I am extremely concerned about the documents released by the Leveson Inquiry yesterday which raise concerns that Jeremy Hunt did not consider the News Corporation bid for BSkyB in a fair and impartial way. I have written to the Prime Minister about possible breaches of the Ministerial Code - the letter is below.
Dear Mr Cameron,
I am writing to you in respect of three apparent breaches of the Ministerial Code by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport in his handling of News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.
These must now be referred to the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests as a matter of urgency.
The three breaches of the Ministerial Code are:
1. Failing to take responsibility for the actions of his Special Advisor - paragraph 3.3 of the Ministerial Code
The Secretary of State admitted in the House of Commons today that in the extensive contact between Adam Smith and News Corporation “the volume and tone of these communications were clearly not appropriate in a quasi judicial process .....the contacts overstepped the mark...”
2. Not giving accurate and truthful information to Parliament - paragraph 1.2c of the Ministerial Code
On 3 March 2011 Mr Hunt told the House of Commons that "today we are publishing all the documents relating to ....all the exchanges between my Department and News Corporation" (Hansard, 3 March 2011, column 526).
But in the House today he acknowledged that there had been extensive contact between his Special Advisor, Adam Smith, and News Corporation on his behalf. He said that he “knew about his contact - that was authorised. He was authorised to be the point of contact between my department and News Corporation".
Yet none of these exchanges between Adam Smith and News Corporation were published on 3rd March 2011 - nor have they been published since. Indeed we would never have known about these contacts had it not been for the publication of emails by the Leveson Inquiry.
3. Disclosing the contents of a statement to parliament to News Corporation before making the statement in the House - paragraph 9.1 of the Ministerial Code
Emails from Fred Michel of News Corporation to James Murdoch on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of January report the content of the statement Mr Hunt made on 25th January, including: that he was going to confirm Ofcom’s advice to him to refer the matter to the Competition Commission; that he was "minded" to refer the matter to the Competition Commission; that News Corporation had asked him to consider undertakings in lieu; and that subject to those being satisfactory he would consult for a period of 15 days.
Shadow Culture, Media & Sport Secretary & Deputy Leader of the Labour Party