Cameron has 'torn up rules' to keep Hunt

Labour accuses PM over ministerial code and says it will force vote in the Commons

Labour accused the Prime Minister of "tearing up" the ministerial code by backing Jeremy Hunt – and pledged yesterday to force a Commons vote over the beleaguered Culture Secretary's handling of Rupert Murdoch's bid for BSkyB.

Dismissing Downing Street's almost-instant statement of support for Mr Hunt following his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday, Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, challenged the all-clear given by David Cameron, maintaining the Culture Secretary had "evidently" misled Parliament and should resign.

In an interview with the BBC, Mrs Harman said that the PM's decision not to refer the bid's handling to Sir Alex Allen, the independent adviser on the ministerial code, was, "sweeping the whole thing under the carpet".

She was echoing a widespread belief on the opposition benches that Mr Hunt had twice misled the Commons and that his job was still on the line.

Senior Labour figures believe that regardless of Mr Cameron's public show of support, the "hunt for Hunt is not over" as one MP described it.

Key to their optimism is the now likely personal appearance of the Chancellor, George Osborne, at the Leveson Inquiry within the next fortnight. This may take place in the same week the Prime Minister is questioned.

The Culture Secretary previously told the Commons that "all the exchanges" between his department and News Corp had been published and that he had not interfered in the bid process before taking over responsibility for the BSkyB judgement from the Business Secretary, Vince Cable.

The content of emails and text exchanges revealed to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry suggested that assurance was not entirely accurate.

New evidence revealed that Mr Hunt texted the former News International chairman James Murdoch only hours before he took over from Dr Cable. He offered his congratulations on the European Commission's decision not to object to the Murdoch takeover bid. Hunt's text read: "Great. Congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go!"

Once Hunt's department had been handed the quasi-judicial role in judging the bid's acceptability, contact with James Murdoch continued.

Ms Harman told the BBC that the Leveson evidence showed Mr Hunt had breached the rules governing minister's conduct, saying: "As far as David Cameron is concerned, it is perfectly acceptable for his secretary of state to break the rules. But actually the ministerial code is important. It is not acceptable to us that these rules have been broken. So we are going to call a vote in the House of Commons."

She reminded Mr Cameron that when he came to power he had emphasised the importance of maintaining standards in public office and had upgraded the code's authority. By backing Mr Hunt, "he has just torn it up," she claimed. Labour is expected to use an opposition day debate on 14 June to attempt force a vote on Mr Hunt's conduct.

Ministerial code: The breaches

* Liam Fox

Resigned as Defence Secretary last year after it was established that his relationship with Adam Werritty, who had no official position but promoted himself as an adviser to Mr Fox and attended Ministry of Defence meetings with him, had been in breach of the code.

* Peter Hain

In 2006, the then Northern Ireland Secretary was found by Mr Justice Girvan in Belfast to have breached the terms of the ministerial code by appointing Bertha McDougall, the widow of a police officer murdered by republican terrorists, as a commissioner for the families of victims of The Troubles. The judge ruled that the appointment had been motivated by an "improper political purpose". Mr Hain continued in his post until 2007, when he became Work and Pensions Secretary.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable