Cameron backs minster over BSkyB


BRITISH PRIME Minister David Cameron said he doesn not believe Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt breached ministerial rules after an aide was forced to quit for leaking information to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Mr Cameron said the truth will be revealed when Mr Hunt testifies next month to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and that there is no need for a separate probe, as demanded by the Labour Party and at least one Tory MP.

Mr Hunt’s adviser, Adam Smith, resigned last week after emails showed he offered inside information on the ministers views to a News Corp. lobbyist when the minister was deciding last year whether to approve its takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

“I dont believe there is any better process than an inquiry led by a judge where people give evidence under oath,” Mr Cameron told the BBC yesterday. “It would not be right to set up some parallel investigation.”

The Hunt affair is the latest embarrassment for a government thats been beset by bad publicity for more than a month since the budget which penalised pensioners while cutting the top income-tax rate. A return to recession have helped push support for the Conservatives to an eight-year low, according to the latest poll.

“As things stand, I don’t believe that Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code,” the premier said. “If information arises that paints a different picture from the one weve heard, then obviously I know my responsibilities.”

He said Mr Hunt is doing an “excellent job”. Even so, one of Cameron’s MPs, Peter Bone, rejected that stance and called for a separate inquiry.

However Labour criticised Mr Hunt, claiming he had “breached the ministerial code in many, many ways”. Deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “Even more seriously than that, when he was responsible for acting quasi-judicially on a hugely important takeover bid of £8 billion he did not act impartially.”

Ms Harman said Mr Cameron was himself breaking the ministerial code by not investigating.

The prime minister defended his dealings with News Corp. following a week in which Rupert Murdoch, the companys chairman and chief executive officer, and his son James testified to the Leveson Inquiry about the BSkyB bid, the phone-hacking scandal and their links with politicians.

“I never had any inappropriate conversations with anyone about this,” he said.

- (Bloomberg)