Vince Cable's Murdoch gaffe cost £300,000

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Vince Cable's gaffe about having "declared war" on media tycoon Rupert Murdoch over his bid to take over BSkyB has cost taxpayers £300,000, it was revealed today.

The Business Secretary was stripped of responsibility for media competition issues in December after his comments were recorded by undercover reporters posing as constituents.

His duties were handed over to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who last month gave Mr Murdoch's News Corporation more time to make its case before he decides whether to call in the Competition Commission.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from the BBC, the Government today revealed that it will cost £300,000 to move civil servants dealing with the bid from Mr Cable's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to Mr Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

IT changes will cost an estimated £280,000 and moving staff and materials £20,000.

A spokesman said: "Responsibility for all competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors has been transferred from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

"The transfer of staff and associated resources is being handled as cost effectively as possible."

But shadow business secretary John Denham said: "£300,000 of public money is being spent for no other reason than to media-manage the fact that Vince Cable is incapable of running his own department."

News Corp already owns 39% of BSkyB and announced last year that it wants to buy the remainder of the broadcaster. The bid has sparked protests from some other media organisations, which argue that it would give Mr Murdoch's companies an excessive share of the UK market.

Mr Cable's impartiality as an arbiter on whether the bid would breach competition rules was thrown into question when undercover Daily Telegraph reporters recorded him saying: "I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."