Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Former MP Tim Yeo loses Sunday Times cash claim libel bid

Former Conservative MP Tim Yeo has lost his libel case against The Sunday Times over a "cash for advocacy" claim. 


Tim Yeo, South Suffolk MP from 1983 to 2015, claimed his reputation had been "trashed" by three articles in 2013. 

The newspaper alleged he breached parliamentary codes of conduct by telling reporters he could promote business concerns in return for cash, the High Court heard.

It suggested Mr Yeo, 70, would approach ministers for a daily fee of £7,000.

Representing Mr Yeo at a week-long trial, Desmond Browne QC said his client was quite unjustifiably tarred with the same brush as another MP who had been exposed a week before.

But in Wednesday's High Court ruling, Judge Mr Justice Warby said he found some of Mr Yeo's evidence "utterly implausible" and, overall, he did not present "convincingly".

Martin Ivens, editor of The Sunday Times, said the decision was "a victory for investigative journalism". 

He added: "It vindicates the role of the press in exposing the clandestine advocacy by MPs for undisclosed interests."

Undercover journalists

The articles had stemmed from a lunch Mr Yeo had had with two undercover journalists who posed as representatives of a solar energy concern in the Far East.

They alleged that Mr Yeo - then chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee - was prepared to, and had offered to, act as a paid parliamentary advocate who would push for new laws to benefit the business of a client.

They also contained comment to the effect that he had shown willing to abuse his position to further his own financial and business interests.

Mr Browne said the Sunday Times acted in numerous respects "with a singular lack of responsibility both at the journalistic and the editorial level".

He added: "Mr Yeo was the unfortunate victim of that irresponsibility. 

"He says that in his last years of service as an MP, his reputation was trashed."


'Evidence was untrue'

Dismissing the case, Mr Justice Warby said he was unable to accept Mr Yeo's evidence that he was unable to remember an email which mentioned a "generous remuneration package".

"I can think of none who convincingly claim to have no interest in money, yet end up with an annual income in excess of £200,000," the judge said.

"I do not consider that Mr Yeo is such a person. In my judgment this evidence was untrue. 

"I am not persuaded that it was honest either."

Times Newspapers Ltd said the articles were true, fair comment and responsible journalism on matters of public interest.

Gavin Millar QC, for Times Newspapers, said: "The day after the lunch the claimant, a very experienced parliamentarian, admitted that he had been aware at the meeting that it was being proposed that he undertake lobbying activities which were incompatible with his public office."

According to the newspaper, Mr Yeo has agreed to pay its legal fees of £411,000.

Source: BBC News