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Apology for Andrew Tyrie

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Gavin Allen | 18:01 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tonight the BBC has apologised to the Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie. For those of you who haven't seen it, here's what we said:

"Last month we carried some reports from the Conservative Party conference which fell below our usual standards. Our reports gave a misleading impression that Andrew Tyrie MP had been influenced by a Downing Street official to say something he did not believe to be true. We have apologised to Mr Tyrie for these reports".

Mr Tyrie gave this response within the past hour:

"I am extremely grateful to the BBC, and for doing this without needing to make a formal complaint. They have accepted that they made a mistake - we all make them - and apologised. As far as I'm concerned that is an end of the matter".

Before the Conservative conference Mr Tyrie had criticised the government's long-term economic growth strategy as being, in parts, "incoherent and inconsistent".

After the chancellor's conference speech he spoke warmly about it.

Steve Hilton put his arm round Andrew Tyrie's shoulder as they held their conversation

The BBC aired footage on that day which appeared to show Mr Tyrie being led away for a private chat by Steve Hilton - one of the prime minister's closest advisers. He was then asked by the BBC's James Landale whether he had been "nobbled" and responded “I think you know me well enough, James, to know the unlikelihood of that.”

Some of our reporting suggested that this encounter was evidence that he had changed his view as the result of pressure from Downing Street.

After Andrew Tyrie contacted us some days later, however, it became clear that he had indicated to the BBC before meeting Steve Hilton - and having heard the chancellor's speech - that he welcomed George Osborne's policy announcements.

He said the chancellor had responded positively to his critique and moved substantially in his direction on several issues such as re-examining the employment tribunal system and re-assessing the government's unilateral targets for reducing carbon emissions. And it was Mr Tyrie and not Mr Hilton who had initiated the conversation which had been caught on camera.

The BBC regrets that the footage was not shown in its proper context which happened as a result of it being broadcast and commented upon swiftly and before some extra editorial checks could be made.

The most widely viewed reports of the incident on the BBC's News at Six and Ten did not assert that Mr Tyrie had changed his views under pressure - they asked whether Mr Tyrie had changed his mind about the government's economic policy because of the chancellor's speech or because of his meeting with a senior Number 10 official.

Nevertheless we regret that mistakes took place and that the footage was not shown across the BBC in its proper context. There was never any intention to deceive our audience but we now accept that the impression created by the coverage taken as a whole was misleading. As a result we have decided to take the unusual step of apologising on air. We are glad that Mr Tyrie, for his part, accepts our apology.
Our journalistic reputation is built on trust and on this occasion, we got it wrong and we have apologised for that.

Gavin Allen is editor, BBC Political News.

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