PCC raps East Kilbride News over MP’s expenses tale

A MEMBER of Parliament has had a complaint against his local newspaper, the East Kilbride News, upheld by the Press Complaints Commission.

Says the PCC, the newspaper contravened clause one – to do with accuracy – of its code of practice.

Michael McCann, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, complained about a story relating to parliamentary expenses, published following the release of figures by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

In a statement, the PCC said: “Mr McCann argued that a claim made in the article – that his expenses “include £1150 in hotel bills to fund his trips to Westminster, while he also claims for a rented property in central London” – was misleading because it suggested that he had claimed for hotel rooms at the same time as paying rent on a property. In fact, the hotel bills were incurred before he had the property.”

Continued the PCC: “The Commission found the claim in the article could have misled readers into believing that the claims for hotel bills and rent were made concurrently, rather than consecutively. The newspaper should have clarified this following the complaint. It failed to do so and the result was a breach of the Code.

“The newspaper published the adjudication with due prominence last Wednesday. However, in doing so, it made some minor amendments to the text and failed to publish a proper reference to the PCC in the headline. As a result, it republished the adjudication in full today.”

But an additional complaint by McCann – under clauses 1 (accuracy) and 4 (harassment) – was not upheld by the Commission.

Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, is quoted in the statement, saying: “Scrutiny of an MP’s expenses can be an important function of a newspaper. However, there is a real need for editors to ensure that they get the claims right. In this case, the article could have misled readers about the conduct of their MP, and the newspaper should have clarified the position when asked to do so.

“Furthermore, when the complaint was upheld by the PCC, the newspaper should have ensured the ruling was carried properly. I am glad that the full text has now been published, in accordance with the requirements of the Code.”

East Kilbride News is published by Trinity Mirror. As a result, Tina Weaver, the editor of the Sunday Mirror and editorial member of the Commission, took no part in the PCC’s deliberations of this complaint, and left the room when it was discussed. She did not see any correspondence connected to the case. This is because the Sunday Mirror is also published by Trinity Mirror.

Read the full adjudication here.