BBC Green Paper: Chris Bryant Calls For Inquiry Into Possible Leaks To Media

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant called for an official inquiry into whether John Whittingdale or his department leaked details of the BBC green paper to newspapers ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary launch.

Citing the number of stories appearing in the Sunday Times and Mail over the past two weeks, the Labour MP said: “John’s either asleep at the wheel of his department or he’s broken the ministerial code and has to go – parliament and the public deserve to know which it is.”

The ministerial code dictates that important announcements of government policy are first announced in parliament if it is sitting. The Sunday Times first splashed on details of the government’s plans to transfer the over-75s TV licence cost to the BBC and then the details of the green paper last Sunday. The Daily Mail reported that the Perry review released alongside the green paper also recommended that non-payment of the licence fee remained a criminal offence.

Related: Tory plans for BBC shakeup could lead to ‘much diminished service’

Whittingdale denied the accusations, saying to the Guardian. “Half of what was written was complete fiction.” In the House of Commons he compared the stories to “Booker prize nominations”.

The only thing released ahead of Thursday’s green paper was the make-up of his advisory committee, published on Sunday at the same time as it appeared in the Sunday times.

The last time a minister or special adviser was accused of leaking official business to the newspapers, Fiona Cunningham, who worked for home secretary Theresa May, resigned.

In a tweet on Thursday. Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times, wrote:

Whittingdale appears to have confirmed every single fact in my BBC splash on Sunday. Yet he’s slagging it off. Brave under the circumstances.

Tim Shipman tweet Screen grab of Tim Shipman’s tweet taken from Thursday’s Guardian live blog. Image: The Guardian

This tweet, which appeared in the Guardian’s live blog, was subsequently deleted.

write a comment