Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Lords threaten double whammy
The Lords could wreck the entire competition bill over paper prices
The government faces the prospect of double defeat on Tuesday in the House of Lords.
The first challenge comes in the form of an amendment demanding an open list system for European elections by Conservative Lords Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Henley.
Under the government's current plans, people will only be able to vote for a party. Candidates will then be selected from so-called closed lists.
The Conservatives could secure the 30th defeat for the government this session in the Lords, which has an in-built Tory majority.
The party's constitutional affairs spokesman Liam Fox said the Conservatives continued to oppose PR but would campaign for a "fair" form it it was to be implemented.
The Electoral Reform Society is backing the Tory amendment in the House of Lords.
"We're coming at it from an entirely different angle," said the society's chief executive Ken Ritchie.
"We want voters to be able to choose not only the party but the people. We don't feel we're asking the government to do very much."
Fighting paper tigers
Rebel Labour peers could scupper the government's Competition Bill because, they say, it fails to tackle predatory pricing of newspapers.
The target of the action is Rupert Murdoch, whose media interests includes The Times newspaper, which is offered to readers at a loss.
Mr Murdoch's company News Corporation defends this, saying the profits made by its sister paper The Sunday Times cover the difference.
But rival newspapers have long campaigned to have tighter laws in this area.
A House of Commons committee previously threw out a Lords amendment along similar lines.
A group of 25 Labour MPs led by Home Affairs Committee chairman Chris Mullin then challenged the government to lower the threshold of market domination.
Should the Lords succeed in pushing through the amendment, the bill would return to the Commons.
The government cannot invoke the Parliament Act and force the legislation through, however, because it originated in the Lords.
This makes the prospect of a widespread Labour revolt in the Lords less likely.
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