Predatory pricing policy `spelt out'

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MARGARET BECKETT has promised to spell out the government's opposition to predatory pricing in the Commons on Monday after a threatened rebellion by 40 Labour MPs.

However, the President of the Board of Trade refused to promise any changes to the Competition Bill in a meeting with the MPs last night.

Many MPs are concerned that predatory pricing by the newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch may be allowed to continue because of Labour's relationship with him.

The Government has always argued that its Competition Bill would contain adequate safeguards against predatory pricing, but the Lords voted through an amendment which would ensure it was outlawed.

On Monday the Bill will return to the Commons for its second reading, and ministers must convince Labour backbenchers that it is strong enough.

Mrs Beckett is not expected to mention the newspaper industry directly, though.

The Prime Minister also rejected a Lords move to tackle predatory pricing in newspapers, warning the peers' amendment to the Competition Bill would mean "newspapers would not be allowed to compete at all".

He told the Commons the best way forward was to bring Britain's legislation into line with Europe, which was what the Bill would do.