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PM and Hunt named core participants

Prime Minister David Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt have been given the right to see Leveson Inquiry documents and witness statements in advance.

Eight cabinet ministers were named as "core participants", people who have a significant interest in the hearings or may face criticism.

The move came ahead of potentially explosive testimony next week from former News International executives Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Lord Justice Leveson also gave core participant status to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Education Secretary Michael Gove, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chancellor George Osborne. All except Mr Osborne will give evidence in person over the coming weeks.

James Eadie QC, representing the Government, said the Ministers had a "clear public interest" in the inquiry's proceedings because they will be responsible for acting on Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

Lord Justice Leveson stressed: "There can be no question of access being sought for the purpose of preparing evidence." The inquiry chairman insisted that all the ministers and their advisers must sign a confidentiality pledge not to leak any of the material they see in advance.

Without naming him, Lord Justice Leveson accused Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has core participant status, of showing "total disregard" for the confidentiality agreement he has signed. Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Mr Bryant quoted from a then-unreleased document listing meetings between Mr Cameron and Rupert Murdoch.

The Government faced calls for Mr Hunt's resignation last week after the Leveson Inquiry released emails detailing contacts between his office and a senior executive at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Labour claimed the messages showed that the Culture Secretary failed to fulfil his quasi-judicial role in relation to Mr Murdoch's proposed takeover of satellite broadcaster BSkyB. Mr Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith quit the next day, admitting he went "too far" in his contacts with News Corp lobbyist Frederic Michel.

If the ministers had been core participants at the time, they would have had advance access to the emails and could have argued that parts should be blanked out before being made public.

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