Another correction from the Mail group on energy bills

  • 14 Nov 2011, 13:07
  • Christian Hunt

When Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre defended the PCC in front of the Leveson inquiry a few weeks ago, questions were raised in the Guardian by Bob Ward of the Grantham institute about whether he thought the PCC's rules should apply to the Mail's coverage of climate and energy issues.

It's a fair point. Back in September, the Daily Mail printed a correction to their claim - covered in a front-page headline and numerous supporting articles - that 'green stealth taxes' are currently adding £200 to consumer energy bills after we made a press complaints commission complaint about the use of the figure. Despite the complaint and correction, no supporting evidence has been produced for the number, which was sourced to the climate skeptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

As the Mail correction recognised:

"...According to Ofgem, the correct figure for environmental costs is currently no more than 9% [of an average fuel bill]. We are happy to clarify this"

Just a few days later, however, the Mail on Sunday reused the figure in an article which stated that

"Utility price rises have pushed the average household energy bill to almost £1,300 a year, partly driven - as critics pointed out yesterday - by 'green' taxes imposed by Mr Huhne's department.

The stealth levies, introduced to fund Britain's investment in wind and solar power, are costing families an average of £200 a year - two-thirds of the amount the Cabinet Minister said they should be able to save. This represents an increase of between 15 and 20 per cent on the average domestic power bill."

The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail are separate papers - so this reuse of the figure after correction was likely to have been a mistake.

We submitted another PCC complaint requesting a correction in the paper, and were less than encouraged when the Mail on Sunday used the same figure yet again - this time in another editorial criticising green energy measures, which ironically berated 'scientists' for not being prepared to admit mistakes:

"A great deal of government policy is based on the certainty that global warming is the biggest threat to our future thanks to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"That is why the country is overrun with wind farms and energy costs are skyrocketing, with green stealth taxes adding 15 to 20 per cent to the average domestic power  bill. And this is all done on the authority of  scientists who, we are repeatedly told, must have got the arguments right.

"...They are - many would say arrogantly - sure they are right and stubbornly parrot the scientists as they make the case for being the 'greenest government ever'. But what if they are wrong?"

Well, the Mail on Sunday yesterday corrected these pieces in their new (presumably) Leveson-facing corrections column, recognising - again - that the GWPF's figure was wrong.

"On September 18 and on October 29 we said the Government's 'green stealth taxes' are costing families an average of £200 a year - an increase of 15 - 20 per cent on typical domestic power bills. In fact Ofgem estimates that environmental costs account for 7 per cent, or £100, of the average domestic power bill."

Ofgem's estimated figure has changed from 9 percent to 7 percent to reflect the release of updated figures from the regulator showing that the proportion of energy bills attributable to green policies has fallen relative to rising bills, which are being inflated by high gas prices.

We have another PCC complaint in process following a claim subsequently made by the Mail ( twice) that green measures are currently adding £300 to energy bills, a misreading or misrepresentation of a Telegraph story.

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