The People has been reported to the Press Complaints Commission and the police over a story alleging environment minister Richard Benyon flouted the hosepipe ban by leaving a 15ft hose running in his garden.
On Sunday the paper reported the hosepipe was seen ‘gushing in the grounds of the Tory MP’s family estate’when one of its reporters called to see him one day after the ban came into force
While it said no one was on hand to oversee the hose there was no suggestion Benyon or his wife had turned it on.
But in what the People called an ‘extraordinary twist”, Benyon has now claimed someone at the paper was responsible for turning on the hose and reported the paper to the police for trespassing.
The People has denied Benyon’s claim, saying: ‘The People can categorically state it was running when our team arrived at stately Englefield House in Mr Benyon’s constituency of Newbury, Berks.’
A statement from Defra said: ‘Mr Benyon has reported to Thames Valley Police an incident of trespass on his property on the afternoon of the 6 April and the police are investigating.”
But a spokesman for the police was quoted by the paper saying: ‘We were notified about an incident but the caller did not require our attendance and there’s no further police involvement.”
Benyon told the BBC: “Neither I, nor my family, nor anyone who works for me turned that hose on. I leave it for others to make a judgement as to who, therefore, did.” He added: “A reporter was seen walking up the steps.”
According to the People, the hose was ‘running freely as we arrived at the £125million spread… Our reporter spotted the hose running as soon as he arrived.
‘He immediately phoned for a photographer to come and had to wait for his colleague to drive to the MP’s country retreat.
“The hose continued to run for two hours before we knocked on the door of an office at the entrance to report it at about 4.40pm. No one was there.”
The paper said one of its reporters called a number on a notice nearby but it was 34 minutes before Benyon’s wife arrived.
‘We pointed to the hose 20ft away and she switched it off,’it said.
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