Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has come under renewed pressure following the publication by the Leveson Inquiry of a memo in which he made private representations to the Prime Minister supporting News Corporation’s bid to take over BSkyB.
The document, sent just weeks before Mr Hunt was put in charge of dealing with the bid, warned that News Corp’s James Murdoch was “furious” about Business Secretary Vince Cable’s handling of the matter.
The note, written on November 19, 2010, to David Cameron expressed concerns that referring the bid to Ofcom could leave the Government “on the wrong side of media policy”.
Downing Street played down its significance, pointing out the memo was “entirely consistent” with Mr Hunt’s public views.
But Labour say Mr Hunt was not an “impartial arbiter” on the deal, and that he should resign.
Mr Hunt wrote his “fortnightly update” for the premier a few days after speaking by phone with James Murdoch about Mr Cable’s decision to call in communications regulator Ofcom to look at the News Corp bid to buy the 61 per cent of the satellite broadcaster which it did not already own.
The dramatic disclosure of the memo came as Mr Hunt’s former special adviser, Adam Smith, gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry into media standards.
Mr Smith, who quit last month after admitting his contacts with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel had got too close, insisted he had not been given any specific instructions by Mr Hunt or civil servants with regard to BSkyB.
He said he assumed he should be “managing relationships” with interested parties – but conceded that his only communications were with News Corp.