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Times Newspapers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 27th January 1981.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry 4:12 pm, 27th January 1981

I note with satisfaction the comments of my hon. Friend, the more so as they come from somebody who was formerly employed by Times Newspapers.

I had come to that part of my speech in which I wanted to put before the House the conditions that I have attached to my consent. They are, broadly, eight.

First, the newspapers are to be published as separate newspapers.

Second, future disposals are to be subject to the consent of a majority of the independent national directors of Times Newspapers Holdings Ltd.

Third, the number of these independent directors is to be increased from four to six and the appointment of any independent national directors in the future is not to be made without the approval of the existing independent national directors.

Fourth, on editorial independence, the editors shall not be appointed or dismissed without the approval of the majority of the independent national directors.

Fifth, the editor of each newspaper shall retain control over any political comment published in his newspaper and, in particular, shall not be subject to any restraint or inhibition in expressing opinion or in reporting news that might directly or indirectly conflict with the opinions or interests of any of the newspaper proprietors.

Sixth, instructions to journalists shall be given only by the editor or those to whom he has delegated authority.

Seventh, subject only to any annual budget for editorial space and expenditure the editor shall retain control over the appointment, disposition and dismissal of journalists on his newspaper and of all other content of his newspaper.

Eighth, disputes between the editors and directors of the companies are to be settled by the independent national directors.

I am taking steps to ensure that these conditions are entrenched. Those relating to editorial independence will be incorporated into the articles of association of Times Newspapers companies and any change in the relevant articles will in future require my consent. That requirement, as well as the other conditions, will be backed up by the sanctions provided for in the Act.