Chancellor in denial at Leveson Inquiry

 

George Osborne claimed he had no "strong view" on whether Rupert Murdoch's empire should have been allowed to expand further – but that he and David Cameron rushed to put the decision in the hands of Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, before taking legal advice.

The Chancellor also took responsibility for the hiring of Andy Coulson – since arrested – by the Conservative Party and later Downing Street.

George Osborne claimed he had no "strong view" on whether Rupert Murdoch's empire should have been allowed to expand further – but that he and David Cameron rushed to put the decision in the hands of Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, before taking legal advice. The Chancellor also took responsibility for the hiring of Andy Coulson – since arrested – by the Conservative Party and later Downing Street.

Mr Osborne told the Leveson Inquiry that he was merely "an external observer" of News Corp's £8bn bid, which he described as a "political inconvenience", and explicitly denied speaking to either Jeremy Hunt or Vince Cable about it.

In several hours of evidence, Mr

Osborne also said under oath that:

* It was the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who first proposed handing responsibility for the bid to another government department following Vince Cable's anti-Murdoch remarks. However, he admitted that he could not say with certainty that Sir Jeremy had specifically recommended handing the decision to Jeremy Hunt.

* The decision to give Mr Hunt responsibility for the bid was taken by Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne before they received legal advice on whether his previous vocal public support for the bid should rule him out of contention.

* He was repeatedly lobbied by James Murdoch over the BBC licence fee.

* He had asked Mr Coulson about the original hacking revelations about the News of the World which led to his resignation as editor, but added: "I guess I had assumed that because there had been a criminal court case there was nothing else."

Mr Osborne denied attending a private meeting in a chalet with the Murdochs in a Swiss ski resort months before the 2010 general election amid allegations that a deal had been done over the family's plans to take full control of BSkyB. He said the meeting had never taken place – but admitted there had been a meeting in a chalet the previous year. He denied that they talked about BSkyB.

Earlier in the day the former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown effectively accused Rupert Murdoch of lying when he strongly denied having told him he was "declaring war on him" after The Sun switched support to the Conservatives in 2009. "This conversation never took place," he said.

Mr Brown said that all his calls with Mr Murdoch while in office had been monitored by the Downing Street switchboard.

He released affidavits from Downing Street aides – who had been listening in on the call – to back up his claim he had not threatened Mr Murdoch.

A News Corp spokesman said later: "Rupert Murdoch stands behind his testimony."

Mr Brown also said that the former News Corp chief executive Rebekah Brooks had texted his wife, Sarah, questioning why one of his ministers, Tom Watson, who was critical of the Murdochs, should be allowed to continue to serve in the government.

Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
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

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband