Jonathan Stephens
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Stephens refuses to answer questions for 10 minutes

A senior civil servant has refused at least 10 times to answer questions about his role in the row over Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and News Corporation.

Permanent Secretary Jonathan Stephens was quizzed by MPs on the public accounts committee about whether he approved the role of Adam Smith, who resigned yesterday as Mr Hunt's special adviser.

Mr Stephens said that Mr Smith had yesterday issued a clear statement that the nature and content of the contacts had not been authorised by Mr Hunt or by him.

However, several MPs on the cross-party committee accused him of failing to answer their questions.

"These are very important matters, rightly the subject of interest in parliament. That's what the Secretary of State made a full statement to parliament yesterday. That's why he wants to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry," said Mr Stephens.

He said he had been given no notice of the questions, which came at the start of a session about Olympic costs.

The chair of the committee, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge, said: "It astonishes me that you approved the role of a special adviser to carry out communication between the dept and the Murdoch empire when the department and the Secretary of State was acting in this quasi-judicial capacity".

  • 26 Apr 2012
  • From the section UK
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