By Jonathan Isaby
Today at the first Business Questions since the appearance of the articles, Commons Leader Sir George Young gave his opinion (hat tip to the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow for the quote) on the matter:
"I think members from both sides of the House should be concerned about the tactics that were used. I think journalists posing as constituents when they are not, raising fictitioius with MPs, taping them without their knowledge – I think this all risks prejudicing the relationship between a member of parliament and his constituent at his advice bureau. And it doesn't seem to me to be responsible journalism."
Meanwhile, I have just learned that the Press Complaints Commission is to investigate the matter, according to this statement:
The PCC has today confirmed that it has initiated an investigation into the use of subterfuge by the Daily Telegraph, which led to reports of comments made by Liberal Democrat MPs published in December 2010.
The PCC was contacted by around 200 members of the public on this subject, and proactively sought the comments of party representatives. The President of the Liberal Democrats has today written to the PCC and asked it to investigate the issue.
A PCC spokesman said: “We have now received a letter from the Liberal Democrats asking us formally to investigate. We will do so under clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Here what Lib Dem President Tim Farron said in his letter to the PPC:
“The articles fail to provide any plausible public interest justification for breaching the [PCC] Editor’s Code, indeed all the indications are that the Daily Telegraph embarked on a ‘fishing expedition’ designed solely to entrap Members of Parliament.
“Robust media scrutiny of politicians is obviously critical for a vibrant democracy. However, if journalists are licensed to embark on clandestine fishing expeditions at constituency surgeries in this way, MPs of all parties will be constrained from engaging in frank discussions with their constituents. Media scrutiny on this basis, far from contributing to democracy, threatens it by undermining the privileged nature of the relationship between constituents and their MPs.
“There are real matters of principle and public interest at stake in this case which are far more significant than the Telegraph articles themselves and I would therefore be grateful if the PCC could investigate this matter and offer guidance for future conduct.”