Ruling

03090-16, Graham v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      10th November 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03090-16, Graham v Daily Mail


Summary of complaint 


1.    David Graham complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Migrants spark housing crisis”, published on 20 May 2016


2.    The article reported that the European Commission had warned that the UK was “heading for an ‘acute’ housing crisis caused by population growth”. It said that “rather than acknowledging the clamour in the UK for stricter border controls to ease demand, the Commission had ordered Britain ‘to take further steps to boost housing supply’”. It quoted MP Chris Grayling saying “what we have is the EU telling us we are not building enough houses yet telling us also that we have to accept unlimited migration from elsewhere in the European Union”. The article appeared with the sub-headline “Now EU tells Britain to build more homes as open borders send population soaring”. 


3.    The article was published in substantially the same form online. 


4.    The complainant considered that the article’s headline was unsupported by the accompanying text, which had not explained how migration had “sparked” a crisis in housing. He said that the European Commission had not said that it was necessary for the UK to build houses to cope with EU migration, and it had not attributed the housing shortage to population growth or EU migration. Rather, the Commission’s report had noted that there was a housing shortage in the south-east and recommended that the UK ensured that its own national policies were implemented. He considered that the inaccurate impression given by the front-page article had been compounded by a comment piece, which had said “Britain is facing an acute housing crisis caused by massive population growth. No, that’s not the Daily Mail speaking…, but the European Commission”. 


5.    The complainant also said that the article had inaccurately stated that the European Commission had “ordered” the UK to build more houses; it did not have the power to do so. 


6.    The newspaper acknowledged that the article had quoted from two European Commission reports, and not one as suggested; it amended the online article accordingly. 


7.    The newspaper did not consider that the headline was misleading or unsupported by the text. The article had centred on an interview with MP Chris Grayling who had “uncovered” the European Commission report, which was published in May, and it was to comments made by him that the headline referred. 


8.    The newspaper noted that in the interview, Mr Grayling had made a link between the EU report, migration and the shortage of housing in the UK. He had said “We have got the Office for National Statistics (ONS) saying that our population is going to rise from 63 million to 76 million over the next generation. Not all of that is from immigration, but they have always said that a substantial part is…If we have migration on this scale, the European Commission has put its finger on it: we have to build more…” 


9.    The newspaper said that the headline was also supported by comments made by MP Liam Fox, which were also included in the article. Mr Fox had said that ordinary people were aware of EU migration “in their daily lives by the lack of school places, the difficulty seeing a GP and competition in housing”. 


10. The newspaper considered that the European Commission report had further substantiated the headline. Its May report had said “Despite the government’s various housing initiatives, housing demand continues to outstrip supply and this is reflected in high and rising housing prices. The shortage in housing is most acute in the rapidly-growing regions of London and the South-East”. The newspaper said that this finding had fed into the Commission’s formal recommendation that the UK “takes further steps to boost housing supply, including by implementing the reforms of the national planning framework”. 


11. The newspaper said that it was a fact that the increase in the UK’s population was due in “large part” to migration. It noted that the European Commission’s February report had included a reference to an ONS report, which had stated that the UK’s population was set to increase to 9.7 million over the next 25 years, with net migration accounting for 51% of the projected increase, or 68% of the projected increase when the impact of migration on birth rate was taken into account. The newspaper considered that the ONS figures could also be a “massive under-estimate” because the ONS had based its calculations on an assumed net migration level of 185,000 a year, when for the last six quarters, net migration had been running at more than 300,000. 


12. The newspaper said that it was “no surprise” that, as the European Commission had reported, and Mr Grayling had observed, “largely migration-driven” population growth was leading to a “housing crisis”. 


13. The newspaper did not accept the complainant’s contention that it was misleading to state that the European Commission had “ordered” the UK to build more houses. It noted that the dictionary definition of “to order” was “to request something to be made or supplied” or “to give an authoritative instruction to do something”. It said it was doubtful that the Commission would make recommendations without expecting them to be acted upon. Furthermore, the article had said that the Commission’s report had referred to “recommendations”.  

Relevant Code provisions 

14. 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.  

Findings of the Committee 

15. The Committee noted that the article quoted from two reports published by the European Commission, and not one as suggested by the original article. It welcomed the newspaper’s decision to clarify this point in the online version of the piece. 

16. The Committee did not consider that the headline was unsupported by the accompanying text. The article had reported that MP Chris Grayling, who had “uncovered” the European Commission report, had considered that the report indicated that the European Union was “telling us we are not building enough houses and yet telling us also that we have to accept unlimited migration from elsewhere from the European Union”.  He was also quoted as saying “if we have migration on this scale, the European Commission has put its finger on it: we have to build more…”. The Committee was satisfied that the headline was supported by these comments. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

17. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the accompanying comment piece had supported the suggestion that it was the European Commission that had said that the UK needed to build more houses to cope with EU migration. However, although the Commission had not explicitly stated in either of its reports that migration had contributed to the housing shortage, ONS statistics, to which its February report referred, had stated that 68% of the projected increase in the UK’s population over the next 25 years was either directly attributable to future migration or indirectly attributable to it through its effect on births and deaths. Furthermore, both the Commission reports had referred to the pressure that an increasing population puts on housing demand: the February 2016 report had stated that “population increases may result in further upward movement on household formation and add to upward pressure on demand”; and the May 2016 report had said “despite the government’s various initiatives, housing demand continues to outstrip supply…the shortage in housing is most acute in the rapidly growing regions of London and South-East”. In this context, it was not significantly misleading for the newspaper to assert that the European Commission had attributed the housing shortage to population growth, or to suggest that the Commission had said that population growth was caused by migration. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. 

18. The Committee also noted the complainant’s concern that the newspaper had reported that the Commission had “ordered” the UK to build more houses. However, the Commission’s recommendation was made on the basis that it would have an effect on the government’s approach to the housing shortage. In the context of this article, which had reported Mr Grayling’s position that the EU was “telling us we are not building enough houses”, and had also described the Commission’s position as a “formal recommendation”, the assertion that the Commission had “ordered” the UK to build more houses was not significantly misleading. 

19. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. The complaint under Clause 1 was not upheld. 

Conclusions 

20.   The complaint was not upheld.  

Remedial action required

N/A

Date complaint received: 22/05/2016

Date decision issued: 20/10/2016