MP dubbed 'millionaire' by Telegraph wins PCC complaint

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Daily Telegraph over its depiction of a Northamptonshire MP during its coverage of the expenses scandal.

Conservative Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, complained to the press watchdog that assertions made by the Telegraph that he was a ‘millionaire’ and possessed a ‘multi-million pound fortune’ were false.

Binley showed the PCC documents supporting claims about his financial status.

According the PCC ruling, the Telegraph had not approached Binley prior to publication with claims he was a ‘millionaire’ and possessed a ‘multi-million pound fortune’, nor could it corroborate these claims, and therefore offered to publish a brief clarification.

Publishing the result of its investigation today, the PCC said it agreed with Binley, who rejected the Telegraph’s clarification offer, saying the proposed statement was inadequate.

A statement from the PCC said: “While the point at stake was a narrow one, it was significant.

“The Daily Telegraph had not checked Mr Binley’s financial position prior to publication and had not been able to corroborate its contentions after it received his complaint.

“In such circumstances, it should have offered promptly to publish a correction and apology which accepted the articles were incorrect. The newspaper’s failure to do so meant that the complaint was upheld.”

A further complaint made against the newspaper by David Kidney, Labour MP for Stafford, about coverage if him during the expenses scandal was rejected.

Kidney complained the Telegraph had implied misbehaviour in relation to council tax claims he had made which resulted in him repaying £2,500 to the parliamentary fees office.

He said the repayment was made after a ‘mix-up’ and was not a deliberate attempt to over-claim and argued that it was misleading to refer to his error in the context of an article that referred to ‘phantom’, ‘inflated’ and ‘dubious’ claims of other MPs.

The PCC rejected his claim saying the newspaper had not said directly that Kidney’s actions were deliberate; it had merely said that Mr Kidney had ‘privately repaid over-claimed council tax to the Commons fees office’.

A more detailed explanation – referring correctly to a ‘mix-up’ – was contained within a special supplement, which was published on the same day.

Kidney had previously complained to the PCC over an expenses story which appeared in the News of the World, in June, which he claimed contained inaccuracies.

That complaint was resolved when the paper published a clarification.

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