Amendment 67

Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 4:45 pm ar 13 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Chair, Communications and Digital Committee, Chair, Communications and Digital Committee 4:45, 13 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken for their support and for the powerful speeches that they have given, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for his clear and comprehensive explanation of the Government’s position, and their firm intention to bring back an amendment at Third Reading to address that simple objective that I outlined at the start of this debate.

Because my noble friend covered such a lot of ground and this is quite complex stuff, for the benefit of other noble Lords and anyone else following this debate, I shall play it back at him a little bit, perhaps in plainer English, if I may—although noble Lords must forgive me if some of it is not as plain as it would be if I was speaking outside the House.

What we have heard is that the Government will bring forward an amendment at Third Reading that will expand the definition of foreign power beyond that in the National Security Act to include individuals who might not otherwise be adequately captured. That is something that has been of particular interest and concern to some of the legal noble Lords who have been following and commenting on my amendment. The amendment will expand the definition of “newspaper” in the Enterprise Act to include news magazines explicitly. The amendment will give the Secretary of State a new power to issue a foreign state intervention notice if she is notified or becomes aware at any time of possible foreign state involvement to own, control or influence a newspaper or news magazine. Once her order is issued, the CMA must investigate and, if it establishes that it is a foreign state, as newly defined, any investment or takeover will be blocked—or, if the investment has already happened, the Secretary of State will have the power to unwind that investment. All that will come into force once the Bill gets Royal Assent, and it will apply to any live regulatory case alongside the existing procedure that the Secretary of State is following.

In addition, at Third Reading, the Government will bring forward an amendment to create secondary legislation, which will be subject to the affirmative procedure. Those regulations will define what kind of indirect foreign state entity might be allowed to make a passive investment, such as a sovereign wealth fund of a democratic state, and include a very low threshold below which such an entity could invest. The purpose of those regulations will be to preserve the opportunity of legitimate foreign investment in news media. For example—and I think that it helps to get an example to understand what we are talking about here—it has been pointed out to me that the Norwegian state investment fund has single digit investments in News Corp, Reach, which is also known as the Mirror Group, Paramount Global, which owns Channel 5, and Comcast, which owns Sky.

To me, what my noble friend has outlined today, on my simple interpretation of it, makes sense. I am very grateful to the Minister for emphasising the very low-level investment that the Government are considering for the secondary legislation that will come forward, but the precise percentage will matter. I know that he will not be able to commit now to bringing forward the regulations in draft at Third Reading, because there is a lot of work for officials to do between now and then, but I hope that he can commit to doing as much as he can at Third Reading to provide the detail that we will need to be properly satisfied that what then follows will meet all our concerns.

Overall, I congratulate my noble friend and the Media Minister, Julia Lopez, on bringing forward such a comprehensive proposal. On the basis of what my noble friend has committed to today, I will withdraw my amendment. Of course, as he knows, I reserve the right to retable it at Third Reading and to divide the House then if, for whatever reason, what has been promised is not delivered, but my priority now—I mean this most sincerely—is to work with the Minister to ensure the adequacy of the amendments that come forward at Third Reading. My noble friend Lord Forsyth has already asked that I and my co-sponsors be consulted. I understand from what my noble friend said in response that he is agreeable to that. I am sure that noble Lords will want the opportunity to make sure that, at Third Reading, we are able to agree to what is brought forward and to discharge the Bill back to the Commons for their consideration. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 67 withdrawn.

Clause 148: Relevant infringements