Jeremy Hunt resists Labour call to quit over BSkyB deal
Published: 25th Apr 2012 07:40:51
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected Labour calls for him to resign over claims that he privately supported attempts by News Corporation to take full control of BSkyB.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said emails given to the Leveson Inquiry showed Mr Hunt had been a "back channel" for News Corp rather than being impartial.
But Mr Hunt insisted he had handled the process with "scrupulous fairness".
News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch will give evidence at the inquiry later.
A string of emails released by the inquiry into press standards suggests there was a steady flow of information from the culture secretary's office to News Corp advisers when the firm was bidding to take over BSkyB.
Jeremy Hunt has Number 10's backing but his position remains precarious. There are several fronts to the culture secretary's defence.
By consulting with regulators and civil servants throughout the bid to he insists he acted with integrity and scrupulous objectivity, with the permanent secretary at the culture department agreeing that Mr Hunt's special advisor should act as a conduit with News Corp during the process.
Mr Hunt argues that the texts and emails seen so far are a partial, second hand account of what was going.
And yet, the chummy channel of communication from his aide to News Corporation provided the company with a huge amount of inside information, sometimes before Parliament, and raises questions about whether the information given to the company undermined the quasi-judicial process or breached the ministerial code.
The issue is sure to dominate Prime Minister's Questions and Ed Miliband may probe the Prime Minister about his chat with James Murdoch about the BSkyB bid at a dinner at Rebekah Brooks' house in December 2010.
At the same time, Rupert Murdoch will be giving his evidence to the Levison enquiry, testimony that could be very uncomfortable for Cabinet ministers past and present.
In one, Frederic Michel, head of public affairs at News Corp, told News Corp executive James Murdoch he had managed to get some information on Mr Hunt's statement on the BSkyB bid to Parliament due the next day "although absolutely illegal..>!".
Mr Murdoch told the inquiry that the reference had been a "joke".
But Labour said the documents showed Mr Hunt failed to fulfil his quasi-judicial role over the BSkyB bid.
Mr Miliband said: "He should resign. He himself said that his duty was to be transparent, impartial and fair in the BSkyB takeover.
"But now we know that he was providing advice, guidance and privileged access to News Corporation. He was acting as a back channel for the Murdochs.
"He cannot stay in his post. And if he refuses to resign, the prime minister must show some leadership and fire him."
Mr Hunt said he behaved with absolute integrity when he considered the case, and Prime Minister David Cameron said he had "full confidence" in his culture secretary.
Mr Hunt said he had asked Lord Justice Leveson to bring forward his appearance at the inquiry.
He had been due to give evidence along with other politicians including the prime minister in May.
Mr Hunt said: "Now is not a time for kneejerk reactions. We've heard one side of the story today but some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn't happen.
"Rather than jump on a political bandwagon, we need to hear what Lord Justice Leveson thinks after he's heard all the evidence."
In June 2010, News Corp had been bidding to take over the 61% of BSkyB it did not already own.
That November, Business Secretary Vince Cable asked media regulator Ofcom to look at the potential impact of the deal on media plurality.
George Galloway: "Both parties are guilty of being in a bed with an evil wicked empire"
Mr Hunt took over responsibility for overseeing the BSkyB bid after Mr Cable was stripped of the role in December 2010, having been secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.
The company abandoned the bid in July 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal emerged.
Rupert Murdoch will face two days of questioning at the inquiry under oath.
He will be asked about the phone-hacking scandal which eventually led to the News of the World being closed down.
Mr Murdoch will also be pressed on how much influence his newspapers have on public life in the UK.
News Corp owns the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, and has a 39% interest in satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry was set up after allegations that the News of the World hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
At 15:59:13 in HeadlinesLibya's parliament has dismissed Prime Minister Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port broke through a naval blockade.
At 15:48:41 in SportHurricane Fly was denied a third Champion Hurdle victory as 9-1 chance Jezki claimed victory by a neck from My Tent Or Yours.
At 15:41:54 in EnglandThree men have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into the sexual exploitation of women in Yeovil.
At 15:41:01 in Entertainment300: Rise of an Empire has emulated its North American success with a number one debut on the UK film chart.
At 15:40:34 in SportScotland will be seeking a fourth director of athletics coaching in five years when Stephen Maguire moves on later this year.
At 15:39:04 in BusinessA US congressional committee has said it is investigating General Motors's recall of nearly 1.6 million vehicles over faulty ignition switches.
At 15:38:02 in EnglandA man has admitted failing to ensure the safety and welfare of a worker who died in a fall through the roof of a barn in Oxfordshire.
At 15:37:30 in SportGuernsey and Alderney have both named their squads for Saturday's Murratti Vase semi-final clash.
At 15:35:40 in EnglandTwo Bristol students who tackled a gruelling transatlantic rowing race have retired from the competition after more than three months at sea.
At 15:35:39 in ScotlandA climber has been injured in an avalanche on Ben Nevis.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Jeremy Hunt resists Labour call to quit over BSkyB deal [Online] (Updated 25th Apr 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1424428/Jeremy-Hunt-resists-Labour-call-to-quit-over-BSkyB-deal [Accessed 11th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
A US congressional committee has said it is investigating General Motors's recall of nearly 1.6 million vehicles over faulty ignition switches.
It has emerged that the well-known east Belfast bar, the Bunch of Grapes, has been effectively repossessed by Nama, the Republic of Ireland's state controlled 'bad bank'.
300: Rise of an Empire has emulated its North American success with a number one debut on the UK film chart.
Concerns have been raised after the ex-deputy older people's commissioner for Wales received a total of £53,000 when she left the post.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
Libya's parliament has dismissed Prime Minister Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port broke through a naval blockade.