Resolution Statement - 0829-19 Reed v The Times

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement - 08294-19 Reed v The Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Lucy Reed complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “Sinking support for water nationalisation" published on 22 October 2019.

2. The article also appeared online in a substantially similar format.

3. The article reported on a decline in public support for the nationalisation of the water industry amid fears that pension values could be hit. To illustrate the general decline is support, the article stated that, according to a COMRES poll, support for nationalisation had fallen to 27%.

4. The complainant said that the statement that “only 27 per cent of voters” support nationalisation according to a COMRES poll was incorrect. The poll in fact showed that 49% of voters supported nationalisation.

5. The 27% figure was actually the result of a different, loaded, question in the same poll. This question asked:  “The Labour Party’s proposal for nationalising the water industry would mean the government paying less for water companies than they are worth, which would reduce the value of nearly 6 million people’s pensions which are invested in water companies, including both public and private sector workers’ pensions. If this were to happen as a result of nationalisation, to what extent would you support or oppose the nationalisation of water and sewerage services in England?”

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.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Mediated Outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved during the referral period, as the publication did not contact the complainant. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication accepted that they should have cited a less contentious figure or made clear that the reported figure came from a loaded question conditional on a decline in pension values. Therefore, the newspaper offered to publish the following correction that appeared online and in print on 6 December 2019:

“We reported that, according to a COMRES poll, only 27 per cent of voters think that water companies should be taken out of private hands (Business, Oct 22). This was incorrect. The COMRES poll actually found that 49 per cent of voters supported nationalisation.

The incorrect figure of 27 per cent came from a different question in the same poll. This question asked:  "The Labour Party’s proposal for nationalising the water industry would mean the government paying less for water companies than they are worth, which would reduce the value of nearly 6 million people’s pensions which are invested in water companies, including both public and private sector workers’ pensions. If this were to happen as a result of nationalisation, to what extent would you support or oppose the nationalisation of water and sewerage services in England?”

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

9. The publication also regretted that they did not contact the complainant during the referral stage. The said that this was due to unfortunate confusion and assured IPSO that this would not reoccur.

10. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.


Date complaint received: 25/10/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/12/2019 


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