Labour piles on pressure for Hunt investigation

PM puts Hunt 'on probation' ahead of Leveson evidence

Labour will today demand that David Cameron comes to the Commons to explain to MPs why he is refusing to investigate Jeremy Hunt under the ministerial code of conduct.

In an interview yesterday the Prime Minister effectively put his Culture Secretary "on probation" ahead of his evidence to Lord Justice Leveson. But he still refused to launch a separate investigation into whether Mr Hunt had breached ministerial rules, despite calls from across the political spectrum for him to do so. Today Labour will ask Mr Cameron to come to Parliament to explain why he is not enforcing his own code. If he refuses, they can ask the Speaker for an urgent question, which would call him to the House.

In an apparent change of tack following days of negative publicity, the Prime Minister made clear he would not wait for the Leveson Inquiry to report before deciding whether Mr Hunt had broken ministerial rules. But Labour said that did not go far enough and accused him of "hiding behind" the inquiry.

"With Parliament breaking up on Tuesday Mr Cameron must come to the Commons to explain to the British people why he is ducking his responsibilities to enforce the ministerial code," a source said.

The party also renewed its attack on Rupert Murdoch suggesting that it no longer believed the company could be considered "fit and proper" to hold the BSkyB broadcast licence.

"He's not a fit and proper person because of what went on in his organisation – widespread criminality," said Labour's shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman. Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron said that he accepted that determining whether Mr Hunt had breached the Ministerial Code was a matter for him and not the Leveson Inquiry. But he said he would not make that decision until Mr Hunt had had a chance to put his case to the judge.

A date has not yet been set for Mr Hunt's appearance, but politicians will not be called until mid-May.

Mr Cameron said: "Jeremy Hunt... will be giving evidence under oath, will be questioned under oath, and if information arises that paints a different picture from the one that we've heard then obviously, I know my responsibilities towards the Ministerial Code and towards how ministers behave and I would act. As things stand, I don't believe Jeremy Hunt breached the Ministerial Code. If evidence comes out... [that] he did breach the code then clearly that's a different issue. I'm not trying to duck any of my responsibilities."

He also admitted for the first time that he had discussed News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB with James Murdoch while the Government was deciding whether to approve it at a Christmas party in 2010 at the Oxfordshire home of Rebekah Brooks, the former News International (NI) chief executive.

But he insisted there had been no "grand deal" with Rupert Murdoch's media empire to wave through the takeover in return for support from News International newspapers.

Asked whether he was embarrassed that he was even at the party, Mr Cameron said: "Clearly, after all that's been written and said about it, yes of course one might do things differently."

He said he did not recall the exact details of his conversation with Mr Murdoch but that it concerned the recent controversy over Business Secretary Vince Cable's comments that he had "declared war" on News Corporation.

"What I recall saying... is something like: clearly that was unacceptable, it was embarrassing for the Government, and to be clear, from now on this whole issue would be dealt with impartially, properly, in the correct way, but obviously I had nothing to do with it, I recused myself from it."

It also emerged yesterday that Ms Brooks, who is under investigation over her role in the phone-hacking affair, is said to be ready to disclose any text messages and emails between herself and Mr Cameron to the Leveson Inquiry.

It is understood that Ms Brooks was served with a "section 21" notice weeks ago requiring her to give evidence to the inquiry and hand over all relevant documentation. News Corp appeared to set a precedent last week by releasing texts from Mr Hunt to the firm's lobbyist, Frédéric Michel.

While Ms Brooks was head of NI, she was in regular contact with Mr Cameron by text and the content may be embarrassing to the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron admitted yesterday he had courted Mr Murdoch's newspapers, but said it was "no great mystery" as he tried to win over many media outlets.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
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
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz