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Leveson Inquiry: Cable viewed BSkyB bid with 'independent mind'

Category: Politics

Published: 30th May 2012 11:32:00

Business Secretary Vince Cable has told the Leveson Inquiry he kept "an independent mind" when assessing News Corporation's 2010 bid for BSkyB.

The Lib Dem MP's role passed to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt after Mr Cable was recorded saying he had "declared war" on News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Hunt has himself come under fire as he had expressed support for the bid.

Mr Cable said "most people in public life have views... the requirement... is to set those on one side".

Mr Cable told two undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph in December 2010 that he was seeking to block News Corp's attempt to buy the 61% of BSkyB shares it did not already own, by referring the bid to regulators Ofcom.

But questioned by inquiry counsel Robert Jay QC on the role of making quasi-judicial decisions, Mr Cable said: "With an independent mind doesn't mean with a blank mind."

He said his role was to "consider representations, the evidence, the facts and decide on that and only on that".

Mr Cable added that he had thought Mr Murdoch's newspapers had "disproportionate political influence" but that was not a factor in his decision to refer the News Corp bid.

"My views about this company were actually quite nuanced," he said.

"...some politicians got too close to them. But I never had a bad experience myself at the hands of News International newspapers."

Mr Cable said he did not wish to be "disrespectful" to News Corp executive James Murdoch by turning down the offer of a meeting, but gave it careful thought and decided that it was "not appropriate".

The company had the option to put its views in writing which it did, he added. He also received lobbying from other groups including the BBC, the TUC, media research firm Enders, the Guardian, BT and Capital Research Management.

The business secretary said he "did not think it appropriate" to have a discussion with Mr Hunt about the bid - because it was his role to make the decision - and was not aware of any attempt by the culture secretary to speak to him on the subject.

Mr Hunt is to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday.

Last week it emerged he had sent a memo to Prime Minister David Cameron indicating his support for the deal, prior to overseeing the bid, but also cautioning it would be "wrong for the government to get involved in such a competition issue".

The culture secretary insists that he oversaw the process "with scrupulous fairness" and has been backed by Mr Cameron and his department's most senior civil servant.

After Mr Cable, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke will be giving evidence to the inquiry, which is currently looking at the relationship between press and politicians.

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BBC News, 2012. Leveson Inquiry: Cable viewed BSkyB bid with 'independent mind' [Online] (Updated 30th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431779/Leveson-Inquiry-Cable-viewed-BSkyB-bid-with-independent-mind [Accessed 31st Aug 2014]

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