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Newspaper apologises to MP in blood testing row

A regional daily apologised to a Tory MP after accusing him of failing to campaign to keep blood testing services on his patch.

Billericay MP John Baron was named in a Southend Echo story critical of MPs for not having fought to retain blood testing in South Essex, although he claimed the paper was aware he had taken action in relation to the matter.

Mr Baron complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the Southend Echo had published misleading information and failed to offer him an opportunity to reply in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Editor’s Code of Practice.

The newspaper claimed it had tried to contact the MP for comment before publishing the article, but he said he had no record of it having done so.

The issue was resolved when the paper published the following apology:

“Further to our article “Sat on the fence” (March 20), which reported concerns that MPs had done little to support our campaign to keep blood testing in south Essex, we are happy to point out that MPs John Baron and Stephen Metcalfe had met with executives at the NHS Primary Care Trust and voiced their concerns over the removal of the services. They also consulted GPs and pathology experts to gauge their views on the plans and urged the trust to consider the clinicians’ concerns before reaching a decision. We apologise for any confusion caused.”

Other recently resolved PCC cases involving regional newspapers include:

Donohoe v Irvine Times

Brian Donohoe MP complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about a headline claiming he had been “told to pay back £10k of tax payers’ cash”. The complainant said that, as the article had made clear, he had voluntarily agreed to pay back any capital gain which he made on his second property following changes to the mortgage interest subsidy rules in 2010.

The matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following correction:

In the edition of the Irvine Times dated 15th May, we printed an article with the headline “MP told to pay back £10k of taxpayers cash.” Mr Donohoe has asked us to make clear that he was not ‘told’ to do this by the IPSA, but he was happy to voluntarily repay any capital gains from his property transactions. While the article makes this clear and contains Mr Donohoe’s views on the matter, we accept that the headline was misleading. We are happy to make this clarification.”

A man v The Herald, Glasgow

A man, representing a woman who had been injured whilst climbing in the Cairngorms, complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the newspaper had published inaccurate information relating to the incident and the injuries suffered.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated amendments to the online article and the publication of the following correction in print:

“We reported on January 26 that an ice climber was rescued after falling 160ft near Newtonmore and had broken her back in the accident.  The climber did not fall but was held securely by a rope.  She suffered serious injuries but did not break her back”.