Tim Yeo: Former cabinet minister loses Sunday Times ‘cash for lobbying’ libel case

Judge compared him to a fish wriggling on a hook

Jan Colley
Wednesday 25 November 2015 19:55 GMT
Tim Yeo; in throwing out his case, the judge called his evidence ‘untrue’ and ‘dishonest’
Tim Yeo; in throwing out his case, the judge called his evidence ‘untrue’ and ‘dishonest’ (Getty Images)

Tim Yeo, the former cabinet minister, has lost his libel action against The Sunday Times – with the judge comparing him to a fish wriggling on a hook.

Mr Justice Warby said that he found the former Conservative MP’s evidence to be untrue and dishonest. Mr Yeo has agreed to pay the newspaper £411,000 on account of its legal fees within 28 days,

Mr Yeo, who was seeking substantial compensation, said his reputation was damaged by articles which followed a lunch with two journalists posing as representatives for a solar energy concern in the Far East.

They alleged that he was prepared to, and offered to, act in a way that was in breach of the Commons Code of Conduct, by acting as a paid parliamentary advocate who would push for new laws to benefit the business of a client for a daily fee of £7,000.

They also contained comment to the effect that the ex-Tory MP had shown a willingness to abuse his position to further his own financial and business interests.

Times Newspapers said the June 2013 publications were true, fair comment and responsible journalism on matters of public interest.

After Mr Justice Warby dismissed the case at London’s High Court, Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said: “This is a victory for investigative journalism. It vindicates the role of the press in exposing the clandestine advocacy by MPs for undisclosed interests.”

He added: “This case has emphasised the role of newspapers in disclosing wrongdoing. It is good to see the courts recognise that journalism carried out in good faith is vital to a healthy democracy.”

Mr Yeo, 70, who represented South Suffolk for more than 30 years until the last election and was chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, was not in court to hear the judge say that some of his evidence was “utterly implausible”.

The judge said he was unable to accept Mr Yeo’s evidence that he had forgotten a reference in an email to a “generous remuneration package”.

“I accept that Mr Yeo is genuinely interested in green technology, and that he has given advice and help to some in this field without seeking or accepting any material reward.

“However, the May 13 email was short and clear. It was plainly suggesting a consultancy with generous remuneration.

“Experience suggests that in general those who are not interested in money tend not to get much. I can think of none who convincingly claim to have no interest in money, yet end up with an annual income in excess of £200,000.

“I do not consider that Mr Yeo is such a person. In my judgment this evidence was untrue. I am not persuaded that it was honest either.”

The judge added: “To a man as intelligent as Mr Yeo that cannot have been in doubt. It was preliminary to a job, for payment.”

Branding Mr Yeo’s evidence on whether he appreciated that lobbying was being sought as “unreliable and untruthful”, the judge said Mr Yeo had twisted and turned in his attempt to escape the obvious.

“When a fish wriggles on a hook, it goes deeper into the mouth and guarantees that the fish will not escape.”

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