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: As secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group, I invite the Minister to meet us, when we would welcome the opportunity for him to meet delegations of some of the trade unionists from individual newspapers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said, the calculation is that 1,000 job losses have occurred in the sector in the past six months. It is an important sector and the scale
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of job losses is significant. We would welcome the opportunity for the Minister to experience at first hand the impact on people's employment.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I thank the Minister for giving way, and I am sorry that I missed the first three minutes of the debate. When he meets the group, will he try to make it an all-party group? There is concern on both sides of the House about this matter.
Mr. Sutcliffe: I recognise that point. I do not think that there is a party political nature to this debate. We are all aware of the impact of the local media on our communities. I should be happy for the meeting to involve Members from all parties, but it will be up to the members of the group to decide whom they invite for me to meet.
David Taylor: I am sure that the Minister will accept that the concerns about the Rothermere press that my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby and others have raised this evening are not politically motivated. Its regional papers are scrupulously fair and balanced, not only in election periods but throughout the electoral cycle. At least, that is my experience in Leicestershire. We are making general and genuine principled points, not political ones.
Mr. Sutcliffe: I accept that, and I am not trying to denigrate any of the points that have been made. They have been well made, from the honest position of wanting to ensure that good quality journalism in our communities continues, and that the well-being of local newspapers continues. I am trying to explain that, within our enterprise and competition regime, we have the opportunity to deal with certain situations if we feel that they are not benefiting local areas.
My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby talked about buying from supermarkets rather than newsagents. The world is changing, in regard to the ways in which consumers acquire their information, whether it be through the printed media, radio, television or the internet. There is a whole variety of ways for news to reach us. This has been a worthwhile debate, and I hope that it will have positive consequences at our meeting. I also hope that the House accepts the position that I have put forward.