UK Politics

Vince Cable's Murdoch gaffe 'to cost £300,000'

Vince Cable
Image caption Vince Cable made comments about Rupert Murdoch to undercover reporters

It will cost £300,000 to move civil servants dealing with media policy and competition, after Vince Cable's comments about Rupert Murdoch.

The BBC has learned IT changes will cost an estimated £280,000 and moving staff and materials £20,000.

The business secretary was stripped of his role overseeing media competition issues after being recorded saying he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is taking on those responsibilities.

Two full-time members of staff have been organising the move from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The figures were given to the BBC following a Freedom of Information request. The government said the estimated total cost was £300,000.

A spokesman said: "Responsibility for all competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors has been transferred from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

"The transfer of staff and associated resources is being handled as cost effectively as possible."

'Great damage'

Mr Cable was secretly recorded by undercover Daily Telegraph reporters in December saying: "I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."

The Telegraph published some comments made by Mr Cable, but not those about Mr Murdoch - which were then leaked to the BBC's business editor Robert Peston.

The recording was part of a series of stories the newspaper ran after secretly recording Lib Dem MPs talking about the coalition government to people they thought were constituents.

Mr Cable said afterwards he was angry at the newspaper, which he said had undermined the work of MPs and had done "great damage".

He said he regretted the comments about Mr Murdoch and apologised for "the embarrassment that I have caused the government".

Downing Street announced he would remain business secretary, but would lose responsibility for media competition and policy issues after the "totally unacceptable and inappropriate" comments.

Lib Dem President Tim Farron asked the Press Complaints Commission to investigate - the PCC is doing so, having been contacted by 200 people over the story. The Telegraph says it stuck to the editors' code of practice and argues the story was in the public interest.

Meanwhile Culture Secretary Mr Hunt has given News Corp more time to make alterations to their bid for full control of BSkyB after the media watchdog Ofcom recommended it be referred to the Competition Commission.

The revelation of the cost of restructuring Mr Cable's department was seized on by Labour.

Shadow business secretary John Denham said: "£300,000 of public money is being spent for no other reason than to media manage the fact that Vince Cable is incapable of running his own department."

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