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« Parliamentarians do statistical significance | Main | Another day, another soft interview »

Oh dear

Tony Newbery has lost his FOI claim for the details of the attendees at the BBC's climate change seminar. The decision was issued in an extraordinarily short period of ten days (it normally takes four weeks).

But that's not the reason for the headline. The reason is to be found in Andrew Orlowski's latest post on the hearings:

Tribunal judge David Marks QC supported the broadcaster, cut off several avenues of questioning from Newbery, and agreed with the BBC that it can be considered a "private organisation", despite the fact that it is funded by a compulsory tax.

The hostility of lay judge Alison Lowton, one of the three-strong panel, to Newbery was also noticeable - but perhaps understandable. The former director of legal services [PDF] of Camden Council took a six-figure severance package in 2007 when her post was abolished. Camden fought to keep the details of the settlement away from freedom-of-information requests.

The other lay judge, former Haringey councillor Narendra Makanji, appears to have strong views on climate-change skeptics, as he tweeted here this year:

Michael Hintze who dines at no 10 is backer of Global Warming Policy Foundation, climate change deniers fronted by Nigel Lawson. Pls RT.

We asked the Information Commissioner's Office how a lay judge with such partisan views on climate change came to oversee hearings so closely coupled to the subject of climate. Campaigning lay judges would not normally be appointed to sit on such a case, a spokesman noted, and concerns would be legitimate grounds for appeal.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

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Reader Comments (63)

Thanks for keeping us posted Andrews M and O. The BBC has a grave issue with public trust at the moment and this is a very silly line for them to take. As for the court, it's just the usual dirty tricks when climate orthodoxy is at stake. But the momentum remains with the realists.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I repeat a point I've made already.
One of the Beeb's trenchant critics and outspoken opponent of the whole global warming business is Richard North.
Since he was at the seminar (so we are told) I find it surprising that he has not so far come forward with the names, at least of those who were not qualified to be present under the heading of "best scientific minds".
It's not like him to be quite this coy.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If its a private organisation I don't see why I should pay a licence fee.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeHaseler


The Dr North you are thinking of is the one that runs EU Referendum and is different to the Richard Morth that attended the al been conference.


Nov 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Mike J: different Richard North. Richard D North to be precise.

Mike H: This came up at the Frontline Club on Wednesday, with a number of senior journalists and TV managers present. Rob Wilson, the Reading MP, made the point about FOI and lack of accountability generally. But, as he was, we need to avoid being too sweeping in our statements. It's right that frontline investigative journalism should not be subject to FOI (at least it's barmy to my mind to think so). But as for the identity of the climate 'experts' in 2006, the Climate 28 as Orlowski calls them, there's every reason for this to be subject of FOI. How does one define the boundary? That's down to the lawyers. But there is a need for a line.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Common Purpose asserting its power here: they are desperate to keep us in the EU.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

I reckon the BBC's position on this is quite simple: 'We can do what we like.'

They reckon, probably quite correctly, that this will not get in the mainstream media, and if it does nobody will care (because it will be the first time they've ever heard of any of the issues surrounding it).

They calculate the story will just go away. And, unfortunately, they're probably right.

It's quite disgusting.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Richard, this has nothing at all to do with journalism.

And let's not forget the BBC were quite happy to publish private details of the Heartland Institute when there was no public interest what-so-ever in releasing the information, yet they judge themselves when the law requires them to release information which is clearly in the public interest by entirely different rules.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

"It's not like him (North) to be quite this coy."

I have heard that North's climate opining has been put a stop to by the threat of legal action from Pachauri who he had the temerity to criticise.

So, another example of Law in Action.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa

Lets hope this gets lots of publicity.

And a friendly barrister steps forward to assist in the appeal and or some one helps pay for one.
Just on the principle that the BBC claims private to FOI, irrespective of the climate change issue

Additionaly, how do UK scientist know that science was not misrepresented to the BBC.

If those present are not prepared to say who they are, or whst was said the BBC should not be listening to them.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

A former senior employee of Camden Council, a former Haringey councillor... what proportion of IOC lay judges are on the public sector jobs merry-go-round, I wonder?

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Mike H: It does have to do with journalism because it has led to much too much one-sided journalism since. And that's the way something completely unwarranted - secrecy on who the 28 were - has ended up being justified. This is completely unacceptable. I''m sure you and I are in complete agreement on that. But we need to recognise the sleight of hand that has led to this dreadful verdict and come back by proposing a change to the regulations, so that on something like this the BBC is subject to FOI.

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

If you do not watch or record live television broadcasts, you do not need to have a TV licence. It is about time people reconsidered whether they want to keep paying for such an institution!

Nov 9, 2012 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

Thank you, gentlemen. I stand corrected.
Having said that, I'm surprised somebody hasn't leaked!


Nov 9, 2012 at 6:09 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I wouldn't be too worried about this.
It'll soon be the third birthday of the 'Miracle'

Nov 9, 2012 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Unless you're one of the chosen, who live in medialand, you'll get nothing from the BBC.


Nov 9, 2012 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Troll alert

Nov 9, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Forbes

In the words of Victor Meldrew

"I don't believe it"

You could not make this up. What a joke, it's enough to make you believe in conspiracy theories.

Nov 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

BBC's Adjudicature Trick
Hiding the Schwein

Nov 9, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Because of the unique way in which we are funded......

We can do whatever we want- so f*** you!!

Nov 9, 2012 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

What can you say except this.

We all stood up,
and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he
sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the
twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows
and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog.
And then at twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles
and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry,
'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American
blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the
judge wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each
one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

BBC appears to be a wave function which hasn't yet collapsed. Don't ever look behind the curtain or you may find the cat is, in fact, a dead parrot.

Nov 9, 2012 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce of Newcastle

Aunty demonstrates more systemic problems

"Lord McAlpine victim of mistaken identity, abused man says"

"A victim of sexual abuse while he was a resident of a north Wales care home has apologised for making false allegations against a Conservative politician."

Nov 9, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Is anyone going to request the legal expenses incurred by the BBC, to avoid releasing the names of the 28, to one interested old pensioner, who represented himself? The magnitude of these fees, which you all pay for through your TV fees, is likely to make a news item in itself. Then divide that amount by the TV licence fee; that's how many of you good folk it took to pay for BBC's act to protect their interests.

Nov 9, 2012 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Richard Drake , I think we agree that this clearly non-journalistic meeting has had a profound and worrying impact on the slant of BBC journalism.

We should also highlight the way the BBC jumped over the barrel to apologise to Lord McAlpine with half a program devoted to an immediate apology, but refuses outright to apologise to all the many sceptics they openly libelled on an equally high profile BBC program on the 11th May by likening us to Paedophiles and Sex slavers.

In other words, it's two fingers to the viewers & listeners they libel, but as soon as its someone with enough money to sue the pants off them, nothing is too much for the grovelling corp.

But the real truth as shown by the way they pulled Saville, is that almost everything they do is political and they care almost nothing for good journalism.

Nov 9, 2012 at 11:10 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Greed Sand: There are many fascinating strands to the Messham/McAlpine story. Why did a policeman in the 90s persuade Messham that he'd been raped and abused as a teenager in the 70s by one of Thatcher's most loyal supporters? Of all misdirections that has ever come to light in my lifetime (assuming Messham's account now is accurate) I think that's one of the most disgusting, in and of itself, and most far reaching.

I'm not sure yet what I make of Newsnight's contribution last Friday. But in a very dirty war I have a sense that the real culprits are beginning to shoot themselves in the foot in panic. The role of David Jordan as censor-in-chief of reports on paedophilia revealed by Stewart Purvis and Olenka Frenkiel on Wednesday may well I think give us significant clues on how control has been exercised on the climate front as well.

May victims in both areas (because biofuel subsidies drive many into poverty - and much else in climate policy) be vindicated and released.

Nov 9, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Mike, I was sitting just in front of two heroic BBC journalists on Wednesday, Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean. I went up to them afterwards and said "Look what you've kicked off. This could change the country." For the gross injustice of Bryn Estyn leading to so few convictions after the Waterhouse Inquiry is now also being put right, as Lord McAlpine himself said today has to happen as soon as possible.

The heroic ones have been betrayed by something very evil. That's the only way to describe it. I agree fully that the slander against peace-loving sceptics has been another ugly head of the same hydra. But the good still exists. My only concern here has been not to switch off the sort I met this week, on the side of the angels.

Nov 9, 2012 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


I have taken a few minutes after watching Newsnight to gather my thoughts and they are still far from clear.

How a presenter can state that there was nobody available from the BBC to comment is beyond comprehension as shown by the presenter, if you haven’t seen his incredulity then please watch, when and if available. A simple senior management “due to recent … we need time to…statements will follow…” would have had some credibility.

The assumed role as “decider of the best inclination of the truth” that the BBC has assumed is and always was above both their responsibility and demonstrably their inherent ability.

The two UK institutions I trusted and educated me through my informative years the BBC and the MET Office now appear to be instruments of a society that I have great difficulty in comprehending.

And the sad thing is all I ever want from either is just the facts, the numbers, the data, I am capable of my own interpretation.

Maybe they feel that they have dumbed down our education system so efficiently that all is now needed is bread and circuses?

To the true journalists who are still out there WHERE IS THE FOURTH ESTATE?

We are in dire need.

Nov 10, 2012 at 12:05 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

This is the BBC's Jean Charles de Menezes moment. Hopefully, the Corporation won't survive it... it does not deserve to.

Nov 10, 2012 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

I am full of admiration for Tony Newberry in pursuing the matter as far as he has.

I earnestly hope that he has the will and the stamina to continue.

Having seen several toxic "lay judges" in action - I feel that far too many are crony appointments and utterly out of their depth - which makes generally them biased and arbitrary with little regard for evidence or legal issues - in one case just plain bonkers...

I for one volunteer that if Tony needs funding to continue - I'll stump up at least the price of a TV licence.


Nov 10, 2012 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterTomO

We live in a secret state, this is how they work.

Nov 10, 2012 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

GS: I will watch it, I promise you that.

We are in dire need.

A true realist speaking. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, as it says in Services of Carols soon coming up. Why it has to be this black beforehand who knows. But it sure is heart-stopping drama.

Nov 10, 2012 at 1:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

My decision to leave the UK 8 years ago gets better every day.

Nov 10, 2012 at 2:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Newsnight's now on the iPlayer.

It's two enormous own goals from the BBC now - as James Delingpole would say, a game changer!

I thought Rob Wilson did very well, despite being deprived of sound (and I was as suspicious as Eddie Mair about that). Stewart Purvis was good as always, with a proper emphasis on how this kind of cock-up doesn't help child abuse victims one little bit. And I thought Steve Hewlett (who I tend to like because he gave me such a good crack at Frontline on Wednesday), Esther Rantzen and the chosen expert in child abuse (especially) were a very well-chosen panel to discuss the whole situation with Mair.

The one point that wasn't picked up by the panel is that last week's Newsnight was run without Steve Messham even being shown a picture of Lord McAlpine, to check that crucial part of the story. That's atrocious.

The bigger story for me is something I began to describe five days ago on Martin A's thread - a prophetic thread, if I may say so - Is the BBC approaching a tipping point? The hard left on blogs and Twitter responded to the Newsnight story a week ago with utter delight and disregard for evidence. One of Thatcher's most trusted supporters was an evil, murderous paedophile. It was obviously true, because it ticked all their boxes. Sometimes confirmation bias can truly be deadly.

Given the very rapid and intelligent response this time, and Steve Messham's heartfelt apology on camera to Lord McAlpine, I don't think the cause of getting child abuse victims to come forward has been damaged that much. But as for the BBC, pride cometh before a fall. As someone once put it, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud about that aspect, in the week of the atrocious verdict against the heroic Tony Newbery.

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Saville and Lord McAlpine
2 stories Newsnight handled wrong
Should have broadcast one and properly checked the other

Biased BBC more like Botch BBC

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

What we are seeing with the BBC is an organisation that because it has too many layers of management has tipped into a 'Parkinsonian black hole'. This comes from the theoretical derivation of Parkinson's Law.

In an organisation of professionals, journalism, schools etc., when the boss says that only he, mostly she nowadays has to control communication between workers, the workload of management increases. It's a parabola and the minimum administrator workload is 1:1 administrator: worker, hence Parkinson's Law, which was empirical.

Now then, now then, after Jimmy Savile the BBC set in place lots more management of journalists and quite a few managers weren't allowed to act on certain stories. So, the workload on these managers has rocketed and they can't control events. Basically, the experienced journalists who would have fact checked are now monitoring the inexperienced people, not the content.

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

I hope Booker or Delingpole or someone in the press will report on the outcome of the Tony Newbery v. BBC case, Just because it has coincided with the child abuse revelations should not mean it should be overlooked. It is another part of the outrageous whole that the BBC has become. It also suggests to me that there are other implications about the current functioning of the tribunal process.

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

The Newbury case is very important because the Marxist Revolution under the guise of incorrect climate science has been led by the BBC. If they are proven to have broadcast propaganda knowing it was untrue, they could well be broken up in a rump news organisation with the rest privatised, and where would all those bureaucrats get jobs?

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

As a pensioner concerned for my grandchildren I'd be happy to add my all too small contribution to an appeal fund for Tony Newberry. I'm sure many more readers of Bishop Hill and wattsupwiththat would do likewise. We need to know what's involved and approximately how much would be required. Who would coordinate the appeal?

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJockdownsouth

Here is a link to Dr Richard North's blog in December 2012 on Christopher Booker's report for the GWPF entitled "the BBC and Climate Change: a Triple Betrayal" -

Booker's report is definitely worth reading, or re-reading, in the light of this perverse Truibunal decision.

Nov 10, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

Tony should maybe approach the barrister who took Natwest on over their bank charges (he eventually lost his car because Nateest refunded all his bank charges before the case got to court)?



Nov 10, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

It is a shame about this case but not surprising to me, well done to Newbury for pushing the issue and Orlowski for reporting it. It is worth documenting for future reference. Now that the Beeb have protected their journalistic “integrity” I guess we will never have the chance to see the emails that decided to go ahead with the "McAlpine "scoop". It is looking ever more like the Beeb just decided to run with internet gossip without adding anything more than the testimony of a disturbed individual (Beeb abusing the vulnerable again?).

Seeing the Beeb deciding to use conspiracy theory (Icke driven) tittle tattle that has been available for years, but crucially at this time, apparently merely to deflect from their own Saville troubles and throw it back on the governing Tories, is looking like it will be the real damager as the “Tipping point” thread implies.

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

If the BBC can be considered a "private organisation", isn't demanding with threats a "compulsory tax" illegal?

I'm sure if any other "private organisation" demanded money with threats the police would be interested

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Registered Commentermangochutney

Suppose the decision of the tribunal had gone the other way and it subsequently emerged that one of the lay judges had spent most of his career working for "big oil", another had been prominent in a local campaign to prevent a wind farm from being built near the village where he/she lived, and the third was an old pal of Lord Monckton. I imagine that the mainstream media, especially newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent, would take a great interest in the case.

However, not all the blame should be attached to the lay judges. Assuming that the description of the role of the tribunal judge David Marks QC is correct then he is an utter disgrace. But that is no surprise. If the engineering profession displayed levels of incompetence similar to those shown by the legal profession then bridges all over the country would be collapsing and the whole country would be up in arms about the scandal. The legal profession in this country is a law unto itself.

Nov 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

There’s something I’m not clear about. Can anyone enlighten me? Are the BBC and participants in the seminar banned from disclosing who was present and what they said, or are they simply not obliged to? If the latter is the case, surely someone among the large number of people in the know, apart from Dr North, could be persuaded to talk?

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Sadly I am not surprised at this outcome. Reminds me of something a fellow chorister of mine once said, who happened to be a scientist at the Wet Office down here in cream-tea country, who just after the Eyajfiallajokull fiasco said to me that the BBC had just renewed its contract with the Wet Office to provide weather forecasting services to it, as if there was ever any doubt that a state funded national broadcaster would not use a state funded weather bureau to supply it with such services! Can anyone name such a circumstance globally where there are two such organisations? The justice system now seems as openly corrupt as the scientific establishment within the UK! Qel domage! We hide paedolhpiles because they are national heroes, & name & shame innocent infirm Lords by stroke of pen & run of camera, probably gleened from the Interweb or Facetube or somesuch!!!! What a country?

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit


As I understand it, the meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule - '

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.'

which seems fairly clear.

What is not so clear to me is why this should have any standing in a court of law. It would seem wise for dodgy companies to hold all their board meetings and similar under the rule, as it would certainly stop any awkward questions about disappearing profits, executive remuneration and the like.

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

geoff; supposedly the meeting was under Chatham House Rules where no minutes are taken and the contributors agree to confidentiality.

The question then is why Chatham House Rules fro a scientific presentation? That is not right therefore it was not a scientific presentation.

As it was not a scientific presentation, the BBC has no right to form editorial policy on the basis of that meeting.

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Thanks Chuckles and AlecM. So has Richard D. North done something wrong/illegal in revealing the surprising level of ignorance and lack of intellectual curiosity of BBC staff? It seems to me that North’s comment constitutes an accusation of scandalous incompetence on the part of the BBC, presumably at a high level. Is the BBC really saying that they’re prevented by their own rules (Chatham House or whatever) from defending themselves? All they’d have to say was “we heard from climate scientists from University X and Government Department Y”. Why don’t they?

Nov 10, 2012 at 10:41 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

It should be very obvious. The Left has deteremined they've reached the "tipping point" where they can dictate. What should be apparent, finally, to those still maintaining their sanity is the entire climate hoax is purely political. Note the UN Sec. Gen. proclaming more foolishness on Sandy just yesterday.

All in all, it means you simply cannot expect the gov institutions to be fair. However, imho, there is still a very small window where a vigorous poitical fight might reverse course. But it will have to be political. Those that prefer to simply run around, wave tech papers and shout "see, the facts don't support this hoax" will just become tired and get sore throats.

Nov 10, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

I'd have expected the BBC to proudly parade it's association with prominent scientists and other folk well qualified to comment on the state of play in this area -but they haven't - far, far worse they have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds battling disclosure.

(Comment on the Register)

And all to conceal the names on a guest list! Why the paranoia?

Nov 10, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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