MPs attack Murdoch price war

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The Independent Online
A NEW parliamentary bid to curb Rupert Murdoch's newspaper price- cutting policy has been backed by five Commons select committee chairmen and some 50 backbenchers, writes Stephen Castle.

The move threatens more embarrassment for the Government in the wake of last week's attack on Tony Blair by Mr Murdoch's tabloid, the Sun. The emergence of a new amendment, being drafted by two committee chairmen, Chris Mullin and Giles Radice, will come as a blow to ministers who thought they had defused the row over Mr Murdoch's price-cutting. Last month the President of the Board of Trade, Margaret Beckett, announced that the Government would not accept a Lords amendment to the Competition Bill, outlawing cut-price campaigns such as those run by the Times, as that would give the state "the power to control how national newspapers behave".

Mrs Beckett argued that the Bill would, in effect, ban predatory pricing anyway by enshrining European law. That says that any market-dominant company consistently lowering its price below average variable costs is in breach of the law.

The new amendment will use statements and guarantees offered by ministers and seek to enshrine them in the Bill. The debate is expected to take place a week on Wednesday when the Competition Bill returns to the Commons.