Jeremy Hunt: This Is Not The Time To Jump On The Political Bandwagon Over Murdoch

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 25/04/2012 13:10 Updated: 25/04/2012 14:28

The Culture Secretary faced the House of Commons on Wednesday to defend his conduct during News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB, rejecting calls for his resignation over claims that he was a "cheerleader" for Rupert Murdoch's company.

Hunt accused Labour of "rank opportunism" in their calls for him to resign, after a wave of revelations suggesting News Corporation was given a steer by a government special adviser in its bid to fully take-over BSkyB.

Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, resigned on Wednesday morning, after text messages sent from him to the Murdochs' senior lobbyist, Frederic Michel, suggested Smith was helping News Corporation in its buy-out bid.

In a hastily-arranged statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt told MPs that he had handled the bid with "scrupulous fairness" and he was not influenced in any way by contacts with News Corp.

Hunt insisted that "this is not the time to jump on a political bandwagon," saying that Parliament and the public should wait for the full outcome and report from the Leveson Inquiry. He admitted "everything did not go right" during the bidding process, and told the Commons that he was "looking forward" to attending Leveson.

Hunt has written to the inquiry asking for the date for him to give evidence to be brought forward.

Hunt told MPs that while he had expressed sympathy for the Murdoch bid before he was made responsible for judging on it, he became genuinely impartial once it was handed to him from business secretary Vince Cable. He insisted he took four decisions which "went against what News Corp wanted," including checking the bid's status with OfCom.

However Labour believe that Hunt refused to send the bid to the Competition Commission, against the views of both Business Secretary Vince Cable and OfCom itself.

Hunt said that Adam Smith's resignation was a matter for deep regret for him, he considered his now-former special adviser as a man of "decency and integrity."

Adam Smith, former Special Adviser to Jeremy Hunt, leaving a rainy Westminster


Hunt insists that he only had meetings with Frederic Michel at times which were fully minuted with other people present. He pointed out to MPs that there was no paper trail which suggested otherwise, and that Michel had admitted to the Murdochs that the guidance coming from the government was coming from Adam Smith, not Hunt himself.

Earlier at Prime Minister's Questions David Cameron said Jeremy Hunt retained his "full confidence" to Labour jeers. But Harriet Harman, the shadow culture secretary, reiterated her call for Hunt to resign.

She claimed that under the Ministerial Code the culture secretary was ultimately accountable for the actions of his special advisers.

"He was not judging this bid, he was backing this bid, and he should resign," she told MPs, adding: "There was a great deal of transparency for Murdoch but none for opponents of the bid or the House of Commons."

Insisting that News International was given an unfair advantage in the bidding process, she described Jeremy Hunt as "acting like a judge, in a quasi judicial role."

Later Jeremy Hunt told MPs: "We are happy to learn lessons about the way this was structured," but again insisted that the decision to refer the matter to Ofcom showed the process had been fair.

Hunt was flanked by David Cameron throughout his statement and the subsequent questions from MPs. "We are not saying we got everything right," Hunt said, accusing Labour of "rank opportunism" over the matter.

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