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Lord Donoughue (Labour)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Mr Rupert Murdoch was granted permission to acquire The Times, the Sun, the Sunday Times, and the News of the World in 1982 in return for "guarantees" of his behaviour as proprietor to the Secretary of State and to Parliament; if so, whether those conditions were set out in the Secretary of State's consent; and whether they were laid before Parliament with a condition that breach of them was to be subject to serious penalty.

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Baroness Garden of Frognal (Liberal Democrat)

News International acquired The Times and the Sunday Times in 1981. Under the previous merger regime provided for by the Fair Trading Act 1973, consent was given by the then Secretary of State to the merger subject to certain conditions. The conditions, which remain in force, related to the tenure of the independent national directors, editorial independence and future ownership structure of the Times Newspapers. These conditions, which are backed by criminal sanction for breach, were set out in the Secretary of State's letter of consent published on 27 January 1981. I am arranging for copies to be placed in the House Libraries. Any proposed changes by News International require the prior consent of the Secretary of State.

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