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George Osborne denies deal with Murdochs over BSkyB

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George Osborne

George Osborne

George Osborne

George Osborne claimed he had no “strong view” on whether Rupert Murdoch's empire should have been allowed to expand further — but that he and David Cameron rushed to make the controversial appointment of Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, before taking legal advice.

The Chancellor also took responsibility for the hiring of Andy Coulson — since arrested — to the Conservative Party and later Downing Street.

Mr Osborne told the Leveson Inquiry that he was merely “an external observer” of News Corporation's £8bn BSkyB bid, which he described as a “political inconvenience”, and denied speaking to either Jeremy Hunt or Vince Cable about it.

Under oath, he also said that:

  • It was the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who first proposed handing responsibility over the bid to another government department following Vince Cable's anti-Murdoch remarks. However, he admitted he could not say with certainty that Sir Jeremy had recommended handing the decision to Jeremy Hunt.
  • The decision to give Mr Hunt responsibility for the bid was taken by Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne before they received legal advice on whether his previous vocal public support for the bid should rule him out of contention.
  • He was repeatedly lobbied by James Murdoch over the BBC licence fee.

A News Corporation spokesman said later: “Rupert Murdoch stands behind his testimony”.

Belfast Telegraph