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Times Newspapers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 27th January 1981.

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Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton 5:48 pm, 27th January 1981

I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman has not followed me closely enough. The Act contains the phrase is not economic as a going concern and as a separate newspaper". The initial figures were based on a different division of overheads than if The Sunday Times were to be entirely separate, so the Secretary of State is right to determine this matter—as he has done with great courage.

I came to the House today to ask the Secretary of State to make certain conditions if he approved a sale. I am pleased that he has already met much of what I wanted. We must defeat the argument, from both sides of the House, that the entrenched clauses are not as strong when they are propounded by the Secretary of State as they would have been if there had been a reference to the MMC. Irrespective of what the MMC might have recommended, the only way in which the obligations could have been made legally binding would have been if they had been dealt with by the Minister and put into his consent. The fact that they might have been in the MMC report or considered by the MMC has no legal standing. It is not correct to say that the requirements that the Secretary of State has made have no legal strength. Those who use that argument have not read the Act.

I have only one question of my right hon. Friend about the assurances and the entrenched clauses. Is he absolutely certain that the eight statements that he has obtained will ensure editorial independence? That is what I wanted to ask him before he announced the entrenched clauses, and I am not as happy as I would like to be that they completely cover an assurance of editorial independence. I should like some assurance on that matter, because it is future editorial independence about which so many hon. Members are concerned. So long as I can have that assurance, I shall have no difficulty in supporting my right hon. Friend in the Lobby.