Jeremy Hunt has been warned by the Speaker of the Commons that he cannot use his forthcoming appearance before the Leveson Inquiry to avoid answering questions about BSkyB or News International in Parliament.
Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman raised the issue on a point of order in the Commons on Monday afternoon, asking the Speaker to clarify that Hunt had a duty to make himself accountable to Parliament in the meantime.
This follows a written answer from Hunt to Labour MP George Howarth, who tabled a series of questions on the 1st of May.
Theyworkforyou.com reports that one ministerial answer read:
I am in the process of preparing my evidence for the Leveson Inquiry, which will include all relevant information held by me and my Department relating to News Corporation's bid for BskyB. I anticipate that as much of this evidence as possible will be published, although this is a matter for the inquiry itself.
Harman asked the Speaker: "Will you please confirm whether it is order for the Secretary of State to say that he won't answer questions from honourable members in this house because instead he's going to tell Lord Leveson?"
Harman suggested that Hunt was trying to dodge questions from MPs "not because he's unable to, but because he doesn't want to."
John Bercow said: "The accountability of a minister to this house is not diluted or suspended by a ministers' engagement with inquires or other proceedings.
"When parliamentary questions to ministers are tabled they should receive substantive and timely arguments."
Bercow also suggested that any documents Hunt provided to Leveson should also "as a courtesy" to MPs be placed in the Library of the Commons.
This ruling by the Speaker is likely to put more pressure on Hunt, who can expect to be served many written questions from Labour following evidence by Rebekah Brooks to the Leveson inquiry last Friday.
Brooks pointed to an email from News International's lobbyist Frédéric Michel, which suggested that Hunt asked News International for "guidance" during the phone-hacking revelations last July.
Harman has repeatedly suggested that Hunt has broken the ministerial code and should resign. However David Cameron has insisted that Hunt should be allowed to appear before Leveson before making any further rulings about the Culture Secretary's future.
Hunt is due to appear before Leveson later this month. He is not due to appear before MPs for regular question time until around the same time.Suggest a correction