Telegraph chairman Aidan Barclay has been severely criticised by peers for refusing to give evidence in an inquiry into media ownership.
While Rupert Murdoch volunteered to answer peers’ questions, the Telegraph proprietor refused four times to appear before a House of Lords select committee.
Now the House of Lords is being asked to reform its procedures to make is easier in future to summon reluctant witnesses to Parliament.
Peers flew to the United States to see Murdoch while Daily Mail chairman Lord Rothermere appeared before the committee in the House of Lords.
But while the Daily Telegraph editor gave evidence, Barclay refused four invitations to meet peers though he offeed them a private and off the record briefing.
Disclosing this to Parliament, the committee, said that Barclay had said ‘he was not currently taking a role in policy debates about media ownership and that it was not in the Telegraph group’s commercial interests to share his views on strategy with with competitors’.
The committee said: “Off the record briefings are of no practical use to an inquiry like this as they cannot be quoted and by definition are not open to public scrutiny.
“We do not believe that the proprietor of two important national newspapers can claim that he cannot be questioned by a Parliamentary select committee.
‘Newspapers themselves call for maximun openness and condemn secrecy and attempts at ‘cover ups’.
‘Yet here we have a newspaper proprietor seeking to hide behind a shield of privacy that his newspapers would not accept for a minute when dealing with other members of the public.”
Peers said Barclay was not the only potential witness reluctant to appear.
‘Some chairmen and editors readily agreed to come to give evidence. Others were markedly more reluctant. In one or two cases negotiations went on for several months before agreement was forthcoming.”
By contract the committee said they had no complaint against the BBC and other public service broadcasters in their willingness to give evidence.