Eighteen Conservative MPs have written to the deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, urging him to “pause” the sale of the Daily Telegraph newspaper to an investment fund owned by the vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, which they say is a “potential national security threat.”
In the letter, the MPs—led by former Health Minister Neil O’Brien—called on Mr. Dowden to use powers he has under the National Security and Investment Act, which can prevent the sale of infrastructure and other key assets to entities controlled by other countries.
The letter, co-signed by the former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alicia Kearns, said the UAE had, “increasingly close relations with China.”
The Telegraph Media Group was bought by twin billionaire brothers David and Frederick Barclay in June 2004.
Lloyds inherited a hefty loan to the Barclay brothers in 2008, when it took over the doomed HBOS bank during the financial crisis, and the debt had risen to £1 billion.
David Barclay died in 2021 and his 89-year-old brother, Frederick, left the running of the group to his nephews, Aidan and Howard.
The bank said it would sell the traditionally conservative media titles to the highest bidder after the failure of talks with the Barclay family.
Joint Venture Would pay off Barclay Family DebtRedBird IMI—a joint venture between U.S. firm RedBird Capital and International Media Investments (IMI) of Abu Dhabi—would have paid off the Barclay family’s debt to Lloyds as part of the deal.
Last week, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said she was “minded” to open an investigation into whether the deal was against the public interest.
MPs Urge Government not to be ‘Railroaded’The 18 Tory backbenchers urged the government not to be, “railroaded into clearing” the change of ownership and urged him to pause the deal while he reflected on the possible damage to press freedom and national security.
The authors of the letter said the fact the UAE was, “strengthening its relationship with Beijing at a time of growing tensions is even more troubling.”
The MPs told Mr. Dowden, “We therefore think that, in addition to the sensible steps already taken, now is the time for the government to announce that it will use its powers under the National Security and Investment Act to scrutinise this deal fully.”
They added: “Taking action under the NSI Act would not prejudice the bid and those involved in it. Instead, much like a Public Interest Intervention Notice, it would enable the government to gather the necessary information and examine the proposed transactions in detail.
Other MPs known to have signed the letter are Robert Courts, chairman of the defence select committee, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Richard Drax, Simon Fell, James Grundy, Sir John Hayes, Simon Jupp, Jonathan Lord, Craig Mackinlay, Jill Mortimer, John Redwood, Selaine Saxby, Alec Shelbrooke, Andrew Selous and Sir Desmond Swayne.