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CMA investigation into online secondary ticket selling is welcomed

Kevin Brennan MP, the Deputy Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has welcomed the news that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will launch an investigation into online secondary ticketing selling.

Labour's Shadow Culture team has been campaigning to stop people selling-on tickets at huge markup prices and have started a petition to ban the practice which you can sign by visiting Tom Watson MP's website

“We welcome the launch of this investigation as it is quite clear that big secondary ticketing sites are not complying with existing information requirements that consumers are legally entitled to," said Mr Brennan.

“But this announcement does not excuse the Government from taking immediate action on the problems that have already been identified in the secondary ticketing market. Labour MPs have joined colleagues from across the House and called on the Government to legislate on ticket touting in the Digital Economy Bill – there is still time for them to do so.”

MP slams UK Government for blocking highly qualified black candidate from board

Kevin Brennan MP has called a UK Government Minister “disgraceful” for blocking the only black candidate for a senior job with a rejection of “tokenism”.

Government Minister Matthew Hancock blocked the appointment of former Arts Council executive Althea Efunshile to Channel 4’s board, despite her being recommended by the independent body Ofcom.

The board of directors at Channel 4 are all-white and only has three women on it.

Mr Brennan, the Deputy Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, responding to Matthew Hancock’s comments about tokenism during Culture, Media and Sport Oral Questions this morning, said:

“Matthew Hancock’s remarks this morning are very concerning.

“To say that the appointment of this highly qualified and recommended candidate would have been tokenism is disgraceful and his argument that ‘the four best candidates got the job’ just doesn’t cut it. We’ve had no transparency over the criteria for the appointments and no clarity on whether the same process was followed for each candidate, with multiple reports saying they were not.

“The Minister’s complacent attitude and his dismissal of the very serious questions around the appointments to the Channel 4 board betrays his total failure to grasp the severity of this issue. Those questions still need answering.”

MP raises Urgent Question on Rupert Murdoch's bid for full control of Sky

Sky: 21st Century Fox Takeover Bid
12 December 2016

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on 21st Century Fox’s bid to take over the remaining 61% of Sky.

The Minister for Digital and Culture (Matt Hancock): As the House will know, Sky announced on Friday that it had received an approach from 21st Century Fox to acquire the 61% share of Sky that it does not yet already own. The announcement made it clear that the independent directors of Sky and 21st Century Fox have reached an agreement on price. However, the offer is subject to further discussion, and Sky has advised that there is no certainty at this stage that an offer will be made. The terms of any deal will obviously need to be agreed by the non-21st Century Fox shareholders of Sky. The announcement also said that under the takeover code, 21st Century Fox is required to set out its intentions by 6 January 2017.

The Secretary of State has powers to intervene in certain media mergers on public interest grounds, as set out in the Enterprise Act 2002. Government guidance on the operation of the public interest merger provisions under the Act indicates how the intervention regime will operate in practice and the approach that the Secretary of State is likely to adopt in considering cases. Any transaction will be looked at on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. The guidance makes it clear that the Secretary of State will aim to take an initial decision on whether to intervene within 10 working days of formal notification of the merger to the competition authorities, or of the transaction being brought to her attention. No such formal notification has yet been received.

The role of the Secretary of State is a quasi-judicial one, and it is important that she acts independently and is not subject to improper influence. It would be inappropriate for me or the Secretary of State to comment further on the proposed bid under the Act. In the light of Friday’s statement and given the role of the Secretary of State, the Department is putting in place procedures to ensure that her decision-making process is scrupulously fair and impartial should a decision be necessary. This will include guidance for other Ministers and officials on dealing with the parties to the bid or any other interested parties. We are of course aware of the wider interest of Parliament in these matters, and we will keep the House updated as appropriate within the legal framework.

Kevin Brennan: I thank the Minister for his response. Late on Friday, a new bid for Sky was revealed. Five years ago, an equivalent bid was abandoned, after Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation were engulfed in the phone hacking storm. At that time the House was united behind a substantive motion calling on Rupert Murdoch to withdraw his bid. The concerns back in 2011 were not only about the serious wrongdoing being uncovered in the phone hacking scandal but about the concentration of media power and ownership in fewer and fewer hands. I have re-read the motion—which we all supported, on both sides of the House—and nowhere does it say that we should sit quietly for five years and come back when we have forgotten all about it. We have not forgotten about it, and we also have not forgotten ​that when the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street this summer she said to the people of this country:

“When we take the big calls we will think not of the powerful, but you.”

This is a big call, so we need to know whose side the Government are on.

Ofcom’s original assessment was that the deal may

“operate against the public interest”.

Will the Minister commit the Government, here and now, to issuing a public interest intervention notice and referring the bid to Ofcom? Remember that, back in 2012, Ofcom’s assessment was that the chief executive officer of Fox, James Murdoch,

“repeatedly fell short of the exercise of responsibility to be expected of him as CEO and chairman.”

The Prime Minister met Rupert Murdoch in New York in September. Was the bid discussed then? Did she give him any assurances about the bid, or discuss his future support for her and/or for her Government?

I understand that, as the Minister said, this is a quasi-judicial decision, and that the words he says today will be scrutinised by some of the highest paid lawyers on at least two continents. Nevertheless, will he assure us that the Secretary of State is prepared to stand up to powerful interests and ensure that this deal is properly and independently scrutinised?

Matt Hancock: I am grateful for the acknowledgement by the Opposition Front-Bench team that, owing to the quasi-judicial nature of the decision, procedures have to be followed properly. That is what we fully intend to do. Formal notification of this proposal has not been received, and the Secretary of State cannot make a decision prior to that. As I said, the rules are that she should aim to take such a decision within 10 days of formal notification.

Guardian: Pressure grows to refer Rupert Murdoch's Sky bid to Ofcom

Daily Mail: MPs demand ministers block Murdoch’s £11bn Sky bid