Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Hunt defends himself on BSKyB deal

Jeremy Hunt has defended himself over claims about he conduct relating to the BSkyB takeover
Jeremy Hunt has defended himself over claims about he conduct relating to the BSkyB takeover

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended himself against the "disgraceful allegation" that he deliberately misled parliament over his role in News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB.

He admitted he may have inadvertently misled parliament when he claimed in the Commons to have released all his correspondence relating to the deal, but insisted he corrected the record at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr Hunt's staunch defence came as Labour proposed a motion calling for the case to be referred to Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, to find out whether the rules had been broken.

Prime Minister David Cameron has so far resisted calls to refer Mr Hunt to Sir Alex's office.

Labour MP Chris Bryant accused the Culture Secretary of lying to parliament, while Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, said he had failed to take responsibility for his special adviser Adam Smith - who had sent a string of text messages and emails to News Corps' lobbyist Fred Michel.

But Mr Hunt, who was flanked by Education Secretary Michael Gove and Chancellor George Osborne, denied he had broken any rules.

He said: "At the heart of this debate are two allegations about the Ministerial Code so let me address them straight away.

"First of all, the disgraceful allegation that I deliberately misled parliament. In response to a question on March 3 2011, I stated that I had published correspondence between myself and News Corp.

"The answers to those questions, I referred back to that statement and if there was any misunderstanding about the extent to which I was publishing correspondence it was addressed as long ago as last September in a written (parliamentary question to Labour MP John Mann). That spelt out precisely what information I was releasing and what information I wasn't releasing.

"The content of the correspondence is what is really important and if you (Ms Harman) read it, you would see that I have taken more trouble and published more information than probably any other government has published on any other previous deal. I have made huge efforts to be transparent and you know that perfectly well."

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