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LibDems slammed for missing communications debate

LONDON - The Liberal Democrat's media spokesman Nick Harvey has failed to turn up in time to a debate about the communications bill that could potentially have stopped non-European companies from buying ITV licences.

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The LibDems had tabled an amendment to the government's communications bill in opposition to Labour's and the Conservatives' positions, which support the liberalisation of media ownership despite Lord Puttnam's recommendation against such a move.

The failure of the LibDems to turn up to debate their own amendment was slammed by the Tories. John Wittingdale, shadow secretary for culture, media and sport, said: "We support the government's liberalisation of the ownership rules and so would have opposed the Liberal Democrats' amendment."

He added: "However, many people will find it extraordinary that one of the most controversial proposals in the bill, which was opposed by Lord Puttnam's committee, was not even discussed by the committee considering the bill because the Liberal Democrats were unable to get up in time."

A LibDem spokeswoman said that Harvey arrived one minute late. However, she said that it would now go to the floor at report stage, where the amendment could win the support of dissenting Labour backbenchers.

Parliamentary hours were changed this year in an effort to accommodate a broader kind of MP. However, some of the longer-term MPs are finding it difficult to adapt their routines, which see them start earlier in the morning and have put an end to late-night parliamentary debates.

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