THE BBC was forced to apologise to Tory chairman Grant Shapps last night after its communications chief tried to gag him over the Savile scandal.
Mr Shapps, 44, was sent an email before he appeared on BBC1’s Question Time earlier this month, warning him not to suggest there had been any pressure to scrap a Newsnight investigation into the star.
The Newsnight expose was due to be shown in December last year but was pulled by editor Peter Rippon for what he maintains were “editorial reasons”.
The email to Mr Shapps was sent days after an ITV documentary exposing Savile raised questions about the dropped Newsnight report. In the email, the corporation’s PR chief Julia Ockenden wrote: “No pressure was applied to drop this investigation. None.
“To suggest otherwise is to risk impugning the professional reputation and integrity of a number of journalists.” She told Mr Shapps any allegation that evidence had been withheld from the police was “also damaging and false”.
The Daily Express can reveal Mr Shapps has since received an apology from BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, who is said to agree it was wrong to try to brief an MP appearing on the show. The email will now be passed to the BBC inquiry examining the dropping of the Newsnight story.