Cameron rejects minister, Murdoch probe

2012-04-30 22:20

London - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday dismissed opposition calls for an inquiry into the culture minister over his handling of a bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for broadcaster BSkyB.

Cameron, called to parliament to give an emergency statement, said he had seen no evidence that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had breached the ministerial code of conduct in his handling of the now-abandoned bid.

Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, resigned last week over claims he leaked details to a News Corp. lobbyist about the government's view of the attempt to buy the part of highly profitable BSkyB that it does not already own.

It led to accusations that the government had provided a back channel to US-based News Corp.

Cameron said that if evidence of a breach of the code emerged when Hunt gives evidence to an inquiry into press standards in the coming weeks, he would refer the matter to the parliamentary authorities, or take action himself.

However, Cameron rejected demands from the main opposition Labour Party to set up a "parallel" inquiry into Hunt, who denies any wrongdoing.

The prime minister said that at every stage of the News Corp. bid, Hunt had sought independent advice, even though he was not required to do so.

Impartial

"He acted fairly and impartially and in line with the advice of his permanent secretary," Cameron told lawmakers.

"I have seen no evidence to suggest that, in handling this issue, the secretary of state acted at any stage in a way that was contrary to the ministerial code."

Cameron said he had decided it was right to allow Judge Brian Leveson to conduct his inquiry into press standards - known as the Leveson Inquiry - and not to set up a "parallel process" to establish the facts.

"What we have is a judge-led inquiry, witnesses required to give evidence on oath, full access to papers and records, cross-examination by barristers, all live on television," he said.

"There is nothing this tough or this rigorous the civil service or the independent adviser could provide."

Cameron also reiterated his insistence that there was no "grand bargain" between his Conservative Party and Murdoch's newspapers whereby they would support the party in 2010 elections in return for the go-ahead on the BSkyB bid.

News Corp. was forced to abandon the bid in July last year after claims of phone hacking at Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Read more on:    news corporation  |  rupert murdoch  |  david cameron  |  uk  |  uk hacking scandal
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