POLITICS
31/05/2012 13:10 BST | Updated 31/05/2012 13:12 BST

Jeremy Hunt 'Considered Quitting' Over BSkyB Bid, But Let His Adviser Go Instead

Jeremy Hunt has admitted he considered quitting the cabinet amid allegations he mishandled News Corporation's bid to take over BSkyB, but decided to let his special adviser resign instead.

Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Thursday, the culture secretary said he told Adam Smith he had to go with a "very heavy heart".

"I did think about my own position," he said. "But I had conducted the bid scrupulously fairly throughout every stage, and I believed it was possible to demonstrate that I decided it wouldn't be appropriate for me to go."

Throughout his evidence to the inquiry Hunt spoke highly of his former adviser, describing him variously as "honorable", "brilliant" and "diligent".

Hunt said Smith, with whom he had worked for almost six years, as the "most decent straight most honourable person one could imagine".

However the culture secretary said his ex-adviser had over-stepped the line in his contact with News Corporation's chief lobbyist and had made "inappropriate" comments.

Smith told Leveson last week that after the internal News Corp emails emerged that suggested he had given the company inappropriate levels of information he offered Hunt his resignation.

He said that the culture secretary told him it would "not come to that" as he had only been doing his job.

But the following day after holding other meetings at which Smith was not present Hunt told him that he had to quit as "everyone here thinks you need to go".

Smith said he resigned not because had behaved inappropriately but because of a "perception" in the media and public mind that he "something untoward had gone on".

Hunt confirmed Smith's account of the meeting at which he was told to quit but said he himself was not one of the people included in the term "everyone".

"I'd come in early that morning, there was obviously a big storm going on, and Adam Smith had offered to resign if that became necessary and it was still very much my hope it wouldn't come to that.

"I personally found the whole thing incredibly difficult," Hunt said. "This is a men I had been working incredibly closely with for nearly six years."

"It seemed terribly unfair, the pressure was such it did seem it was inevitable."

During his evidence to the inquiry on Thursday that Hunt sent a supportive message to James Murdoch just hours before he was appointed to the role of overseeing the BSkyB bid, calling into question how impartial he could have been.

What The Other Witnesses Have Said

Adam Smith: I Did Not Give News Corp 'Inappropriate' Inside Information

DCMS Permanent Secretary Jonathan Stephens: Hunt Urged Cameron To Back News Corp Bid

Fred Michel: Texts Reveal Close Relationship Between News Corp And Hunt's Office

Ken Clarke: The Press Is More Powerful Than Parliament

Michael Gove: Rupert Murdoch Is A 'Impressive And Significant' Man

Vince Cable: News International Threatened The Lib Dems Over BSkyB

Tony Blair: I Chose Not To Take On The Press