Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Hunt: I won't quit over BSkyB row

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt
James Murdoch arrives at the Levenson Inquiry into press standards (AP)
Campaigners from the organisation Avaaz protest dressed as Rupert Murdoch and his son James outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has defied Labour calls for his resignation following claims that he secretly backed News Corporation's bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Mr Hunt insisted that he had conducted the process of deciding whether to green-light the BSkyB bid with "scrupulous fairness" and wrote to the Leveson Inquiry asking to be given an early date to give his side of the story in formal evidence.

In a dramatic development, the Leveson Inquiry into press standards released a dossier of emails detailing contacts between the Culture Secretary's office and a senior executive at News Corp.

Labour said the documents showed that Mr Hunt failed to fulfil his quasi-judicial role in relation to the proposed takeover, which he had promised to carry out in a "fair and even-handed" way.

And they said that David Cameron also had questions to answer, after News Corp executive James Murdoch told the Inquiry that he and the Prime Minister had briefly discussed the BSkyB bid in December 2010 - days after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his decision-making power on the takeover.

Downing Street insisted that the Culture Secretary still had the Prime Minister's full confidence, but Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Hunt must resign and warned Mr Cameron he too had "questions to answer".

In a statement Mr Hunt said: "Now is not a time for knee-jerk reactions. We've heard one side of the story ... but some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn't happen.

"Rather than jump on political bandwagon, we need to hear what Lord Justice Leveson thinks after he's heard all the evidence.

"Let me be clear my number one priority was to give the public confidence in the integrity of process. I asked for advice from independent regulators - which I didn't have to do - and I followed that advice to the letter.

"I would like to resolve this issue as soon as possible which is why I have today written to Lord Justice Leveson asking if my appearance can be brought forward. I am very confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness."

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz