Minister drops newspaper libel claim

A GOVERNMENT Minister has dropped his libel claim against a Yorkshire weekly newspaper and a former Tory councillor after the parties reached an out-of-court agreement.

Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, had sued the Dewsbury Press publishers NewsPost Ltd, its former editor Danny Lockwood and former Kirklees councillor Jonathan Scott over a letter written by Mr Scott and subsequent interview in the newspaper in May 2006.

A High Court trial failed to reach a verdict last year and a retrial had been due to begin in July.

But the parties have now reached an agreement, with no costs order made against either side.

In an agreed statement, Mr Scott said: "I am happy to make clear that my letter was never intended to accuse Mr Malik of orchestrating gangs of thugs or playing the race card. This was an interpretation some people placed upon my letter and subsequent article, an interpretation with which I disagreed.

"I merely described what I experienced during my election campaign and I condemn utterly those responsible for the threats and intimidation made against me. I never intended to accuse Mr Malik of having any responsibility for the threats and acts of intimidation made against me."

Mr Malik, Minister for International Development, said: "I am very pleased that after a discussion with Danny Lockwood he has been able to give me the assurances I required and there will now be no need for another trial in July.

"I have been brought up to believe that the most precious thing I have is my integrity and reputation and so I am pleased at the outcome. I can now continue serving the people of Dewsbury and Mirfield with my head held high. "

Mr Lockwood said: "We want to make it clear that we never accused Shahid of any impropriety whatsoever during the elections. Having printed Mr Scott's letter and subsequent interview in May 2006, we stood by what we felt was our responsibility as a newspaper. Shahid robustly pressed his claim and we respect his position."