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Leveson Inquiry: Hunt's ex-aide faces more questions

Category: Business

Published: 25th May 2012 04:06:16

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's former special adviser Adam Smith will face a second day of questioning later at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics.

During his evidence on Thursday it emerged Mr Hunt had sent a memo to the PM supporting News Corp's bid for BSkyB weeks before taking charge of the deal.

Mr Smith, who resigned last month after admitting his contact with News Corp had got too close, also got the memo.

The culture department's most senior civil servant will also be questioned.

Permanent Secretary Jonathan Stephens is expected to be asked whether he gave permission for Mr Smith to be the point of contact with News Corp during the takeover bid process.

He refused to confirm or deny this during an appearance before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, and later said in a letter he was simply "aware and content" with the arrangement.

Mr Stephens will also be asked whether he was aware that so much information was flowing from Mr Hunt's office to News Corp's lobbyist Fred Michel.

This is ammunition for the culture secretary's critics who say his mind was made up to give the Murdochs what they wanted”

Labour is demanding to know why PM David Cameron handed the adjudication over Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB bid to Mr Hunt, whom he knew to favour the takeover.

It argues that Mr Hunt was not an "impartial arbiter" on the deal, and has renewed calls for him to resign.

But Downing Street has said the memo, written when Business Secretary Vince Cable was in charge of overseeing the bid, was "entirely consistent" with Mr Hunt's public view.

Mr Hunt's memo, written on 19 November 2010, stated that News Corp executive James Murdoch was "furious" about Mr Cable's handling of the matter.

He told Mr Cameron it would be "totally wrong to cave in" to opponents of the deal and said the UK had the chance to "lead the way" if the BSkyB bid went ahead.

The memo also said the UK's media sector "would suffer for years" if the deal was blocked.

It was sent to Mr Smith before it went to Mr Cameron.

Mr Hunt has refused to quit and is due to give his own account of events to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 31 May.

News Corp unveiled its bid for BSkyB in June 2010 but abandoned it in July 2011 amid outrage over the phone-hacking scandal at its News of the World newspaper.

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BBC News, 2012. Leveson Inquiry: Hunt's ex-aide faces more questions [Online] (Updated 25th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1430840/Leveson-Inquiry-Hunts-ex-aide-faces-more-questions [Accessed 3rd Sep 2014]

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