Three MPs accept libel damages

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THREE MPs yesterday accepted a public apology and undisclosed libel damages over a newspaper article listing them among politicians who, it said, had 'failed to shine' in the House of Commons.

David Atkinson (Bournemouth East) and Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale), both members of the Conservative Party, and Robert Parry, the Labour member for Liverpool Riverside, were featured in a full-page article entitled 'The Dozy Dozen'.

It was published in the London Evening Standard in January last year, before the general election. The article said that the 12 'might not greatly deprive or denude the Palace of Westminster by their departure from it'.

Victoria Sharp, counsel for the three, told Mr Justice French in the High Court that the article did not reflect the contributions that each man had made to Parliament, to their constituents and, in the case of Mr Parry and Mr Atkinson, to the Council of Europe.

In court, the Standard's publisher, Associated Newspapers, and the paper's then editor, Paul Dacre, withdrew any suggestion that the three members of Parliament were inactive or ineffectual, or that they did not merit re-election.

Associated Newspapers and Mr Dacre also accepted that although Mr Atkinson had worked as a parliamentary consultant to two public relations companies, which happened to represent clients that held competing interests in relation to the promotion of the Channel tunnel, there was no question of any conflict of interest.

Mr Atkinson had made it clear that he could give the companies no advice on any matter relating to the tunnel because he had already been retained by another company with a professional interest.

The newspaper apologised for the distress and embarrassment caused and agreed to pay damages and legal costs.