The House of Commons will today call on News Corporation to withdraw its proposal to take full control of BSkyB, after the Government announced that it would side with a motion tabled by the Labour Party.
In a move that will leave Rupert Murdoch politically isolated, the Conservatives last night caved in to pressure from Labour and senior Liberal Democrats in relation to the Opposition Day motion, which reads: "This House believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw their bid for BSkyB."
Downing Street said that the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt would not participate in the vote due to his quasi-judicial position in deciding the future of the News Corp bid.
Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to support the motion - and hence avoid a split in the governing coalition - is a sizeable concession in the political debate over the News Corp-BSkyB bid. It also represents a victory for the Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has repeatedly accused the prime minister of being flat-footed in response to the crisis embroiling News Corp's publishing subsidiary News International.
"There are times when the House of Commons has got to rise to the occasion and speak for the public," Miliband said in a statement.
"We have said that the purchase of BSkyB should not proceed until after criminal inquiries are complete. The simplest way to achieve this is for Rupert Murdoch to recognise the feelings of the public and the will of the House of Commons and withdraw this bid.
"I am calling on Parliament to show its will tomorrow."
The motion has no legal effect, and News Corp has signalled over the past two days that it is determined to succeed in its bid to take 100 per cent control of the hugely profitable BSkyB.
On Monday, it withdrew its undertaking to "spin off" Sky News into a separate company, thereby triggering an immediate referral of the bid to the Competition Commission. By sending the proposal to the Commission, News Corp is seeking to impose a fixed timetable for a decision and to reduce the likelihood that the scandal over criminal activities at its newspapers will materially affect the fate of its proposal.
Political pressure for a halt to the BSkyB takeover proposal stepped up a notch when the Liberal Democrats' Nick Clegg said, after meeting with the family of Milly Dowler, that Rupert Murdoch should "do the decent thing" and end his conglomerate's attempts to buy out BSkyB.
BSkyB shares took another hit on Tuesday, closing at 692p, down 3.3 per cent. Shares in the subscription television giant have dived more than 18 per cent in the past week.
It emerged yesterday afternoon that Rupert Murdoch, his son James and News International's chief executive Rebekah Brooks had all been invited to appear before a parliamentary select committee to face questions over the phone-hacking scandal. News Corp stated that it would "cooperate" with the committee but there were conflicting reports about whether the trio would accept the invitations.
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