Committee expresses 'disappointment' over Nadine Dorries comments

DMCS committee expresses ‘disappointment’ over Nadine Dorries’s failure to ‘reconsider her position’ after comments she made about ‘paid actors’ on Channel 4’s 2010 Tower Block of Commons

  • Ms Dorries gave evidence to the Committee in May as Secretary of State 
  • She claimed that she learnt people in Tower Block of Commons were paid actors
  • Nadine Dorries appeared in the show alongside three other MPs in 2010
  • DCMS said in report they were ‘disappointed’ she had not corrected mistakes

A government committee has expressed its ‘disappointment’ in MP Nadine Dorries after she failed to correct the record after comments she made about ‘paid actors’ on Channel 4’s 2010 television show Tower Block of Commons.

A special report, published on Friday by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said Ms Dorries failed to reconsider evidence she provided on her participation in the Channel 4 documentary. 

Dorries was in the show alongside three other MPs, with all spending seven days on a different housing estate with a budget of £64.30- the weekly Jobseekers Allowance at the time. 

Ms Dorries had given evidence to the Committee in May as Secretary of State of for Culture, Media and Sport, claiming that she learnt people in the 2010 show were paid actors.

She said: ‘The parents of some of the boys in that programme contacted me and came here to have lunch to tell me that the boys were in acting school.

‘They were not really living in a flat—they were not real. They were actually actors.’

Dorries also said: ‘If you remember, there was a pharmacist I went to see who prepared food; she was also a paid actor as well.’ 

During her time as the Secretary of State, Ms Dorries pushed for the privatisation of Channel 4. A bill was introduced to do just that, but was thrown into doubt in September this year when the government said it was ‘re-examining’ the bill. 

Ms Dorries, pictured in the show, had given evidence to the Committee in May as Secretary of State, claiming that she learnt people in the 2010 show were paid actors

Dorries, pictured in November 2021, also said: ‘If you remember, there was a pharmacist I went to see who prepared food; she was also a paid actor as well’

During her time as the Secretary of State, Ms Dorries pushed for the privatisation of Channel 4. A bill was introduced to do just that, but was thrown into doubt in September this year when the government said it was ‘re-examining’ the bill (file image)

A report by the DCMS committee was published last week after Channel 4 and Love Productions investigated her claims and found nothing to support them.

The committee described her claims as ‘groundless’ and said they were disappointed that Dorries had not corrected her mistakes. 

DCMS chairman Julian Knight said: ‘We recognise that those giving evidence will occasionally make mistakes, but it is vitally important for the integrity of parliamentary scrutiny that they are then corrected.

‘We are disappointed that despite being provided with several opportunities to reconsider her position, the former secretary of state failed to countenance that her recollections may have been flawed.

‘People will be able to draw their own conclusions about the contrast between her claims and subsequent correspondence with the committee, and Channel 4’s thorough investigation.’

A report by the DCMS committee was published last week after Channel 4 and Love Productions investigated her claims and found nothing to support them

Today, tweeting about the conclusion, MP John Nicolson said: ‘The cross-party Culture Committee on which I sit has published a report has published a report concluding that Nadine Dorries gave us wholly inaccurate evidence when she appeared before us as Culture Secretary. ‘Misleading parliament is serious. I have sent our report to the parliamentary authorities’

Today, tweeting about the conclusion, MP John Nicolson said: ‘The cross-party Culture Committee on which I sit has published a report has published a report concluding that Nadine Dorries gave us wholly inaccurate evidence when she appeared before us as Culture Secretary.

‘Misleading parliament is serious. I have sent our report to the parliamentary authorities.’ 

After Dorries gave evidence, her allegations were investigated by Love Productions, who made the show, and Channel 4, who found nothing to support her claims.

Channel 4 had said in a statement that it ‘takes any allegations of misrepresentation extremely seriously and always rigorously investigates any such claims’.

The broadcaster said: ‘The investigation, overseen by their external lawyers, encompassed contributors who were ordinary members of the public and with whom the secretary of state had significant interaction.

‘It involved speaking with many of those involved in the making of the series, including contributors and crew, and retrieving and reviewing relevant documentation and footage, including 85 hours of raw footage filmed for the series.’

Love Productions’ findings were then reviewed by Channel 4, who had its own internal document searches and review. 

The internal inquiries revealed no evidence to support the allegations made about the programme.  

After Dorries gave evidence, her allegations were investigated by Love Productions, who made the show, and Channel 4, who found nothing to support her claims. Channel 4 had said in a statement that it ‘takes any allegations of misrepresentation extremely seriously and always rigorously investigates any such claims’

And the DCMS criticised her claims, asking Dorries to respond.

But she said: ‘I set out my experiences on taking part in the programme in my comments during the select committee and stand by those remarks. I do not wish to add anything further at this time.’

In the DCMS report, which was published on 21 October, they said: ‘We do not find either the original claims, or the clarifications, to be credible and have seen no corroboration of her claims that Channel 4 and Love Productions used actors in a reality television show.

‘In contrast, the detailed investigation carried out by Channel 4 gives us confidence that her claims are groundless.

‘We are concerned Ms Dorries appears to have taken an opportunity, under the protection of privilege, to traduce the reputation of Channel 4.

‘Had Ms Dorries remained secretary of state, driving a policy of selling the channel, we may have sought a referral to the privileges committee but, as her claims have not inhibited the work of the committee and she no longer has a position of power over the future of Channel 4, we are, instead, publishing this report to enable the House, and its members, to draw their own conclusions.’

The committee said in the report that as she is no longer a minister, she was spared a full probe into her actions. 

Speaking to HuffPostUK, Ms Dorries said: ‘I’d like to know how much public money was spent on what is a crock of total nonsense.’

The publication of the report comes after Dorries described Channel 4 News as ‘edgy’ and said the programme has not done itself ‘any favours’ in terms of impartiality

The publication of the report comes after Dorries described Channel 4 News as ‘edgy’ and said the programme has not done itself ‘any favours’ in terms of impartiality. 

Appearing before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee session about online safety and public service broadcasters, Ms Dorries was asked what she thought of the programme and was questioned over the future of Channel 4 after the Government announced plans to press ahead with its privatisation.

She said she ‘can’t see a scenario’ in which a privately owned Channel 4 would become partly or wholly subscription based, and suggested any buyer may have to commit to a 10-year freeze on certain changes.

The Culture Secretary, reportedly referring to to eyewitness reports that former anchor Jon Snow shouted ‘F*** the Tories’ while at Glastonbury Festival in 2017, added: ‘I have been on Channel 4 News a number of times. It is edgy.

‘I am not going to justify a news programme whose anchor went out shouting obscenities about the Conservative Party.

‘So they didn’t do themselves any favours sometimes on the news programme and I think that is probably as much as I want to say about that.’

She said a potential move by the streaming giant into advertising, as opposed to subscription alone, would further negatively impact public service broadcasters such as Channel 4.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has described Channel 4 News as ‘edgy’ and said the programme sometimes has not done itself ‘any favours’ in terms of impartiality at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee session about online safety and public service broadcasters (pictured)

The broadcaster has been publicly owned since its creation in 1982 by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher, and is entirely funded by advertising.

She said: ‘I think for people to even try and paint a picture that Netflix is unsuccessful or struggling is probably slightly over-egging the pudding.

‘Netflix has done what many businesses do.

‘It has reached the point of market saturation, which is a good thing for Netflix but they are going to have to revise their business model, and they will probably revise it in a way that will make it much more difficult for public service broadcasters who rely on advertising revenue.’

In April, Netflix suffered its first subscriber loss in more than a decade, causing its shares to plunge 25 per cent in extended trading. 

Ms Dorries said she ‘can’t see a scenario’ in which a privately owned Channel 4 would become partly or wholly subscription based.

She told the committee: ‘As a public service broadcaster that is not on the table, that is just not on the cards at all. I can’t see a scenario in which that would happen.’

The Culture Secretary, reportedly referring to to eyewitness reports that former anchor Jon Snow shouted ‘F*** the Tories’ while at Glastonbury Festival in 2017 (pictured), added: ‘I have been on Channel 4 News a number of times. It is edgy. ‘I am not going to justify a news programme whose anchor went out shouting obscenities about the Conservative Party’

Ms Dorries added that she ‘gets on really well’ with presenter Cathy Newman and had been asked to come on the show by her a number of times in the past two weeks, although she had declined.

The session also saw Sarah Healey, secretary for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, defend her staff after Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson questioned why public appointments in the department were ‘so often a mess’.

She said: ‘I obviously don’t really agree with the premise of your question.

‘We do the highest number of public body regulated appointments across Government.

‘We do 41 bodies with public appointments that are regulated, a total of 435 roles to fill – that means we are doing around 90 on an annual basis.’

Nadine Dorries admits sharing her Netflix account with other households 

The Culture Secretary, 64, has admitted she shares her Netflix password with four other households across the country.

She said four other people, including her mother, have access to her account with the streaming service, in breach of its terms and conditions which say users must live together.

Appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, she described the current system for subscribers as ‘incredibly generous’.

She added: ‘My mum has access to my account, the kids do. I have Netflix but there are four other people who can use my Netflix account in different parts of the country.’

Laughing, she added: ‘Am I not supposed to do that?’

DCMS permanent secretary Sarah Healey added: ‘So many people watch it in my house I had to pay for the more expensive one.’

Mr Nicolson highlighted the disrupted search for the new chair of the Charity Commission and the ‘the ongoing saga of Ofcom’ which he said had ended with ‘an elderly peer who doesn’t use social media, which seems extraordinary in 2022’.

Conservative peer Lord Grade, 79, who is a former television executive, was recently appointed to the broadcasting watchdog after a lengthy process that had to be re-run.

Ms Healey said: ‘Obviously there are some instances, particularly some high-profile appointments which have not gone as swiftly or efficiently as we would have liked over the last couple of years, but I don’t think that undermines the absolutely excellent job that my appointments team do of getting through 90-plus appointments every year, most of them without any issues whatsoever.’

Ms Dorries also said that the pool of advertising budget had ‘reduced considerably’ in recent years and a platform such as Netflix would be another attractive prospect to advertisers and therefore competition for Channel 4.

She also confirmed the review of the BBC’s funding model and the future of the licence fee will begin ‘considerably before the summer recess’.

She added: ‘I anticipate it will take about six months and I want to get it started as soon as possible and we will be announcing the terms of reference for the review very shortly.’

Ms Dorries said the BBC will not be expected to pay for the review.

Instead, the DCMS will pay for it to avoid a ‘conflict of interest’, and the search for an independent chair will begin soon.

Channel 4 News editor Esme Wren said: ‘Channel 4 News is internationally-renowned for the depth and quality of its coverage ranging from the climate crisis to Oscar-nominated doc For Sama to the war in Ukraine.

‘Since the start of 2022, Channel 4 News has seen the biggest increase in audience share across all the PSB national main news programmes and is up by 43% among younger viewers aged 16-34 year-on-year.

‘Channel 4 News confirmed its new presenter line-up last month following the departure of Jon Snow, with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Matt Frei, Cathy Newman and Jackie Long anchoring the programme. We are also recruiting a new Leeds-based presenter.’

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