David Cameron defends Jeremy Hunt BSkyB responsibility

 

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended giving Jeremy Hunt responsibility for the decision on News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB.

Mr Hunt sent a memo to the Prime Minister arguing the case for the bid just weeks before being given the role but Mr Cameron insisted he acted "impartially" once he was responsible for the decision.

Mr Cameron said: "I don't regret giving the job to Jeremy Hunt, it was the right thing to do in the circumstances, which were not of my making."

Mr Hunt was given the role after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the responsibility over comments made to undercover reporters.

The Prime Minster told ITV's This Morning: "The crucial point, the really crucial point, is did Jeremy Hunt carry out his role properly with respect to BSkyB and I believe that he did."

Documents submitted to the Leveson Inquiry revealed that Mr Hunt sent a memo to the Prime Minister warning that Mr Cable's decision to refer the bid to regulator Ofcom could leave the Government "on the wrong side of media policy".

In the November 2010 memo, Mr Hunt, who will appear before the inquiry next week, warned that News Corp's James Murdoch was "pretty furious" over the Ofcom referral for the company's offer to buy the 61% share of the satellite broadcaster which it did not already own.

Mr Cameron said shifting responsibility for the decision to Mr Hunt was the "simplest, easiest, simplest path".

He said Mr Hunt's comments in public over BSkyB had been "more effusive" than the memo sent to him.

"The key thing was it wasn't what he had said in the past, it was how he was going to do the job."

Mr Cameron added: "He did act impartially because he took independent advice at every stage and he followed the independent advice at every stage."

He said then-Cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell had been consulted over the role and taken legal advice - but had not been shown the memo.

"He didn't know about that email but he was in possession of what Jeremy Hunt had said publicly which was more effusive, more powerful."

No date has been set for the Prime Minister's appearance at the inquiry, but he said he was "looking forward to giving evidence", as was Mr Hunt, so "all of this will be out in the open".

Mr Cameron said: "Some people are saying there was some great conspiracy between me and Rupert Murdoch to do some big deal to back them in return for support.

"Rupert Murdoch has said that's not true, James Murdoch has said that's not true, I have said that's not true. There was no great conspiracy.

"As I have said, I think the whole relationship between politicians on the one hand and the press on the other got too close.

"There are lessons to learn, we are already learning those with far more transparency about contacts between press and politicians.

"No government has done that before, but I'm pleased my government is doing it."

PA

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