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.
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
“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
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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