent)
Jackson, Helen(Shef'ld, H) Spearing, Nigel
Steinberg, Gerry
Jones, Barry(Alyn and D'side) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Jones, leuan Wyn(Ynys MÔn) Thompson, Jack(Wansbeck)
Jones, Lynne(B'ham S 0) Wigley, Dafydd
Keen, Alan Williams, Alan W(Carmarthen)
Lewis, Terry Winnick, David
Litherland, Robert Wise, Audrey
Livingstone, Ken Wray, Jimmy
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loyden, Eddie Tellers for the Ayes:
McAllion, John Mr. Frank Cook and
McKelvey, Wlliam Mr. Brian Sedgemore.
Ainsworth, Peter(East Surrey) Burt, Alistair
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Butcher, John
Alexander, Richard Butler, Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael(Selby) Butterfill, John
Allason, Rupert(Torbay) Campbell, Menzies(Fife NE)
Alton, David Carlile, Alexander(Montgomery)
Amess, David Carlisle, John(Luton North)
Arbuthnot, James Carlisle, Sir Kenneth(Lincoln)
Arnold, Jacques(Gravesham) Carttiss, Michael
Ashby, David Cash, William
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Aspinwall, Jack Chapman, Sir Sydney
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Churchill, Mr
Atkinson, David(Bour'mouth E) Clappison, James
Baker, Nicholas(North Dorset) Clark, Dr Michael(Rochford)
Baldry, Tony Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth(Ru'clif)
Banks, Matthew(Southport) Coe, Sebastian
Banks, Robert(Harrogate) Colvin, Michael
Bates, Michael Congdon, David
Batiste, Spencer Conway, Derek
Beggs, Roy Coombs, Anthony(Wyre For'st)
Bellingham, Henry Coombs, Simon(Swindon)
Bendall, Vivian Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Beresford, Sir Paul Cormack, Sir Patrick
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Couchman, James
Booth, Hartley Cran, James
Boswell, Tim Currie, Mrs Edwina(S D'by'ire)
Bottomley, Peter(Eltham) Curry, David(Skipton & Ripon)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Davies, Chris(L'Boro & S'worth)
Bowden, Sir Andrew Davies, Quentin(Stamford)
Bowis, John Day, Stephen
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Deva, Nirj Joseph
Brandreth, Gyles Devlin, Tim
Brazier, Julian Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Bright, Sir Graham Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Dover, Den
Brown, M(Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Duncan, Alan
Browning, Mrs Angela Dunn, Bob
Bruce, Ian(South Dorset) Durant, Sir Anthony
Budgen, Nicholas Dykes, Hugh
Burns, Simon Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Elletson, Harold Kirkhope, Timothy
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Kirkwood, Archy
Evans, David(Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela(Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan(Brecon) Knight, Rt Hon Greg(Derby N)
Evans, Nigel(Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill(Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger(Monmouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George(Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Fabricant, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Field, Barry(Isle of Wight) Legg, Barry
Fishburn, Dudley Leigh, Edward
Forsythe, Clifford(S Antrim) Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Forth, Eric Lester, Sir James(Broxtowe)
Foster, Don(Bath) Lidington, David
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus(Shipley) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter(Fareham)
French, Douglas Lord, Michael
Fry, Sir Peter Luff, Peter
Gale, Roger Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Gallie, Phil Lynne, Ms Liz
Gardiner, Sir George MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Garel—Jones, Rt Hon Tristan MacKay, Andrew
Garnier, Edward Maclean, Rt Hon David
Gill, Christopher Maclennan, Robert
Gillan, Cheryl McLoughlin, Patrick
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Goodson—Wickes, Dr Charles Maddock, Diana
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Madel, Sir David
Gorst, Sir John Maitland, Lady Olga
Grant, Sir A(SW Cambs) Malone, Gerald
Greenway, Harry(Ealing N) Mans, Keith
Greenway, John(Ryedale) Marland, Paul
Griffiths, Peter(Portsmouth, N) Marlow, Tony
Grylls, Sir Michael Marshall, John(Hendon S)
Hague, Rt Hon William Marshall, Sir Michael(Arundel)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Martin, David(Portsmouth S)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mates, Michael
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Merchant, Piers
Hannam, Sir John Michie, Mrs Ray
Harvey, Nick Mills, Iain
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Mitchell, Andrew(Gedling)
Hawkins, Nick Mitchell, Sir David(NW Hants)
Hawksley, Warren Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James
Hayes, Jerry Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Heald, Oliver Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Moss, Malcolm
Hendry, Charles Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Sir Robert Neubert, Sir Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hill, Sir James(Southampton Test) Nicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas(G'tham) Nicholson, David(Taunton)
Horam, John Norris, Steve
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Oppenheim, Phillip
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Ottaway, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon David(G'dford) Page, Richard
Howell, Sir Ralph(N Norfolk) Paice, James
Hughes, Robert G(Harrow W) Patnick, Sir Irvine
Hughes, Simon(Southwark) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, Rt Hon David(Wirral W) Pawsey, James
Hunt, Sir John(Ravensbourne) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunter, Andrew Pickles, Eric
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Porter, Barry(Wirral S)
Jack, Michael Porter, David(Waveney)
Jenkin, Bernard Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jessel, Toby Powell, William(Corby)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Gwilym(Cardiff N) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham) Rendel, David
Jones, Robert B(W Hertfdshr) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Richards, Rod
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Riddick, Graham
Kellett—Bowman, Dame Elaine Robathan, Andrew
Key, Robert Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
King, Rt Hon Tom Robertson, Raymond(Ab'd'n S)
Robinson, Mark(Somerton) Taylor, Sir Teddy(Southend, E)
Roe, Mrs Marion(Broxbourne) Temple—Morris, Peter
Rowe, Andrew(Mid Kent) Thompson, Sir Donald(C'er V)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Thompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Sackville, Tom Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Thumham, Peter
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Townend, John(Bridlington)
Shaw, David(Dover) Townsend, Cyril D(Bexl'yh'th)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Tracey, Richard
Shepherd, Sir Colin(Hereford) Tredinnick, David
Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge) Trend, Michael
Shersby, Sir Michael Trotter, Neville
Sims, Sir Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Skeet, Sir Trevor Tyler, Paul
Smith, Sir Dudley(Warwick) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smyth, The Reverend Martin Viggers, Peter
Soames, Nicholas Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Spencer, Sir Derek Walden, George
Spicer, Sir James(W Dorset) Walker, Bill(N Tayside)
Spicer, Sir Michael(S Worcs) Wallace, James
Spink, Dr Robert Waller, Gary
Sproat, Iain Ward, John
Squire, Robin(Hornchurch) Waterson, Nigel
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Watts, John
Wells, Bowen
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Whitney, Ray
Steen, Anthony Whittingdale, John
Stewart, Allan Widdecombe, Ann
Streeter, Gary Wilkinson, John
Sumberg, David Willetts, David
Sweeney, Walter Winterton, Mrs Ann(Congleton)
Sykes, John Wood, Timothy
Tapsell, Sir Peter Yeo, Tim
Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D(Strgfd) Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, John M(Solihull) Dr. Liam Fox and Mr. Roger Knapman.
Taylor, Matthew(Truro)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 43, in page 129, line 35, at end insert 'or'.

No. 44, in page 129, line 36, leave out from 'service' to end of line 37.—[Mr. Brandreth.]

Mr. Gale

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Minister has been extremely generous in his concessions throughout the Bill and I am sorry that he has felt unable to meet me on this issue, but I have to respect his views. I have also had the benefit of the arithmetic of the last Division, so it would be unreasonable to force the House to another Division at this time of night. I do not, therefore, intend to press my amendment.

Amendment proposed: No. 162, in page 129, line 41, at end insert— '(2A) If as a result of a takeover a person who owns or controls newspapers with a circulation market share above the percentage specified in paragraphs 4(1) and (2) becomes the holder of a licence to provide a Channel 3 service, the Independent Television Commission shall not for that reason alone revoke that licence unless a period of 12 months from the takeover has elapsed and the newspaper proprietor has failed to reduce the market share of those newspapers he controls to below the specified percentage.'.—[Mr. Maclennan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 273.

Division No. 168] [9.52 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Golding, Mrs Llin
Adams, Mrs Irene Gordon, Mildred
Anger, Nick Graham, Thomas
Answorth, Robert(Cov'try NE) Griffiths, Nigel(Edinburgh S)
Allen, Graham Gunnell, John
Alton, David Hain, Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Hanson, David
Ashton, Joe Hardy, Peter
Austin-Walker, John Harvey, Nick
Banks, Tony(Newham NW) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Barnes, Harry Hinchliffe, David
Battle, John Hodge, Margaret
Beggs, Roy Hoey, Kate
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hogg, Norman(Cumbernauld)
Benton, Joe Home Robertson, John
Betts, Clive Hood, Jimmy
Boateng, Paul Hoon, Geoffrey
Bradley, Keith Howarth, Alan(Strafrd-on-A)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Howells, Dr Kim(Pontypridd)
Brown, N(N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hughes, Kevin(Doncaster N)
Cabom, Richard Hughes, Robert(Aberdeen N)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, Simon(Southwark)
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Hutton, John
Campbell, Menzies(Fife NE) lllsley, Eric
Campbell-Savours, D N Jackson, Glenda(H'stead)
Canavan, Dennis Jackson, Helen(Shef'ld, H)
Carlile, Alexander(Montgomery) Jamieson, David
Chidgey, David Jones, Barry(Alyn and D'side)
Chisholm, Malcolm Jones, leuan Wyn(Ynys MÔn)
Church, Judith Jones, Lynne(B'ham S O)
Clapham, Michael Jones, Martyn(Clwyd, SW)
Clarke, Eric(Midlothian) Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham)
Clarke, Tom(Monklands W) Jowell, Tessa
Clelland, David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Keen, Aan
Coffey, Ann Kennedy, Jane(L'pool Br'dg'n)
Cohen, Harry Lestor, Joan(Eccles)
Connarty, Michael Lewis, Terry
Cook, Frank(Stockton N) Livingstone, Ken
Cook, Robin(Livingston) Uwyd, Elfyn
Corbett, Robin McAllion, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Macdonald, Calum
Corston, Jean McKelvey, William
Cousins, Jim Mackinlay, Andrew
Cummings, John McLeish, Henry
Cunningham, Jim(Covy SE) Maclennan, Robert
Cunningham, Roseanna MacShane, Denis
Dafis, Cynog Madden, Max
Davidson, Ian Maddock, Diana
Davies, Chris(L'Boro & S'worth) Mahon, Alice
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(Llanelli) Marek, Dr John
Dewar, Donald Marshall, David(Shettleston)
Dixon, Don Martlew, Eric
Donohoe, Brian H Maxton, John
Eagle, Ms Angela Meale, Alan
Etherington, Bill Michael, Alun
Evans, John(St Helens N) Michie, Mrs Ray(Argyll & Bute)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Miller, Andrew
Faulds, Andrew Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James
Field, Frank(Birkenhead) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, Paul Morley, Elliot
Forsythe, Clifford(S Antrim) Mowlam, Marjorie
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Mullin, Chris
Foster, Don(Bath) O'Brien, William(Normanton)
Foulkes, George Olner, Bill
Fraser, John Pendry, Tom
Fyfe, Maria Pike, Peter L
Gale, Roger Prentice, Bridget(Lew'm E)
Galloway, George Radice, Giles
Gapes, Mike Rendel, David
Garrett, John Rooker, Jeff
George, Bruce Rooney, Terry
Godman, Dr Norman A Salmond, Alex
Sedgemore, Brian Wallace, James
Sheerman, Barry Walley, Joan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wardell, Gareth(Gower)
Simpson, Alan Watson, Mike
Skinner, Dennis Welsh, Andrew
Smith, Chris(Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent) Williams, Aan W(Carmarthen)
Smyth, The Reverend Martin Winnick, David
Spearing, Nigel Wise, Audrey
Steinberg, Gerry Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Matthew(Truro) Young, David(Bolton SE)
Timms, Stephen
Trickett, Jon Tellers for the Ayes:
Turner, Dennis Mr. Arehy Kirkwood and
Tyler, Paul Ms Liz Lynne.
Ainsworth, Peter(East Surrey) Currie, Mrs Edwina(S D'by'ire)
Alexander, Richard Curry, David(Skipton & Ripon)
Aison, Rt Hon Michael(Selby) Davies, Quentin(Stamford)
Allason, Rupert(Torbay) Day, Stephen
Amess, David Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arbuthnot, James Devlin, Tim
Arnold, Jacques(Gravesham) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Ashby, David Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Dover, Den
Atkinson, David(Bour'mouth E) Duncan, Aan
Baker, Nicholas(North Dorset) Duncan Smith, lain
Baldry, Tony Dunn, Bob
Banks, Matthew(Southport) Durant, Sir Anthony
Banks, Robert(Harrogate) Dykes, Hugh
Bates, Michael Eggar, Rt Hon Tim
Batiste, Spencer Elletson, Harold
Bellingham, Henry Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bendall, Vivian Evans, David(Welwyn Hatfield)
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, Jonathan(Brecon)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evans, Nigel(Ribble Valley)
Booth, Hartley Evans, Roger(Monmouth)
Boswell, Tim Evennett, David
Bottomley, Peter(Eltham) Faber, David
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Fabricant, Michael
Bowden, Sir Andrew Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bowis, John Held, Barry(Isle of Wight)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Fishburn, Dudley
Brandreth, Gyles Forth, Eric
Brazier, Julian Fox, Dr Liam(Woodspring)
Bright, Sir Graham Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus(Shipley)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Brown, M(Brigg & Cl'thorpes) French, Douglas
Browning, Mrs Angela Fry, Sir Peter
Bruce, Ian(South Dorset) Gallie, Phil
Budgen, Nicholas Gardiner, Sir George
Burns, Simon Garel—Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Burt, Alistair Garnier, Edward
Butcher, John Gill, Christopher
Butler, Peter Gillan, Cheryl
Butterfill, John Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Carlisle, John(Luton North) Goodson—Wickes, Dr Charles
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth(Lincoln) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carttiss, Michael Gorst, Sir John
Cash, William Grant, Sir A(SW Cambs)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Greenway, Harry(Ealing N)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Greenway, John(Ryedale)
Clappison, James Griffiths, Peter(Portsmouth, N)
Clark, Dr Michael(Rochford) Grytls, Sir Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth(Ru'clif) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Coe, Sebastian Hague, Rt Hon William
Colvin, Michael Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Congdon, David Hampson, Dr Keith
Conway, Derek Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Coombs, Anthony(Wyie For'st) Hannam, Sir John
Coombs, Simon(Swindon) Haselhurst, Sir Aan
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hawkins, Nick
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hawksley, Warren
Couchman, James Hayes, Jerry
Cran, James Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Norris, Steve
Hendry, Charles Oppenheim, Phillip
Hicks, Sir Robert Ottaway, Richard
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Page, Richard
Hill, Sir James(Southampton Test,) Paice, James
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas(G'tham) Patnick, Sir Irvine
Horam, John Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter Pawsey, James
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Rt Hon David(G'dford) Pickles, Eric
Howell, Sir Ralph(N Norfolk) Porter, Barry(Wirral S)
Hughes, Robert G(Harrow W) Porter, David(Waveney)
Hunt, Rt Hon David(Wirral W) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hunt, Sir John(Ravensbourne) Powell, William(Corby)
Hunter, Andrew Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jack, Michael Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jenkin, Bernard Richards, Rod
Jessel, Toby Riddck, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Robatnan, Andrew
Jones, Gwilym(Cardiff N) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Jones, Robert B(W Hertfdshr) Robertson, Raymond(Ab'd'n S)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Robinson, Mark(Somerton)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roe, Mrs Marion(Broxbourne)
Key, Robert Rowe, Andrew(Mid Kent)
King, Rt Hon Tom Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kirkhope, Timothy Sackville, Tom
Knight, Mrs Angela(Erewash) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Knight, Rt Hon Greg(Derby N) Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Shaw, David(Dover)
Knight, Dame Jill(Bir'm E'st'n) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Knox, Sir David Shepherd, Sir Colin(Hereford)
Kynoch, George(Kincardine) Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shersby, Sir Michael
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Sims, Sir Roger
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Skeet, Sir Trevor
Legg, Barry Smith, Sir Dudley(Warwick)
Leigh, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Spencer, Sir Derek
Lester, Sir James(Broxtowe) Spicer, Sir James(W Dorset)
Lidington, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sproat, lain
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter(Fareham) Squire, Robin(Hornchurch)
Lord, Michael Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Luff, Peter Steen, Anthony
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stewart, Allan
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Streeter, Gary
MacKay, Andrew Sumberg, David
Maclean, Rt Hon David Sweeney, Walter
McNair—Wilson, Sir Patrick Sykes, John
Madel, Sir David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Maitland, Lady Olga Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Malone, Gerald Taylor, John M(Solihull)
Mans, Keith Taylor, Sir Teddy(Southend, E)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Tony Thompson, Sir Donald(C'er V)
Marshall, John(Hendon S) Thompson, Patrick(Norwich N)
Marshall, Sir Michael(Arundel) Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Martin, David(Portsmouth S) Thurnham, Peter
Mates, Michael Townend, John(Bridlington)
Merchant, Piers Townsend, Cyril D(Bexl'yh'th)
Mills, lain Tracey, Richard
Mitchell, Andrew(Gedling) Tredinnick, David
Mitchell, Sir David(NW Hants) Trend, Michael
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Trotter, Neville
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Twinn, Dr Ian
Moss, Malcolm Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Viggers, Peter
Nelson, Anthony Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Neubert, Sir Michael Walden, George
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Walker, Bill(N Tayside)
Nicholls, Patrick Waller, Gary
Nicholson, David(Taunton) Ward, John
Waterson, Nigel Winterton, Mrs Ann(Congleton)
Watts, John Wood, Timothy
Wells, Bowen Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Ray
Widdecombe, Ann Tellers for the Noes:
Wilkinson, John Mr. Patrick McLoughlin and
Willetts, David Mr. Roger Knapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), That, at this day's sitting, the Broadcasting Bill[Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Wells.]

Question agreed to.

As amended (in the Standing Committee), again considered.

Amendments made: No. 155, in page 129, line 47, leave out from beginning to end of line 5 on page 130.

No. 45, in page 130, line 26, at end insert 'and'.

No. 46, in page 130, line 27, leave out from 'services' to end of line 28.

No. 156, in page 130, line 39, at end insert— 'Holding of local radio licence by person running local newspapers with at least 50 per cent local market share 5A.—(1) A licence to provide a local radio service may not be held by a person who runs a local newspaper which has, or local newspapers which for the time being together have, a local market share of 50 per cent. or more in the coverage area of the service unless—

  1. (a) the service in question shares a potential audience with another local radio service, but
  2. (b) he does not hold any other licence to provide a local radio service whose coverage area is to any extent the same as the coverage area of the service in question.
(2) The reference in sub-paragraph (1) to sharing a potential audience shall be construed in accordance with paragraph 12(5) in Part III of this Schedule. (3) For the purposes of this paragraph a person shall be treated as holding a licence if the licence is held by a person connected with him.'

No. 157, in page 131, line 10, at end insert— '(5) This paragraph has effect subject to paragraph 6A.