Clause 65 - Newspaper mergers

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:45 pm ar 30 Ebrill 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry 6:45, 30 Ebrill 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 264, in page 46, line 16, after 'assets' insert—

'to which section 58(1) of the Fair Trading Act 1973 (c.41) applies'.

Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway Ceidwadwyr, Old Bexley and Sidcup

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 265.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

Amendment No. 264 introduces more targeted wording to define the scope of the Enterprise Bill regime. The intention is to ensure that the regime applies to mergers that involve the transfer of newspapers or newspaper assets, which meet the general merger thresholds, and which the Secretary of State does not refer under the newspaper merger provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1973. Amendment No. 265 is textual and consequential on the lead amendment.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Ceidwadwyr, Huntingdon

We have a rather strange little clause here and the Government amendments, which refer to the 1973 legislation, make it even stranger. In such comprehensive legislation on competition law, one wonders why the opportunity has not been taken to move the relevant clauses from the 1973 Act into the Bill for the purposes of completeness and simplicity.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry 7:00, 30 Ebrill 2002

During the consultation on merger reform, we said that the newspaper regime would be considered separately. The Government believe that the newspaper regime should be retained to address plurality concerns, but that it should be better targeted. The regime targets public interest concerns additional to competition, which justify the continued involvement of Ministers. We believe that the proposals in the draft communications Bill will be seen as significantly deregulatory, but we cannot give details before publication. Our approach in making provisions is appropriate.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Ceidwadwyr, South Cambridgeshire

I have reached the point of pedantry. The purpose of Government amendment No. 265 seems to be to bring the reference to the Fair Trading Act 1973 Act in clause 65(2) into line with the same reference in subsection (3), so that they both refer to the ''Act of 1973''. However, clause 261, which covers interpretation, defines not the ''Act of 1973'' but ''the 1973 Act''. We should be consistent and have either ''the 1973 Act'' or the ''Act of 1973''. I fail to see why we should have both.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

Is it for me to comment on the hon. Gentleman's self-confessed pedantry?

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Ceidwadwyr, Huntingdon

Given that the Government propose to review the merger legislation relating to newspapers, will the Under-Secretary give us further information on when that is likely to happen? Why do we have to make changes to the legislation now? Why can we not consider it in one go, as the Under-Secretary suggested?

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

As I said, we believe that the proposals in the draft communications Bill will be seen as significantly deregulatory, but I cannot provide any more details prior to publication to help hon. Members in their wider interest in the subject. The competition focus of the Bill is important and an announcement on newspapers will be made in the near future.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 265, in page 46, line 17, leave out

'Fair Trading Act 1973 (c.41)' and insert

'Act of 1973'. [Miss Melanie Johnson.]

Clause 65, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned. [Mr. Pearson.]

Adjourned accordingly at two minutes past Seven o'clock till Wednesday 1 May at half-past Ten o'clock.