Telegraph cleared by PCC over Keith Vaz complaint

A complaint from Keith Vaz about a Daily Telegraph splash has been rejected by the Press Complaints Commission.

Vaz, MP for Leicester East, claimed the newspaper had suggested he was offered a peerage, or other reward, in return for supporting the 42-day detention terror bill.

But the PCC decided the Telegraph had taken care not to make that claim. Instead, it simply reported a letter sent by Geoff Hoon, in which he thanked Vaz for supporting the bill and hoped he would be “appropriately rewarded”.

Vaz denied he had been offered any reward.

He also complained he should have been contacted before publication. It was, he said, ‘only fair and right that the subject of an article is given the chance to explain their side of a story before print”.

The PCC disagreed, and said in a statement: ‘It is acknowledged that there may be occasions when contacting an individual is necessary in order to ensure that a story is accurate.

‘But the commission reiterated its position that it would be impractical to compel newspapers always to contact people who are about to feature in articles.”

The statement added: ‘On this occasion, as there did not appear to be any doubt that the letter [from Geoff Hoon] was genuine – and as the complainant’s denial about the offer of a reward was already in the public domain and repeated in the articles – there was no obligation under the code to speak to him in advance of publication.”

The Telegraph did contact Vaz after the story was published online, but he declined to comment.

A further complaint under clause 10, relating to subterfuge, was rejected as ‘there was no suggestion that the journalist personally had removed or intercepted the letter”.

The statement added: ‘Because of the code’s requirement on journalists to protect confidential sources of information, it was not possible for the commission to ascertain the precise circumstances relating to how it came into the newspaper’s possession.

‘It was therefore not possible to establish any breach of Clause 10. But it was clear, in any case, that the letter concerned a matter of legitimate public interest which the paper was entitled to report, and, moreover, did not relate to the complainant’s private life.”

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