Prime Minister David Cameron was made aware of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s support for News Corp’s BSkyB takeover bid just a month before he was given responsibility to oversee the bid.
In a document shown to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics on Thursday, Hunt is shown to have told Cameron not to accept the advice of the business secretary Vince Cable to block the bid. The ‘quasi-judicial’ responsibility for the bid was later removed from Cable and given to Hunt following a newspaper sting by the Daily Telegraph.
The opposition Labout party is demanding to know why Cameron placed Hunt in charge of the bid when his opiniton was already widely known. Downing Street is insisting that the memo was consistent with Hunt’s publicly stated views.
The memo to Cameron was drafted by Hunt and his aide Adam Smith using Gmail accounts rather than the Government email system.
It also suggests that Hunt was aware of a plan that would have seen a merger between News Corp’s print, internet and TV interests in the UK.
Hunt is already under pressure to resign following accusations of the closeness of his relationship with Fréderic Michel.
The bid was strongly opposed by the BBC, Channel 4 and the majority of the UK’s other newspaper publishers.
It was withdrawn in July 2011 in the wake of the News of the World phonehacking scandal.