UK Politics

Jeremy Hunt 'acted wisely' over BSkyB bid, says Cameron

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Media captionDavid Cameron says Jeremy Hunt acted "wisely and fairly"

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt "acted wisely" in his handling of the BSkyB takeover bid, David Cameron has said.

The PM said he had sought advice from the cabinet secretary before deciding to give responsibility for the bid by News Corp to the culture secretary.

Mr Hunt took on the role in 2010 after Business Secretary Vince Cable said he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.

Before taking responsibility for the bid Mr Hunt had publicly expressed his support for it.

Labour want Mr Hunt to be investigated for breaching the ministerial code, following the publication of correspondence between Mr Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, who later resigned, and News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel.

The party claims Mr Hunt misled parliament by telling MPs in March all correspondence with News Corp had been published.

Mr Hunt, Mr Michel and Mr Smith have all appeared before the Leveson Inquiry.

The culture secretary told the inquiry he had been "sympathetic" to the BSkyB bid, but had "set aside" his views when given responsibility for it.

Shortly after Mr Hunt had finished giving evidence to the inquiry on Thursday, Downing Street confirmed the prime minister would not refer the case to Sir Alex Allen, his adviser on the ministerial code.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron said the culture secretary had given "a good account of himself" to the Leveson Inquiry and to Parliament.

'Resolve, strength and grit'

"The advice I was given was that what mattered was not what Jeremy Hunt had said publicly or privately but how he was going to conduct himself during the bid," he said.

"That's how I think we should judge him: did he adjudicate this bid wisely and fairly?

"And he did. He took legal advice at every stage, and he followed that legal advice and he did many things that were not in the interests of the Murdochs or BSkyB and that side of things."

Before transferring responsibility for the bid to Mr Hunt, the prime minister said he had taken advice from the cabinet secretary, who himself had taken legal advice on the matter.

Labour has said it intends to use its next scheduled day of debate in the Commons, 13 June, to ask MPs to vote on whether Mr Hunt should be investigated.

The Liberal Democrats said no decision had been taken on how its MPs would be asked to vote but Lib Dem MPs Adrian Sanders, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and Lorely Burt told The Observer they supported a probe.

Mr Cameron also insisted the government had "resolve, strength and grit" as he defended a number of Budget U-turns.

In the past week the government has made three U-turns on measures announced in the Budget in March - the so-called "pasty tax" , charging a full rate of VAT on static caravans and limiting tax relief on charitable giving .

'Extremely devoted'

Mr Cameron said it took courage for an administration to admit it was "ploughing into the brick wall" and change course.

"When you've got something wrong there are two things you can do about it. You can plough on regardless or you can say 'no', we're going to listen and we're going to change it and we're going to get it right and that's what we've done."

Labour accused the prime minister of not listening on the economy, saying George Osborne's plan had failed and a change of course was desperately needed.

Asked about his relationship with the Queen, who is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee weekend, Mr Cameron said he had found his weekly meetings with her of "huge benefit" and paid tribute to her as an "extremely devoted public servant".

"I think that she, in pursuing her duties, has been 100% dedicated, professional. It's hard to think of ever her putting a foot wrong. And you get the sense with her that she will go on doing the amazing job she's been doing for this country as long as she possibly can and you never see any sign of her devotion getting any less," he said.