Cameron 'using Leveson as a smokescreen'


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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister was dragged to the Commons to face a grilling on why he still refuses to allow an inquiry into whether his Culture Secretary broke ministerial rules over the BSkyB deal.

Downing Street was angered after David Cameron was forced to cancel an election visit to Milton Keynes. Facing criticism that he was using Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry as a "smokescreen" to avoid a full investigation into the conduct of Jeremy Hunt, an irate Mr Cameron admitted that Lord Leveson did not have the power to adjudicate on breaches of the Ministerial Code. The Prime Minister declined to act now and said he would wait until Mr Hunt had given evidence to the inquiry, rather than order his own probe.

Mr Miliband claimed that the Culture Secretary had committed three breaches of the Ministerial Code and the only reason he was still in a job was that Mr Cameron needed the cabinet minister to survive for his own protection. "The Prime Minister is defending the indefensible and he knows it," he said. Mr Hunt had told MPs he had published all the exchanges between his department and News Corp but, Mr Miliband said, "he has now admitted that he knew when he gave that answer that there were exchanges he himself authorised between his special adviser and News Corporation". The second accusation was the leaking of "confidential inside information" ahead of a parliamentary statement.

The third alleged breach was over taking responsibility for the action of Adam Smith, the Labour leader said. "The Culture Secretary would have us believe that his special adviser was on a freelance mission. Is the Prime Minister really reduced to the News of the World defence: one rogue individual acting alone?"

Mr Cameron said the reason he had not referred Mr Hunt to his independent adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, was that he felt it was better dealt with by Leveson. He also took a swipe at his own Business Secretary, Vince Cable, criticised the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge and suggested Labour MP Dennis Skinner should retire.