'Guardian' editor in Aitken fax apology

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The Independent Online
Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian, escaped punishment yesterday for doctoring Commons notepaper to obtain a hotel bill incurred by the Tory MP Jonathan Aitken.

The Commons Privileges Committee said it accepted Mr Preston's apology that sending the "cod fax" was "a stupid and discourteous thing to have done" and his assurance that he would not do it again.

Mr Preston sent the fax as part of his newspaper's efforts to establish who paid for Mr Aitken's stay at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, owned by Mohammed al-Fayed. It purported to come from Mr Aitken and was a intended to protect Mr Fayed, who was co-operating with the paper, from accusations of breaking a client's confidence.

The committee concluded that Mr Preston and the Guardian were "guilty of unwise and improper conduct".