Jeremy Hunt’s secret bid memo on BSkyB to David Cameron
Rupert Murdoch’s battle to buy BSkyB has moved closer to David Cameron last night after new evidence has come to light which has undermined the Prime Minister’s claim that the government was even-handed in deciding on the £8bn deal.
On Thursday at the Leveson enquiry a memo was shown as evidence. The memo was to the Prime Minister from James Hunt, the Culture Secretary, who was given responsibility for deciding whether Murdoch’s News Corporation would be allowed to buy publicly-owned shares. The memo warned that News Corp’s James Murdoch was “furious” about the Business Secretary’s handling of the matter.
The memo went on to say Ofcom could leave the Government “on the wrong side of media policy,” and said it would be “totally wrong” for minsters to “cave in” to News Corp’s opponents.
Yet Jeremy Hunt was accused on Thursday night of misleading Parliament after it emerged that he wrote a private memo to the PM supporting News Corporation buy-out of BSkyB, a month before he was put in charge.
Hunt was given the role and responsibility of Business Secretary following Vince Cable’s removal from the role, after Cable made comments to undercover reporters.
Even though Cameron was aware that Hunt was in favour of the bid for News Corp to buy BSkyB, Cameron at the time was said to be under pressure from the Liberal Democrats. He was pressured to find a more impartial figure.
Harriet Harman, Labour Deputy Leader, said “It is clear from today’s evidence that David Cameron gave responsibility to Jeremy Hunt for deciding on BSkyB bid when he knew only too well that the Culture Secretary was actively supporting the bid.”
Harman added: “The Prime Minster should ever have given him the job. It is clear that Jeremy Hunt for deciding on BSkyB bid when he knew only too well that the Culture Secretary was actively supporting the bid.”
Prime Minster, David Cameron, said “The key was it wasn’t what he said in the past, it was how he was going to do the job. He did act impartially because he took independent advice at every stage and he followed the independent advice at every stage.”
Sir Gus O’Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, had not been shown the memo. O’Donnell would have been able to provide legal advice on whether James Hunt could handle the BSkyB decision with an impartial manner.
No date has been set for the Prime Minster to appear at the Leveson inquiry. The PM said he was “looking forward to giving evidence, so all of this will be out in the open”.