Politics: MPs in Murdoch challenge

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THE LIBERAL Democrats last night leaked the outline of a high- level Labour Party discussion, attended by Tony Blair, agreeing that "representations" should be made to ministers about predatory pricing in the newspaper industry.

A minute of last week's meeting of Labour's Parliamentary Committee - the key contact point between the leadership and backbench MPs - said they had discussed the Companies Bill and Lord McNally's all-party amendment on predatory pricing, on which the Government roundly defeated last Monday.

The meeting was chaired by Clive Soley, Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, who told The Independent on Tuesday that he favoured a compromise under which action could be taken against any business which cut its price below cost for more than a fixed period.

The pricing issue was raised during Prime Minister's question time yesterday by Paddy Ashdown. The Liberal Democrat leader said the Government appeared to be arguing "that when it comes to competition, dealing with newspapers is the same as dealing with tins of beans, when it manifestly isn't. A vibrant media is vital to a healthy democracy."