Crick faces the press after the release of report into Betsygate affair
Investigative journalist Michael Crick has criticised the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee over its handling of the “Betsygate” affair Crick accused the committee of “shabbiness in the extreme” after it voiced “grave doubts” about the methods used in his Newsnight investigation into Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith’s use of public funds to employ his wife Betsy as diary secretary.
It is understood the committee was concerned about Crick and the BBC taping conversations with councillors from IDS’s Chingford constituency.
“It was shabby in the extreme to put that in [the committee’s report] without giving me a right to reply or explaining what they meant. Now that’s going to be forever on the record. I stand by everything we did.”
In December the BBC decided not to broadcast Crick’s report because it did not meet its editorial tests at the time, a spokesman said this week. “We do, however, think it was legitimate to inquire into the allegations given the seniority and nature of the sources.”
He pointed out that BBC editorial guidelines permitted taping “without prior referral for programme-makers to record their own telephone conversations for note-taking purposes, or to gather evidence to defend the BBC against possible legal action”.
Crick accused the committee of “conflict of interest” because two members also employed family members.
He is considering launching a follow-up probe after he finishes writing a book on Michael Howard.
“I think its very surprising that two members of the committee failed to declare their own interest. George Young and Derek Foster both employ children, which I think demonstrates the utter complacency of members of the Westminster village on this issue,” Crick said. “It is deeply unsatisfactory that MPs should be regulating themselves.
There’s far too much assumption that they are all honourable members and all honest.”
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, whom Crick said did “a thorough job”, found IDS had wrongly claimed allowances for some of the secretarial work carried out by his wife. He ruled that, as party political work, it should have been paid for from the official grant given the office of the leader of the opposition.
Journalists and whistleblowing MPs face a clampdown of leaks following the Betsygate affair, writes David Rose.
Sir Philip Mawer has asked the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee to look into the problem of information leaking out to the media.
The inquiry will be undertaken when the committee reviews the House’s Code of Conduct. Sir Philip told MPs that unauthorised disclosure of evidence had been one of the “constant features” of the Betsygate probe.
He said the disclosure of evidence during the course of an inquiry may constitute contempt of the House.
In clearing IDS of wrongdoing, MPs made a general plea for journalists to respect the privacy of those caught up in an investigation.
By Wale Azeez