David Cameron insisted yesterday that Jeremy Hunt had his “full support” despite allegations that he colluded with News Corp over its bid for BSkyB.
In angry exchanges with the Labour leader Ed Miliband at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron said Mr Hunt was doing an “excellent job” and would give a “very good account of himself” to MPs and the Leveson Inquiry.
His defence followed a private meeting the night before in Downing Street at which they drew up a strategy to deal with the News Corp revelations.
Mr Cameron said: “The Culture Secretary will be giving a full account of himself in front of the Leveson Inquiry and he will give a very good account of himself for this very simple reason: that in judging this important bid, the Culture Secretary sought independent advice from independent regulators at every stage — although he did not need to — and the Culture Secretary took that independent advice at every stage.”
As Labour MPs waved goodbye to Mr Hunt, who arrived late at his position on the front bench for the raucous PMQs exchanges, Mr Miliband told Mr Cameron: “Lord Justice Leveson is responsible for a lot of things, but he is not responsible for the integrity of the Prime Minister's Government.”
Mr Miliband said that while the Culture Secretary remains in place and while Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne “refuse to come clean” on meetings with Rupert Murdoch, “the shadow of sleaze will hang over this Government”.
He added: “It's a pattern with this Prime Minister. Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and now the Culture Secretary. When is he going to realise it's time to stop putting his cronies before the interests of the country?”
Mr Cameron accused Mr Miliband of “flip-flopping” over his approach to the Leveson Inquiry, which he insisted should be allowed to run its course without being pre-judged.
But the Labour leader retorted that Mr Cameron was giving “totally pathetic” responses and added: “He is the Prime Minister. If he can't defend the conduct of his ministers, he should fire them.”