MP welcomes watchdog’s decision over reports in the national press

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POLEGATE and Seaford Norman Baker has welcomed the decision by the Press Complaints Commission to uphold a complaint by the Lib Dems against a series of articles reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Baker was one of several senior Lib Dem ministers quoted during comments made in their own constituency surgeries, which had been secretly recorded by the newspaper’s journalists posing as constituents.

After the article on the Transport Minister came to light in December last year which quoted him talking about his party’s role within the BSkyB takeover Mr Baker said the publication was trying to break the coalition.

Other MPs featured included Vince Cable, Ed Davey, Michael Moore and David Heath.

The Press Complaints Commission said it had upheld the complaint from the Lib Dems against the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Baker said, “I’m very pleased with the outcome. I think it’s absolutely right that the Telegraph be admonished for how it has behaved.

“Constituents have to have absolute confidence when they come to talk to a member of parliament that the conversation is confidential and private.

“The way they approached us was reprehensible, they invented a constituent’s address, they came along with a sob story frankly to encourage the sort of comments they wanted reported in the paper.”

Mr Baker labelled the actions as a ‘political fishing exercise’ and added that the paper had focused on using negative comments rather than positive ones, adding, “They only went fishing with Lib Dem ministers and not Conservatives ones.”

The newspaper denied that it had undertaken a ‘fishing expedition’ and that its enquiry was undertaken in the public interest and its investigation had proved that the Lib Dem members of the Government were not consistent in their private and public statements.

The commission said it acknowledged there was a broad public interest in the subject matter but felt that the newspaper had reached the wrong decision in deciding to pursue subterfuge on this occasion.