Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Labour to force vote over Hunt

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was backed by PM David Cameron after giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry

Labour will force a Commons vote calling for Jeremy Hunt to face an independent investigation for breaching the ministerial code.

The Cabinet minister held on to his job as Culture Secretary on Thursday night after Downing Street said his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry showed he "acted properly" in his handling of the News Corporation bid for BSkyB.

But shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has announced that Labour will stage a vote when MPs return from Whitsun recess demanding Mr Hunt is referred for investigation to Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister's adviser on the ministerial code.

Labour believes Mr Hunt has misled Parliament twice about his role in the bid and must also take responsibility for the actions of his special adviser Adam Smith, who was forced to quit when a slew of damaging emails were released showing close contact with News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel.

Ms Harman said: "Jeremy Hunt has broken the ministerial code and misled Parliament. It is not acceptable that these rules have been broken and we will call a vote insisting that Jeremy Hunt's breaches of the code are referred to the independent adviser on ministerial interests.

"The ministerial code sets the standards which secretaries of state must live up to. When David Cameron came into power, he upgraded the code and he said he was going to have higher standards in public office. Today those words ring hollow - he has just torn up the code."

Labour plans to use its opposition day debate on Wednesday June 14 to trigger the vote. It will claim Mr Hunt misled Parliament by telling MPs "all the exchanges between my department and News Corporation" were being published and by stating he had not intervened in the bid before he took responsibility for it on December 21.

Ms Harman will suggest that documents released by the inquiry, including a memo to Mr Cameron on November 9 warning it would be "totally wrong" for the Government to "cave in" to News Corp critics, prove otherwise.

Labour's deputy leader will also argue that, under the ministerial code, Mr Hunt is clearly accountable for the actions of Mr Smith. Labour will also seize on Mr Cameron's comments on transparency, made in the foreword to the code when it was updated in the first weeks after he took office.

"In everything we do - the policies we develop and how we implement them, the speeches we give, the meetings we hold - we must remember that we are not masters but servants," he wrote. "We must be different in how we think and how we behave. We must be different from what has gone before us. Careful with public money. Transparent about what we do and how we do it."

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