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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
New Articles
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
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

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all