Telegraph Media Group Ltd: Acquisition - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:25 pm ar 1 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 7:25, 1 Mai 2024

My Lords, we on the Labour Benches are grateful today to the Government for this short Statement, setting out where they are on the future acquisition of the Telegraph Media Group. As the House knows, we have been steadfast in our support for a free and independent press across the political spectrum. We will always champion the right of a free press to hold power to account, speak hard truths and expose corruption and wrongdoing.

We oppose foreign powers owning our free press, which has been consistently raised by parliamentarians across all Benches both here and in another place. We also welcome investment into the UK, in particular in news media businesses. For that reason this Statement is important, as it sets out how the Secretary of State intends to use her powers. It is our expectation that the Secretary of State will use these powers wisely to protect the diversity of our media landscape and encourage inward investment. The Government can be assured that we will follow the auction process closely.

I have a few questions today for the Minister. First, can he say a little more about the timescale for the auction? Can he assure the House that the Telegraph Media Group will at all times keep its workforce and unions informed? I noted from the Secretary of State’s Statement that the order governing this process not only prevents actions that might prejudice a phase 2 reference to the CMA; it also effectively freezes organisational and staff changes. To us, it would seem that union consultation is a small move on from that step, so have Ministers had any discussions with the relevant trade unions representing Telegraph Media Group staff? Can the Minister also tell the House what principles will underpin the approach to the auction and what steps the Secretary of State will take to guarantee that there is a free and open sale of the media group?

This is a year of multiple elections: we have local elections tomorrow and a general election, we hope, as soon as possible afterwards. It is essential to our working democracy that we have a free, honest and independent press. For our part, although we may not always agree with the editorial line of the Telegraph, we will champion its right—and the right of all publications—to hold us all to account.