1. ITV Report

Vince Cable claims of 'veiled threats' over BSkyB bid

The Business Secretary has claimed to the Leveson Inquiry that he was told by a colleague that senior News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel made "veiled threats" that if he did not approve the BSkyB takeover the the Liberal Democrats would be "done over" by its newspapers.

Speaking at the Leveson Inquiry, Vince Cable refused to reveal the identity of the colleague which whom the alleged conversation with the lobbyist had taken place.

He also said he had not taken a note of the date of the meeting at which he heard about the alleged threat, and did not know when the conversation with Mr Michel had taken place.

Fred Michel Credit: Reuters

Rhodri Davies, counsel for News International said that Mr Cable's secrecy over his claims of a "veiled threat" to the Liberal Democrats, made it difficult for the media group or Mr Michel to respond to the allegation.

Mr Cable replied:

I am not trying to build a case against Mr Michel, I am merely explaining how I reacted (to the undercover Telegraph reporters).

I am trying to explain the context in which I made my own comments, in a private and confidential conversation, and what it was that had made me seriously disturbed about the way News International was operating.

Earlier, Mr Cable had faced questions about his witness statement and the "War on Murdoch" comments made to two undercover Daily Telegraph reporters on the 21 December 2010.

The unguarded remarks led to him being stripped of his responsibilities for the media and the handover of quasi-judicial oversight over the bid to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Cable said his comments had been influenced by two factors, the first being a "near riot" outside his constituency office at the time and a feeling that he and other Liberal Democrat members were "under siege from News Corporation".

He said: "I was struggling to keep my temper in this situation. I was in an extremely tense and emotional frame of mind."

ITV News' Political Editor Tom Bradby reports on Vince Cable's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry:

Earlier, Mr Cable had told the inquiry that he had personal concerns about the mounting influence of the Murdoch empire, but insisted they had not affected his decision.

He said: "I believed that the Murdochs' influence, exercised through their newspapers, had become disproportionate".

Challenged as to whether this was a factor in his decision to refer the takeover bid, he replied: "It most definitely was not. This was not a factor in my decision."

Responding to Mr Cable's evidence, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said:

This was a bid of huge importance for the media landscape, worth £8billion, and Vince Cable was supposed to be dealing with it with the utmost professionalism and impartiality.

Instead, he showed a degree of indiscretion and incompetence such that the decision had to be taken from him.

On a bid of huge importance for which his department had responsibility, he mishandled it.

Kenneth Clarke

This afternoon it was the turn of the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke to take to the stand.

The Justice Secretary spoke of the "obsession" of recent governments with newspaper headlines and warned it could lead to administrations making "stupid decisions".

He told the Leveson Inquiry:

Twenty-first century governments have been obsessed by newspapers and totally exaggerated the importance of the 24-hour-a- day interaction with what the newspapers are saying and writing about the government.

When taken to excess, this terror of the tabloids and this subservience to the media doesn't give any success to the politician who does it.

You may win some temporary praise but you make stupid decisions in government and they turn on you eventually when it all starts to mount

More on this story