MPs condemn Mail's 'Ferguson sex story' buy-up

MoS: "fabricated story" attacked

While the courts came down on the side of the press this week in the Naomi Campbell case, MPs went on the warpath by attacking the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday over "chequebook journalism".

The MPs have challenged the Press Complaints Commission to act against Associated Newspapers for making payments to Nadia Abrahams and Brian Ebden, the couple who levelled indecent assault allegations against Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The PCC was urged to "make good its commitment to take firm action against chequebook journalism and its potentially corrupting influence upon legal process".

The demand in a Commons motion was led by Labour MP Peter Bradley, who is parliamentary private secretary to rural affairs minister Alun Michael. The minister is a former South Wales Echo journalist. Among the motion’s supporters was Chris Mullin, another former journalist.

The motion condemned Associated for "paying up to £100,000" to the couple for "what has been shown to be a fabricated story which at the time was the subject of a police inquiry". It added that there were "now no depths to which Associated would not stoop".

The challenge follows the Lord Chancellor’s decision to shelve proposed legislation making witness payments a criminal offence and instead to give the PCC a last chance to enforce higher standards voluntarily.

The MPs’ motion is seen as part of a growing hostility to the press in the Commons. The Liberal Democrats have threatened to amend the communications bill to effectively put the PCC under licence by Ofcom.

By David Rose

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