Danger looms for David Cameron as Commons set to vote on Jeremy Hunt


Oliver Wright
Tuesday 05 June 2012 08:50 BST
David Cameron on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, which was pre-recorded in the garden of 10 Downing Street
David Cameron on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, which was pre-recorded in the garden of 10 Downing Street (Reuters)

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David Cameron launched an impassioned defence of Jeremy Hunt yesterday ahead of a parliamentary motion calling for the embattled Culture Secretary to be investigated for breaking the Ministerial Code.

Some senior Liberal Democrat MPs are expected to vote with Labour on Wednesday next week to recommend that Mr Hunt faces censure of his handling of News Corp's £8bn bid for BSkyB.

But Mr Cameron threw his full support behind Mr Hunt insisting the Culture Secretary acted "wisely and fairly" and had given "a good account of himself" at the Leveson Inquiry.

Mr Cameron is due to give evidence to the inquiry next week, and will face questions about why he handed Mr Hunt the job of deciding on the take-over when it was clear from private emails and texts that he was an enthusiastic backer of the bid.

Mr Cameron insisted he had acted entirely properly. "The advice I was given was that what mattered was not what Jeremy Hunt had said publicly or privately but how he was going to conduct himself during the bid," he told the BBC. "That's how I think we should judge him: did he adjudicate this bid wisely and fairly?

"And he did. He took legal advice at every stage, and he followed that legal advice and he did many things that were not in the interests of the Murdochs or BSkyB and that side of things."

Mr Cameron said he had "looked carefully" at pro-Murdoch public statements made by Mr Hunt and taken legal advice before transferring bid responsibility to him from Vince Cable.

Mr Cameron also said Mr Hunt was "the right person" to remain in charge of the London 2012 Olympics but side-stepped the question of whether he would remain in post after that.

Labour is to use its Opposition Day debate on 13 June to demand that an inquiry into Mr Hunt's actions is launched by Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister's adviser on the Ministerial Code. In a move that puts further pressure on Mr Cameron, the Liberal Democrats indicated that their MPs may be free to vote with Labour. "No decision has been taken about the Opposition Day motion," a spokesman said. "It is a matter for the Prime Minister to decide how to handle issues of discipline concerning Conservative ministers."

One Liberal Democrat MP, Adrian Sanders, said: "The public will accept the verdict from the person who is supposed to investigate these issues far more readily than it will the verdict of the Prime Minister. What is the point of having an adviser on the Ministerial Code if you never use him?"

In his interview on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron also defended his Government's handling of the economy after a string of U-turns announced over the last few days.

The Prime Minister said it took courage for an administration to admit it was "ploughing into the brick wall" and change course on high-profile policies. "Nobody thinks this Government lacks resolve, strength and grit.

"It has all of those things and it also has the courage to say 'Look, if we've got something wrong, let's change it."

He added: "There have been difficulties in the Budget and we've had to make some changes."

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