Amendment 67

Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 4:15 pm ar 13 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Moore of Etchingham Lord Moore of Etchingham Non-affiliated 4:15, 13 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I refer your Lordships to my entry in the register. I have been on the staff of the Telegraph Media Group since 1979, so this interest bulks large in my mind; I had to confess it at once. I am very grateful for everything that has been said and to the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, for moving this amendment. I am also very pleased that this has been a cross-party affair coming from all sides of the House.

My only regret so far is that the Government were inclined to regard this as a technical matter that had to be looked at in terms of rules. It is important to look at the rules, which DCMS is doing, but it is not really about that. As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and all other speakers, this is a very important matter of principle. The delay involved has been very difficult for newspapers in general, and particularly for my own and for the Spectator, because while you do not know what will happen you cannot really get on with doing your journalism. That tends to erode things if you are not careful, so it is very important that we have got to the heart of it.

I endorse absolutely everything that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, said about the Abu Dhabi bid, but I am quite glad that I do not have to say it myself, because if we had had such a rule and such clarity from the start, people would not have had to get into this issue of saying rather difficult truths about many regimes across the world. We would simply have been able to say, “No, sorry, the rule is the rule, and that’s that”. I hope we can learn something from all that.

I have seen the leak, if that is the right word, so I have a rough idea about what we might hear later. I want to make two important points. One is that I hope the Spectator, and magazines like it, will be properly included in any decisions, because, as I understand the rules at present, they refer to national newspapers and not automatically to national news magazines, and I think precisely the same point should apply.

There is room for possible problems about minority ownership. It is possible, in the way that ownership works in companies, that an ownership of less than 50% can amount to a controlling interest; that can be done in a covert way or sometimes in an open way. If it were the case that, for example, RedBird IMI took a minority stake, that would be better than a majority stake but would not automatically solve the problem. I hope the Government will address that.

At the Daily Telegraph we have always been proud advocates and practitioners of a free press, but we have not particularly enjoyed having to advocate it quite so hard and so repeatedly to get the message across. I am glad to sense that the message has got across, and I am grateful to noble Lords on all sides of the House. I hope we can now move forward with due expedition.