Exclusive: Grant Shapps’ Jimmy Savile letter to be used in BBC inquiry
WELWYN Hatfield MP Grant Shapps’ complaint that he was gagged ahead of an appearance on Question Time as the Jimmy Savile scandal deepened will be used as evidence in an inquiry into the BBC’s conduct.
Grant Shapps had previously been told a letter would not be admissible in the BBC probe to investigate whether inappropriate managerial pressure was applied to prevent disclosure of the sex allegations against Savile.
The WHT can now reveal that it will be used in the inquiry headed up by former Sky News boss Nick Pollard.
Mr Shapps said: “I have appeared on Question Time quite a few times and I was surprised to receive an email from Question Time trying to tell me what to think and say.
“I thought on the BBC’s lead opinion programme you would be allowed an opinion.”
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He added: “There are serious concerns on two fronts, I have been on Question Time several times and the BBC has never told me what to think and say.
“They also tried to force me on facts that did not turn out to be true.”
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Mr Shapps, who is also chairman of the Conservative Party, claims he did not see the email from the broadcasters head of public affairs Julia Ockenden before he appeared on the programme.
The message said it was “untrue” management blocked a Newsnight feature on Savile and “the notion internal pressure was applied is a malicious rumour”.
She also insisted: “No pressure was applied to drop this investigation. None. To suggest otherwise is to risk impugning the professional reputation and integrity of a number of journalists.”
The email pointed Mr Shapps to a blog written by Newsnight editor Peter Rippon spelling out why the programme was pulled.
The BBC has since admitted that key elements of Mr Rippon’s defence were inaccurate.
A spokesman for the trust said: “The Trust shares the horror felt by the wider public about the appalling allegations of child abuse at the BBC and elsewhere, and we are determined to get to the bottom of what happened.
“We have written to Grant Shapps today to confirm that we have no objection to the principle of keeping MPs informed on corporate issues affecting the BBC. “However we will ensure that the email to which he refers, which included inaccuracies derived from Peter Rippon’s blog that has since been corrected, is passed to the Pollard enquiry.”
Mr Shapps also wrote to chairman of the BBC Lord Patten expressing his outrage and under fire broadcasting chief has since said:
“I would’ve felt much the same and would have written the same letter. I think there were two points he made in that letter.
“The first that it’s wrong for the BBC to give a briefing about its corporate position – I’m not sure I’d agree with that.
“But that it was misleading.
“That’s what was wrong, and the terms in which it was expressed were unfortunate. As with relations with the government overall the PM has said wants this concluded as quickly as possible.”