Resolution Statement 16892-17 Molloy v The Times

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 16892-17 Molloy v The Times

1. Anthony Molloy, on behalf of the Labour Land Campaign (LLC), complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in relation to an article headlined “Tax on land ‘would slash house prices’”, published on 30 May 2017.

2. The article reported that the Labour party manifesto for the 2017 general election, had outlined that the party would consider introducing a land-value tax (LVT), and reported claims that the proposal “could treble the bills of English households and cause house prices to plummet”. The article reported that the Conservative party had released an analysis of the proposals which had been published by the LLC, and claimed that Jeremy had endorsed the LLC in 2015.

3. The article reported the LLC’s proposal to introduce LVT at a “0.85 per cent levy, rising to 3 per cent over a ten to 20-year transition period, on the value of land for owner-occupied residential properties”. The article claimed that the LLC had said that “an important side-effect of introducing an LVT was that it would cause the market price of land, and therefore houses, to fall, which it described as a “long-term benefit”. The article also reported that the Conservative party analysis said that the 3% levy would result in a yearly tax bill of £3,837 for an average family home in England, more than treble the current average council tax bill in 2017-18 of £1,185. The 0.85% introductory rate would result in a bill of £1,087.

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that house prices would “plummet” as a result of the introduction of LVT; he said that the LLC research paper referred to in the article reported that “owner-occupied residential property prices on average would not decline”. The complainant said that this research paper was in draft format and did not represent official LLC policy, noting that the LLC has no policy on land tax implementation because its members are unable to agree. The complainant also said that the article gave the misleading impression that the Labour party and the LLC were affiliated, because it appeared to associate LLC research figures with Labour party policy.

5. The newspaper said that the article made clear that it was reporting on a Conservative party analysis of the proposals and not any official LLC policy. It said that whilst a note on the LLC research paper indicated that it was a “draft”, the newspaper was entitled to discuss the content of a published document that has been unamended and freely available on the group’s website since its publication. The newspaper said that the article did not state or suggest that the LLC was formally affiliated to the Labour party, and said that the premise of the article was made clear.

Relevant Code provisions

6.    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

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to publish the following clarification in its Corrections and Clarifications column on page 28 and as a footnote to the online article:

“In an article headlined “Tax on land 'would slash house prices’” (May 30),  we reported proposals for a land value tax published by the Labour Land Campaign (LLC) and analysed by the  Conservative Party. The LLC has asked us to make clear that it is not affiliated with the Labour Party; that the published paper was a draft; and that it has no agreed policy on how to implement a land value tax because the necessary information on land ownership in the United Kingdom is incomplete and meaningful investigation of the secondary economic effects of such a change to the basis of taxation is beyond the capabilities of any small, non-governmental organisation.”

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

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: 17/7/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/9/2017

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