Labour calls on Hunt to publish emails
David Cameron has rejected calls for an independent adviser to investigate whether Jeremy Hunt broke the ministerial code in his handling of the News Corporation bid for BSkyB.
Number 10 confirmed today the Prime Minister had received a letter from Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, calling for potential breaches of the ministerial code to be investigated by the independent adviser.
But the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: "He has no plans to do that because he believes the Secretary of State acted properly." However this afternoon Downing Street refused to rule out a probe into whether the ministerial code was upheld once the Leveson Inquiry was concluded.
Labour has also called for Mr Hunt to publish emails he exchanged with his special adviser in relation to the bid. Ms Harman said the disclosure would back up Mr Hunt's assurances that he was not aware of contacts between Adam Smith, who resigned yesterday, and BSkyB bosses.
"I’m asking him to show and prove he didn’t know what his special adviser was doing," she told Sky News.
The DCMS has issued a statement this afternoon explaining the permanent secretary’s refusal to answer whether he had authorised Mr Smith’s role as a go-between to the Murdochs for the Department.
A DCMS spokesman said: “The Permanent Secretary did not feel it was appropriate to provide further information ahead of the department's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.” However the spokesman emphasised the permanent secretary “was content” with Mr Smith’s position but was unaware of the extent of his contact.
The Cabinet Office has said that the Cabinet Secretary and the Treasury Solicitor spoke to Lord Leveson about a possible inquiry. A statement put out by the department said the pair wanted to inform Lord Leveson that MPs were asking the Cabinet Secretary to investigate allegations being made against Jeremy Hunt "and to seek his views".
Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said the Independent adviser Sir Alex Allan should conduct "swift preliminary enquiries" to see if there is a case for Jeremy Hunt to answer.
"I have not had a chance to study this myself yet enough, but in a way it shouldn’t be a question for me it should be referred to Sir Alex Allan and he should decide whether there is a case to answer, that’s what should happen."
Earlier today, Ed Miliband seized on Mr Hunt's insistence that he will not stand down from his position as Culture Secretary, saying it "beggars belief".
Speaking to the Today programme this morning, the Labour leader said Mr Hunt was acting as a "firewall" protecting David Cameron and reiterated his calls for the Culture Secretary to step down.
He said: “It beggars belief that he is still in his job. Because to believe that he should stay, you have to believe that his special adviser acted as a sort of lone wolf who spent six months in collusion with News Corporation passing them information that was to be announced in the House of Commons, providing information about discussions with the regulator, providing information about what opposing parties were saying."
Downing Street has also sought to play down claims that Mr Cameron had met Rupert Murdoch on more occasions than he previously admitted, following Mr Murdoch's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
"We are confident that the list we have published is correct," said the spokesman. He added: "We do not seek to make a full record of everyone that the Prime Minister may bump into, exchange words with, shake the hands of."