Memo reveals Jeremy Hunt backed Murdoch's BSkyB bid

The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has come under renewed pressure after the press standards inquiry heard how he showed support for Rupert Murdoch's take over of BSkyB just weeks before he was given responsibility for it.

Jeremy Hunt being driven from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last month
Jeremy Hunt being driven from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last month Credit: Reuters

A memo warned that News Corp's James Murdoch was furious about Business Secretary Vince Cable's handling of the matter. It was dated November 19 2010 and expressed concerns that referring the bid to Ofcom could leave the Government "on the wrong side of media policy".

But Downing Street tried to play down its significance, It said Mr Hunt had already made supportive comments about the bid in press interviews earlier that year.

Jeremy Hunt's note is entirely consistent with his public statements on the BSkyB bid prior to taking on the quasi-judicial role. It also makes clear that 'it would be totally wrong for the Government to get involved in a competition issue which has to be decided at arm's length'. The PM has made clear throughout that he recused himself from decisions relating to BSkyB and did not seek to influence the process in any way.

– Downing Street statement

Labour says it shows that David Cameron knew only too well that the Culture Secretary was actively supporting the bid.

The Prime Minister should never have given him the job. It is clear that Jeremy Hunt was not the impartial arbiter he was required to be, and he should already have resigned.

– Harriet Harman, Labour deputy leader
Adam Smith arriving today to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry
Adam Smith arriving today to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry Credit: Reuters

The disclosure of the memo came as Mr Hunt's former special adviser, Adam Smith, gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

Mr Smith, who quit last month after admitting his contacts with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel had got too close, insisted he had not been given any specific instructions by Mr Hunt or civil servants on his role in the decision on BSkyB.