Jeremy Hunt: Labour demands Prime Minister statement
Published Apr 30 2012, 09:44 BST | By Andrew Laughlin
© Rex Features / Ben Cawthra
Labour is demanding that David Cameron gives a statement to the Commons today on the row surrounding culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
There have been calls for Hunt to step down after it was revealed that his special adviser had been in close contact with News Corporation during its takeover bid for Sky
The Prime Minister has so far ruled out an inquiry into claims that Hunt broke the ministerial code, saying that he should instead answer questions at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and standards.
But a Labour source told BBC News
that Cameron was "ducking his responsibilities", and must explain why in parliament today.
"David Cameron is still trying to hide behind the Leveson Inquiry," the source added.
"With parliament breaking up on Tuesday, Mr Cameron must come to the Commons and explain to the British people why he is ducking his responsibilities to enforce the ministerial code."
In a BBC interview, Cameron said that the email contact with News Corp had been "too close", but as things stood, he did not believe Hunt had breached the ministerial code.
Yesterday, Cameron insisted that there was "no grand deal" with Rupert Murdoch
in return for support from his newspapers for the Conservatives ahead of the 2010 election.
In June 2010, News Corporation
lodged a bid to acquire the 60.9% of Sky that it did not already own. This was just a month after Cameron had entered Downing Street as part of the Conservatives-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
The Murdoch-owned Sun
newspaper switched its support from Labour to the Conservatives in September 2009.
But Cameron told the BBC
that it was "not true" to suggest that there was an agreement in place with the Murdoch empire to allow the Sky takeover to go through.
"It would be absolutely wrong for there to be any sort of deal and there wasn't," he said. "There was no grand deal."
Question marks over the Tories' position on the takeover have re-surfaced after a series of emails were published between Adam Smith, Hunt's special adviser, and a News Corp lobbyist. This led Labour to suggest that News Corp had a "back channel" while the deal was being reviewed.
However, Cameron said that he did not believe the culture secretary, who took on a quasi-judicial role over the takeover in December 2010, had broken the rules over the contact with News Corp.
He said that all the details would be "laid bare" at the Leveson Inquiry when Hunt gives evidence next month.
The Prime Minister has also come under fire after James Murdoch confirmed that he had discussed the Sky bid with Cameron at a Christmas party hosted by the then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks in 2010.
The party came shortly after business secretary Vince Cable had been stripped of the power to rule over the Sky bid after he had been secretly recorded telling journalists that he had "declared war" on Murdoch's media empire.
Cameron said that he could not recall all the details of the conversation with Murdoch, but it was "something like: clearly that was unacceptable, it was embarrassing for the government, and to be clear from now on this whole issue would be dealt with impartially, properly... but obviously I had nothing to do with it, I recused myself from it".> Rupert Murdoch: 'I have never asked a prime minister for anything'> 'Sack Jeremy Hunt' petition attracts more than 45,000 signatures