Amendment 67

Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 4:00 pm ar 13 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Robertson of Port Ellen Lord Robertson of Port Ellen Llafur 4:00, 13 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I added my name to this amendment, and I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, for the energy and effectiveness of her campaign. Just before the debate started, my mobile phone produced a Sky News newsflash, which said that, at 4 pm, the Government will make a decision to accept the basis of the noble Baroness’s amendment. That is a nice piece of news to get just before you stand up to speak.

I was delighted to join the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Forsyth, in adding my name to this. Unusually, we are on the same side of the argument, although at Question Time the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, threw out some remarks that other Members of the House will not have recognised but which were designed as an insult to previous positions I have taken on other issues.

Yesterday, I was in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, congratulating it on 25 years since its entry into the NATO alliance. I made the point, as many people at the conference did, that 25 years ago the Czech Republic joined NATO, having overthrown the communist system and regained freedom after all the years in serfdom to the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. The point was made that freedom is not an abstract concept but something that is very clear and precise, and it includes free speech and a free press. That is why I believe that a very significant principle is involved at this point.

As the noble Baroness said, there is no provision in the legal framework of this country at the moment to prevent a foreign Government gaining control or ownership of our media outlets. To the vast majority of the public, that would seem to be outrageous. As Lord Ashcroft’s poll showed, the fact is that a large majority of the population do not agree with the idea of a foreign Government owning our media outlets. That should come as no surprise to anybody in this House or in the other place; it seems almost self-evident. Yet we do not have that legal provision, and we should.

This is not simply about the Daily Telegraph or the Spectator magazine, but what that case has done is illustrate the vulnerability that we have, in this modern world, to the way in which foreign Governments might seek to impose their views and attitudes on the British public. I do not intend, given that Sky News has already told me that the Government are giving in, to make a huge issue of this here. As the noble Baroness said, I will listen with great interest to what the Minister says and what the department has told Sky News in advance; if that is right, we will all be satisfied, and the United Kingdom will be a safer place as a consequence.