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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home