1. ITV Report

PM insists no 'grand deal' between himself and Murdochs

David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show. Photo: BBC

David Cameron insisted there was no "grand deal" between himself and the Murdochs to approve News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB.

The Prime Minister admitted that some of his contacts with Rupert Murdoch's media empire were embarrassing and that he might have "done things differently", on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

He maintained, however, it was "not true" there was any agreement that in return for the Murdochs' support of the Government he would help their business interests or allow the BSkyB merger to go through.

It would be absolutely wrong for there to be any sort of deal and there wasn't.

There was no grand deal.

The Prime Minister also offered support for his under-fire Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is facing calls for his resignation over his handling of the BSkyB deal.

As things stand, I don't believe Jeremy Hunt broke the ministerial code.

Mr Cameron did admit to discussing matters with News Corp executive James Murdoch at a Christmas party in the Oxfordshire home of then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

Asked whether he was embarrassed that he was even at the party, Mr Cameron said:

Clearly, after all that's been written and said about it, yes of course one might do things differently.

The Prime Minister said he did not recall the exact details of his conversation with Mr Murdoch but that it concerned the controversy over Business Secretary Vince Cable's comments that he had "declared war" on News Corporation.

What I recall saying, although I can't remember every detail of the conversation, is saying something like: clearly that was unacceptable, it was embarrassing for the Government, and to be clear from now on this whole issue would be dealt with impartially, properly, in the correct way, but obviously I had nothing to do with it, I recused myself from it.

Mr Cameron said it would be "wrong" to sack Mr Hunt because his special adviser Adam Smith - who quit on Wednesday as the row grew - had been "too close" to the Murdoch empire and "acted inappropriately".

There's absolutely no doubt that the contact between the special adviser in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and News International, that was too close, too frequent and that's why there special adviser resigned, and that was the right thing to do.

I don't think it would be right in every circumstance if a special advisers gets something wrong to automatically sack the minister.

The Prime Minister went onto back beleaguered Mr Hunt, saying, "he does a good job".

Jeremy Hunt has been backed by the Prime Minister. Credit: REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Mr Cameron also admitted that he courted Murdoch newspapers in opposition, but said it was "no great mystery" as he had tried to win over many media outlets.

The thing that people are asking is was there some big deal, some big agreement between me and Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch that in return for support for the Conservative Party I would somehow help their business interests or allow this merger to go through.

That is not true. Rupert Murdoch said it under oath at the Leveson Inquiry, James Murdoch said it under oath, I will say it under oath.

I did want the support of as many newspapers and television commentators for the Conservative Party because I wanted to take the country in a different direction.

When it comes to the Murdoch newspapers, I was trying to convince a set of newspapers with largely centre-right, conservative views anyway, that they would be better off with the Conservative Party running the country.

There is no great mystery here - that is what I was trying to do.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls accused Mr Cameron of ducking an inquiry into Mr Hunt because he was afraid of the scrutiny of his own dealings with News Corporation.

Ed Balls. Credit: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Balls said:

The Prime Minister is refusing to investigate whether the ministerial code was broken and the code is very clear.

If there is an allegation and a doubt - and there is because Jeremy Hunt clearly misled Parliament on information, he was clearly a party to this bid when he should have been objective - the code says the Prime Minister will refer this, it should go to Alex Allan, it should be investigated now.

I'm afraid the Prime Minister is trying to brush this away. He's trying to push it into Leveson, because he's afraid of scrutiny and he knows the allegation of side deals with News International is about Jeremy Hunt and the Prime Minister himself.

That is the charge.

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