Downing Street has indicated that it will not pre-empt the Leveson inquiry by investigating the Culture Secretary’s role in the News Corp takeover of BSkyB.
The government is keen to avoid calling a private inquiry that will, in the words of Tory deputy chairman Michael Fallon, ‘cut across’ the judicial inquiry. Hunt will appear under oath
next month to lay out all evidence pertaining to the takeover, including all emails and texts sent to his then special advisor, Adam Smith. A Downing Street spokesman said that the Prime Minister
‘will of course’ act if Hunt’s evidence suggests he was in breach of the ministerial code.
Downing Street has moved after the Leveson inquiry rebuffed its plans regarding Jeremy Hunt. But the fact
remains that Leveson will not be ruling on whether Mr Hunt breached the ministerial code. This afternoon’s intervention changes nothing in that respect.
Hunt’s defence, expressed in his Commons statement, is twofold. First,
Adam Smith was acting without Hunt’s knowledge and unintentionally overstepped the mark of what was appropriate. Second, that Hunt’s own decisions on the takeover, which are already public
knowledge, went against News Corp.
Against Hunt is the fact that the ministerial code clearly
‘The responsibility for the management and conduct of special advisers, including discipline, rests with the Minister who made the appointment.’