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
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'