BSkyB Takeover bids
Asked if the Prime Minister (PM) shared the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) views about the Rupert Murdoch bid for BSkyB, the PMS said the issue was being dealt with by the Culture Secretary who was seeking advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading (OfT). Asked if the Government had confidence in Ofcom, the PMS said it did.
Asked if the PM thought the Dowler family should get an apology from the News of the World, the PMS said the PM thought the allegations were appalling and had been clear about that.
Asked why the Government was not referring the case to the Competition Commission, the PMS explained there were three issues, the competition issue, the plurality issue and the ‘fit and proper’ issue. On plurality, the Secretary of State (SoS) had set out that he was minded not to refer to the Competition Commission but would be considering advice from OfT and Ofcom.
Asked why the PM hadn’t expressed his views on the BSkyB takeover, the PMS said it was a quasi judicial decision.
Put that another senior member of the Cabinet had expressed their views, the PMS said there has been a lot of public interest and politicians had discussed it. It was not for the PM to become involved whilst the SoS was considering that decision.
When put that, since the PM had commented on hacking, the reluctance to comment on the takeover bid was preferential, the PMS said that hacking is illegal and the PM had commented that he thought the various allegations that had been made were disgusting. Hacking was the subject of a police investigation independent of Government. The decision on plurality was a decision for the SoS. Asked if the PM was working on the decision, the PMS said the PM was not involved in the process in any way.
Asked if the PM had spoken to Jeremy Hunt in the last 72 hours or if the takeover bid had been discussed in Cabinet the PMS said he wasn’t sure whether there had been any conversations but Cabinet had not discussed the takeover.
Put that the letter to Ofcom from Jeremy Hunt was off his own back and not a decision from the PM, the PMS said it had clearly been his decision.
When asked repeatedly about who had spoken to who about the subject, the PMS pointed out that people needed to be clear that a decision had not been made about the bid, the Secretary of State had approached an independent regulator for it’s advice and it was his decision to ask for that advice.
Put that this was about defending the PM’s lack of involvement, the PMS said it had always been the case that decisions are taken by the relevant SoS and because this was a quasi judicial process, advice needed to be sought from lawyers and independent regulators, it was not for the PM to decide.
Asked what the PM had done about recent events, the PMS said he had decided to set up an inquiry. The inquiry must have the right Terms of Reference (ToR) and said the PM was determined to get that right.
Asked what the PM was going to do about his comment that the relationship with media and politicians is too cosy, the PMS said Government had decided to set up an inquiry and was looking at the issue of transparency as a matter of urgency.
When asked if the PM was likely to meet Murdoch again in future, the PMS said it was inevitable that politicians met with media figures.
Asked if there was any reaction to the Government’s guarantee that no individuals would be left homeless following the announcement that Southern Cross would close, the PMS said local authorities needed to make sure that people get the appropriate care and with around 50K care home places, there was no reason why anyone should fail to get the care they needed. Put that a lot of people were concerned they would have to move, the PMS said Government had been in discussion with Southern Cross to minimise disruption.