Cameron defends Hunt as hacking scandal grows
LONDON — British prime minister David Cameron has said there is no evidence that his media minister acted improperly over News Corp.’s proposed takeover of U.K pay box BSkyB, scuttled by the phone-hacking scandal at the conglom’s tabloid newspapers.
Cameron was forced back to the U.K. parliament on Monday to defend Jeremy Hunt after it emerged last week at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics that Hunt’s special adviser, Adam Smith, had given privileged information to BSkyB regarding Hunt’s thinking on the deal, which looked likely to be approved.
His support comes as a separate parliamentary committee is set to issue its report into the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.’s now- defunct News of the World on Tuesday.
Smith has resigned, but Hunt — regarded as a potential successor to Cameron before these revelations — is attempting to save his job.
“I have seen no evidence to suggest that, in handling this issue, the Secretary of State acted at any stage in a way that was contrary to the ministerial code,” Cameron said.
On Sunday he told the BBC it wasn’t true that “there was some big agreement” with News Corp. toppers Rupert and James Murdoch to support their acquisition of BSkyB in return for their U.K. newspapers backing his Conservative party in an election.
“Rupert Murdoch said it under oath at the Leveson inquiry, James Murdoch said it under oath, I’ll say it under oath. … There was no grand deal.”
Cameron had employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor and was a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, ex-CEO of News Corp. newspaper arm, News Intl.
Both Coulson and Brooks have resigned over the phone hacking and police corruption scandals and been questioned by the police.
The prime minister’s comments came as a parliamentary committee prepares to publish its report into the saga.
The report is expected to be highly critical of James Murdoch, who recently resigned as chairman of BSkyB, and his father, who both gave evidence to pols last July.
Last week Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry, chaired by Brian Leveson, Lord Justice of Appeal for England and Wales, that he never asks or expects to receive favors from politicians.