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Times Newspapers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 27th January 1981.

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Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East 5:57 pm, 27th January 1981

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. However, there came a time when, with oil revenues, the company's main interest was not the newspapers. It was then that decisions were taken across the Atlantic about introducing the new technology. The idea was to have a perfunctory non-negotiation with the unions. The company's thinking was "Give them all the sack. The unions will soon run out of money. The workers will come back with their tails between their legs, and we shall get the agreement that we want." Across the Atlantic, the company did not understand what was happening in Fleet Street. It did not understand that if people could not buy The Times they would buy other newspapers, which meant the other newspapers putting on extra machinery. The labour previously employed on The Times was then employed on those other machines producing those other publications. It took the company 11 months, at a cost of £70 million, to realise the awful mistake that it had made.

The printing trade unions and, I understand, a very large number of journalists take the view that the best chance of keeping the publications in existence is Rupert Murdoch—not Atlantic Richfield or Associated Newspapers. Eventually, I hope to see the break-up of the monopoly in newspapers. I wonder whether I shall receive Conservative support in later years when I put forward proposals along those lines. For the present, one of the unacceptable faces of capitalism is this monopoly ownership of the press, and Government Members have to accept that that is the nature of the system which they support. The trade unions will have to do their best to exist within that system, but it is our view that the most viable offer is the one from Murdoch.