Minister tells Ross and Brand to apologise

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The Independent Online

The Justice Minister today urged Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand to apologise for the offensive phone calls made to veteran actor Andrew Sachs.

David Hanson he did not think the two broadcasters' behaviour was "appropriate" or "in keeping with broadcasting".

At question time, he told MPs: "I'm not sure it will result in prosecutions. But I do feel an apology is called for."

Ofcom said earlier today that it would investigate the offensive phone calls made for a BBC radio show and involving a claim that Brand had slept with the Fawlty Towers actor's granddaughter Georgina Baillie, 23.

The BBC said this afternoon that they had now received more than 10,000 complaints.

The presenters also joked that the actor might kill himself as a result.

Ross, 47, has since issued a personal apology, with Brand, 33, following suit

Veteran Labour left-winger Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) raised the two broadcasters' actions in the Commons during questions on "purposeful activity" undertaken by prisoners.

"I wonder if the system would be comprehensive enough to find something useful for Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in the event that they finished up inside?" he demanded, to some laughter.

Mr Hanson replied: "I'm sure we do have some in-house entertainment they could do.

"But you are making a very serious point. It's not for me to comment on the issues that were mentioned.

"But I do feel that both Mr Ross and Mr Brand do have to make an apology with regard to the broadcast that was made.

"I don't think it was appropriate. I don't think it was in keeping with broadcasting."

Later, Tory MP Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) called for the BBC to end its contracts with Brand and Ross.

She commented outside the Commons: "I am extremely shocked and disappointed that the BBC, as a so called public service broadcaster, felt it appropriate to offend one of Britain's most respected actors, with such a base and vulgar attack on one of his grand daughters.

"Today I have signed a parliamentary motion condemning this behaviour and calling on the senior management at the BBC to get a grip on the organisation and take appropriate action against those responsible.

"At a time when hard pressed families are feeling the strain on their household budgets, many people will feel annoyed that the BBC licence fee of nearly £140 a year is being misused in this way.

"As Christmas approaches, this money could be better spent in the hands of hard working families and not left to pay the exorbitant salaries of offensive celebrities such as Brand and Ross.

"To avoid any more unnecessary insults, the BBC should terminate its contracts with Brand and Ross and immediately suspend those who were responsible for letting the transmission of this broadcast go ahead."