Jeremy Hunt Will Not Face Immediate Inquiry, Says David Cameron

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 30/04/2012 15:59 Updated: 30/04/2012 18:27

David Cameron has insisted that he will take no action against Jeremy Hunt until the culture secretary has appeared before the Leveson inquiry into press standards later this month, despite Labour continuing to claim that Hunt has committed multiple breaches of the ministerial code.

Addressing a packed Commons, with his culture secretary by his side, Cameron looked visibly annoyed at having to interrupt his day to appear before MPs.

Earlier, the Commons Speaker John Bercow granted an urgent question at the request of Labour, who are calling for Hunt to be subjected to a Whitehall investigation over his role in alleged briefings from his office to News Corporation during their aborted attempt to take over BSkyB.

Various Westminster sources suggested Number 10 was furious at John Bercow's decision to haul the PM to the Commons on what they see as a party political row.

Cameron reiterated his claim that the Leveson inquiry was the proper place for the facts to be established, saying: "It is a full judge-led inquiry, given under oath with full access to government records."

With regards to the BSkyB bid by News Corporation, Cameron again repeated his claim that Hunt had acted properly.

"He was offered independent advice and acted on it," the PM insisted.

"Not true'" cried a few Labour MPs.

Cameron said he had seen no evidence to suggest that in handling this issue, Hunt had acted in any way that was contrary to the ministerial code.

However Cameron acknowledged to Labour jeers that Lord Leveson was not the person who would rule on whether the ministerial code had been broken.

The PM promised that once Hunt had given his evidence before Leveson he would rule on whether a further Whitehall inquiry was needed or whether he would take action directly.

But he insisted it was "neither necessary nor right to have a parallel investigation" on the conduct of the culture secretary or his special adviser.

Cameron said Labour's record on holding meetings with Murdoch was worse than the Tories - "Blair seven, Brown thirteen, me four" - and told MPs that if he'd wanted to help the Murdochs take over BSkyB, he had a funny way of going about it.

"What on earth was I doing making [Vince Cable] the minister responsible for this?" he said.

Ed Miliband said Cameron should not wait for Hunt's appearance before Leveson, claiming he had breached the ministerial code three times.

The Labour leader claimed that Hunt's now-former special adviser Adam Smith was on a "freelance mission" to help the Murdochs.

He also suggested that the government was mimicking the behaviour of News International himself by suggesting Adam Smith was one rogue operative.

"The special adviser had to go to protect the culture secretary. The culture secretary has to stay to protect the prime minister," he said.

Cameron replied that Miliband was "weak and wrong," saying Labour had presided over a string of scandals involving improper conduct by their own special advisers.

Tory MPs responded with long and boisterous cheers which seemed designed to drown out John Bercow, who was attempting to restore order.

Related on HuffPost:

RATE IT!   |  
VOTE
CURRENT TOP 5 PICK YOUR OWN TOP 5
USERS WHO VOTED
NEW! CREATE YOUR OWN SLIDESHOW
FOLLOW UK POLITICS