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 Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) 7:25, 1 Mai 2024

My Lords, I should reassure the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, that the Government do not always agree with the editorial line of the Telegraph either, but that is the point. The independence of the press, holding Governments of all colours to account, is why the Secretary of State has always taken this so seriously and used the powers available to her under the Enterprise Act in the way that she has. It is why, as I outlined in debates on the digital markets Bill, we have acted to put beyond doubt and make explicit the ability for her to act in this scenario following the concerns raised, not least by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, about the potential influence of foreign Governments over our newspapers.

I am grateful to both noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord McNally, for their comments and their welcome of the Statement. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for recalling rightly the role that Lord Puttnam played in the legislative landscape, which the Secretary of State and her predecessors have been able to use in this important area.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, referred to the balance between taking action to preserve the freedom of press, which we hold dear as a cornerstone of our democracy, and attracting investment into the UK. We have always been clear, as have my noble friend Lady Stowell and others, that our actions in relation to the potential influence of foreign Governments are not prejudicial to our welcoming of foreign investment more generally in media businesses, and I am glad to have the opportunity to say that again.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked about consultation with trade unions. The Government will not be engaging with potential buyers or be involved in the sale process from this stage on. We have obviously been careful in the stages so far. From now on, it will be run by RedBird IMI alone. The Secretary of State made her decision based on the evidence provided by Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority, which issued a call for evidence and spoke to relevant parties. The unions could have made representations to both those bodies—whether they did or not, I do not know, but that is the appropriate way for views to be fed in. The noble Lord is right to refer to the people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on this. Some of them, who have jobs that allow them to write freely, have made those points, but there are many more people whose jobs in these important sectors are affected by it, which I am happy to acknowledge.

On timelines, RedBird IMI will now proceed with a sale of the call option. The details of that are not finalised, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the next steps as they are a commercial matter. I will say, as the Secretary of State has, that she will monitor the outcome with a view to deciding in due course if she should take any further regulatory action under the Enterprise Act.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked about our consideration of the media mergers regime more broadly. That work was already under way before this issue came to a head. We have taken the action that we have in the digital markets Bill. That action continues, and we will have more to say on that, not least during our debates on the Media Bill. I know that he and others will rightly use this as an opportunity to return to these matters.