30 Apr 2012

LIVE BLOG: Statement from the PM on Hunt

Follow David Cameron’s statement to the House of Commons on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s handling of the failed BSkyB bid with Channel 4 News’s live blog. You can watch the Prime Minister’s statement or read updates here.

Follow David Cameron’s statement to the House of Commons on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s handling of the failed BSkyB bid with Channel 4 News’s live blog. You can watch the Prime Minister’s statement live or read updates here.

Mr Cameron’s statement comes after Labour Leader Ed Miliband said earlier today it is clear there have been multiple breaches of the ministerial code and that the matter must be referred for investigation.

15.30 Miliband puts forward his question. PM says he’s already answered his questions in PMQs but pointing to the Leveson Inquiry he says “No government before has ever taken such comprehensive action”.

15.33 Cameron defends Jeremy Hunt – says he set about the job “fairly and impartially and in line with the advice of the permanent secretary”. PM says he’s seen “no evidence” of Hunt breaking the ministerial code.

15.35 Cameron says the nature of the inquiries best suited to get to the bottom of this debate. Says he’s decided to let the Leveson’s judge-led inquiry finish – “there is nothing this tough or this rigorous that the independent advisor could provide”.

“Of course it is not for Lord Justice Leveson to decide if the Secretary has broken the ministerial code…If new evidence emerges that the code has been broken…I will take action directly.

“It is neither necessary nor right to have a parallel investigation (alongside the Leveson)”.

15.37 The Leveson Inquiry gives parliament and politicans of all parties the chance to get this right, says Cameron. “There never has been any grand bargain between the Conservative party and Rupert Murdoch,” he says, telling the House to look at the number of meetings he has had with Murdoch versus Labour’s PMs.

“Blair seven, Brown thirteen, me: four”

“I note that none of the people opposite me disclosed their meetings”.

15.38 Miliband is up. “He asks why this matters, it matters because we need a government that stands up for families, not for the rich and famous,” he says.

“Lord Leveson is not the arbiter of ministerial code…Can he confirm there are no fewer than three breaches of the code by the Culture Secretary”.

15.41 Miliband: “The Prime Minister doesn’t need to wait for the Leveson Inquiry”. Miliband asks if the PM is really going to take the News of the World’s defence line: that it’s down to “one rogue” operator.

15.42 “Weak and wrong. That is what we’ve heard,” says the PM to roars across the House. “First of all 15 years of secret meetings, pyjama parties, christenings etc and not a word of apology…If you’re going to make these accusations get your facts right before you come here.”

Cameron runs through the three points Miliband put to him; and says all three are “wrong”.

“While we’re on the subject of ministers taking responsibility for special advisors, what about Charlie Wheelan and Damian McBride?” Cameron throws back.

15.45 On the issue of who authorised Hunt’s SpAd Adam Smith’s role – permanent secretary vs the culture secretary – Margaret Hodge accuses the government of breaches of the ministerial code and says this should be investigated.

15.50 Labour’s Jack Straw says: “No one understands why he’s (the PM) seeking to shelter behind a smokescreen of the Leveson Inquiry when it’s all on him.”

Cameron says the ministerial code is clear and if anything comes up in the Leveson he’ll act.

15.53 Cameron says Hunt took indepedent advice at each state of the bid.

15.56 Frank Dobson says all the PMs problems spring from handing the bid from Vince Cable to Jeremy Hunt, who was already on record as in favour of the bid. Cameron says getting rid of Vince Cable was right because, “It wasn’t just antipathy, he was recorded saying he wanted to destory the business”.

16.00 Of Labour calling him to the House, Cameron says: “I think the motivation is they’d rather do anything than get out there and ask people to vote for Ken Livingstone”

16.04 Paul Flynn says Hunt’s only defence is based on the fiction that Special Advisers only communicate through emails. “A resignation delayed is a disgrace multiplied”, he concludes.

16.06 When the permanent secretary be questioned, Cameron is asked (as he won’t be appearing at the Leveson). Cameron says it’s up to Leveson who he calls to his Inquiry.

The Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Hayward has written to all government departments to clarify the rules with SpAds, says Cameron. “If ministers resigned every time their special advisers got something wrong we’d have a new government each week”, he adds.

16.09 Cameron: All media companies have their great causes and lobbies.” He says that as politicians you get as much pressure from the BBC or regional outlets as any others; “I think it is worth putting that on the record”, he adds.

16.12 The role of the special adviser and the minister is drawn into focus. “All of that information is going to be given to the Leveson”, says Cameron, reiterating that answering questions under oath at the Leveson is “pretty powerful”.

“I am responsible for the ministerial code, if breaches occur I must act. I couldn’t be clearer,” says the PM.

16.14 Cameron calls Cable’s promise to “destroy” the Murdoch empire “frankly embarrassing”.

16.15 Cameron says Miliband “saw a passing bandwagon and jumped on it”, accusing the Labour leader of not wanting to wait for the Leveson Inquiry to play out.

Cameron says he doesn’t want to belittle other inquiries, but the Leveson Inquiry “is many times more robust” (as Leveson can call ministers to give evidence under oath etc).

16.18 Andrew Slaughter asks the PM to explain what benefits Adam Smith expected to get from “pleasing the Murdochs”. Cameron says it was part of his role but the “content and extent” of his relationship went too far.

Jacob Rees-Mogg says we should be reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s words that “advisers advise, ministers decide”.

16.20 Why was Smith involved at all, when it was his job to advise politically, Cameron is asked. The PM says it would be normal for the company to have contact with the department.

After 52 minutes and 42 questions from the backbenches, the Speaker calls an end to the urgent question.