Top civil servant Jonathan Stephens to face Leveson Inquiry


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The Independent Online

A senior civil servant at the heart of the controversy over links between News Corporation and the office of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on Friday, it was announced today.

Jonathan Stephens, the permanent secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is certain to face questions over the contacts between Mr Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith and News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel during the media company's sensitive bid for BSkyB.

Mr Stephens was dragged into the row when Mr Hunt repeatedly told MPs on April 25 that his top civil servant had "approved" the arrangements for maintaining a line of communication with News Corp at a time when the Culture Secretary had quasi-judicial oversight of the bid.

The permanent secretary repeatedly declined to say whether he had approved the arrangement when he subsequently appeared before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, instead saying in a later letter that he was "aware and content" of Mr Smith's involvement.

Mr Smith resigned over the matter, saying he "went too far" in his dealings with Mr Michel. Mr Smith and Mr Michel will give evidence to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media standards on Thursday.