§ Mr. Ashton
asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, in the light of the 118 job losses at the Stockport Advertiser group of newspapers, he will give the detailed financial grounds for his decision to approve the reorganisation of its publications; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
My right hon. Friend gave his consent on 2 July to the transfer of eight newspapers owned by Lancashire and Cheshire Newspapers Ltd. and Swain & Company Ltd. The transfers involved a reorganisation whereby the eight separately owned newspapers would be replaced by four publications under common ownership.
Section 58(3)(b) of the Fair Trading Act 1973 requires the Secretary of State to grant his consent to the transfer of a newspaper, unconditionally and without a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, if he is satisfied that the newspaper concerned is not economic as a going concern and as a separate newspaper, and if he is further satisfied that the newspaper is not to continue as a separate newspaper. My right hon. Friend was satisfied on the basis of detailed information supplied by the applicants that these criteria applied in seven out of the eight newspapers involved.
In the case of the remaining newspaper, The Salford City Reporter, the criteria of Section 58(3)(b) did not apply; but it seemed to my right hon. Friend reasonable to grant his consent under Section 58(4) of the Act, which permits a transfer without a reference to the commission where a newspaper has an average daily circulation of not more than 25,000.