30 Apr 2012

Cameron: no evidence Hunt acted improperly

Prime Minister David Cameron tells MPs he has seen no evidence that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted improperly over the failed BSkyB bid.

In an emergency Commons statement, the prime minister said he was not going to set up a “parallel inquiry” into Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media standards.

But David Cameron said that if evidence of a breach of the code emerged when Mr Hunt appeared before the Leveson inquiry, he would refer the matter to his independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, or take action himself.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband said on Monday it was clear there have been multiple breaches of the ministerial code and that the matter must be referred for investigation.

“There’s clear evidence that Jeremy Hunt has breached the ministerial code in at least three different ways – on the provision of information to a commercial interest before the provision to parliament, on providing full information to parliament on the exchanges between his department and News Corporation and on the actions of his special adviser,” Mr Miliband said.

‘Not my job’

Lord Justice Leveson has already said it is not for him to judge whether the ministerial code was followed or breached

Mr Cameron denies there was any “grand deal” between the government and Mr Murdoch that would allow him to buy all of BSkyB in return for positive press coverage of the government.

The prime minister also admitted he was embarrassed in hindsight by some of his personal contact with the Murdoch media empire.

‘One might do things differently’

Mr Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that he had discussed the proposed merger with Mr Murdoch’s son James Murdoch at a Christmas party at the Oxfordshire home of then News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks.

The conversation took place in December 2010 after the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, was secretly recorded by undercover reporters from the Telegraph saying that he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch.

The Lib Dem minister had the power to block the BSkyB takeover at the time, but the job was handed over to Mr Hunt after Mr Cable’s responsibilities for oversight of the bid were changed.