Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01413-21 Hanney v
Summary of Complaint
1. Jon Hanney complained to the Independent Press Standards
Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’
Code of Practice in an article headlined “Car tax changes could see families
charged almost £7,000 more to use the roads”, published on 11 February 2021.
2. The online article reported that “[c]ar tax changes which
could see a new pay per mile system introduced may see motorists forced to pay
five times more to use the roads according to the new data seen exclusively by
Express.co.uk”. The article reported that “based on predictions from [a first
named person] that a pay per mile system will be priced at around 75p, charges
will dramatically rise”. The article included a quotation from [a second named
person] who said that: “75p per mile will cost a family petrol car driver an
eye-gouging £6,500 more than they annually pay now in Fuel Duty and VAT”. The
article proceeded to say that: “The Treasury is considering a new pay per mile
system to help fill a £40billion gap in public finances caused by the switch to
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in
breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). The figure of 75 pence per mile was both
unsubstantiated and constituted scaremongering. He considered that this
proposal was highly unlikely to be implemented, as it would amount to a
six-fold increase on the current charge of around 10.6 pence per mile. He also
noted that a 75 pence per mile charge would raise an estimated £267 billion a
year – far more than the “£40 billion gap in public finances caused by the
switch to electric cars” reported in the article.
4. The publication said it did not accept it had breached
the Code. It noted that the article did not claim as fact that the 75 pence per
mile system would be introduced, but rather presented such a system as the
conjecture on the part of a named individual, whose background in the field was
referenced. It went on to note that the article was exploring the “could be”
costs that people could face based on what was an estimated figure. The
publication emphasised that the article had accurately reported the estimated
figure made by the individual in accordance with the terms of Clause 1(i), and
had correctly distinguished between comment, conjecture, and fact in accordance
with the terms of Clause 1(iv).
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate,
misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not
supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or
distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where
appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence
should be as required by the regulator.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must
distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
5. Clause 1(iv) makes clear that publications must
distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. The 75 pence per mile
proposals and the calculations made based on it were clearly presented as
conjecture on the part of a named individual about what might happen if the
government introduced such a scheme. The Committee also noted that the entirety
of the article was framed as conjecture, with the headline stating that changes
to car tax charges “could” lead to people being charged more. The article
clearly distinguished between comment, conjecture, and fact; there was no
breach of Clause 1(iv).
6. The complainant had noted that a 75 pence per mile figure
would raise far more than the Government needed to fill the “£40 billion gap”
referred to in the article and was therefore highly unlikely to be implemented.
The Committee noted the complainant’s position on the accuracy of the scenario
forecasted by the individual; however, where the article had accurately
reported the “predictions” in question and had clearly presented them as
conjecture, the publication was entitled to publish them. There was no
requirement on the newspaper to prove that such speculation was credible. The
inclusion of the 75 pence per mile figure did not, therefore, raise a breach of
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 10/02/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 9/6/2021Back to ruling listing