Jeremy Hunt: 'I won't quit over BSkyB allegations'

Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt leaving the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Credit: Press Association

The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is defying calls to quit tonight after allegations he secretly backed News Corporation's bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Mr Hunt said he conducted the process with "scrupulous fairness" and has written to the Leveson Inquiry asking to be given an early date to give his side of the story in formal evidence.

The dramatic development came as the Leveson Inquiry released a 163-dossier of emails detailing contacts between the Culture Secretary's office and a senior executive at News Corp.

Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt Credit: Reuters

In a statement tonight Mr Hunt said:

Labour said documents showed that Mr Hunt failed to fulfil his quasi-judicial role in relation to the proposed takeover, which he had promised to carry out in a "fair and even-handed" way.

And they said that David Cameron also had questions to answer, after News Corp executive James Murdoch told the Inquiry that he and the Prime Minister had briefly discussed the BSkyB bid in December 2010 - days after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his decision-making power on the takeover.

Email from Frederic Michel email to James Murdoch discussing Jeremy Hunt Credit: Leveson Inquiry

Emails sent by a lobbyist for News Corp stated that Jeremy Hunt "shared our objectives" and one email said he had got hold of some information on what Hunt would say in his statement on the deal, although he added that this was "absolutely illegal".

The government's willingness last year to approve the controversial deal prompted critics to argue that David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt had been too close to the Murdochs.

After the hacking allegations snowballed, Cameron called on News Corp to withdraw the bid.

Extracts from the damaging emails have been published on the website of the Leveson Inquiry.

You can read more detail on the contact between Jeremy Hunt and James Murdoch's executive here.

Asked whether David Cameron still had full confidence in Mr Hunt, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters at a regular Westminster briefing: "Yes."