Wednesday 25 April 2012
**The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): **With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement following yesterday’s developments in the Leveson Inquiry.
Although I intend to respond fully to allegations about my conduct and that of my Department when I present my evidence to Lord Justice Leveson, I believe it is important to update the House on actions that have been taken as a result of evidence released yesterday.
We are 273 days into a process that’s early stages will last until October. This is not the time to jump on a political bandwagon. What the public want to hear and all colleagues want to hear is Lord Justice Leveson’s views after he has considered all the evidence.
I do however think it is right to set the record right on a number of issues in light of the evidence heard yesterday at the Inquiry.
Specifically on the merger of News Corp with BskyB I would like to remind the House of the process I followed. Throughout, I have strictly followed due process - seeking the advice of independent regulators- and after careful consideration, acting on their advice. I have published all advice that I have received from Ofcom and the Oft, together with correspondence between myself and News Corporation including details of all meetings I have held in relation to this process.
As part of this process, my officials and I have engaged with News Corporation and its representatives and well as other interested parties - both supporters and opponents of the merger.
Transcripts of conversations and texts published yesterday between my special adviser Adam Smith and a News Corporation representative have been alleged to indicate there was a back channel through which News Corporation were able to influence my decisions. That is categorically not the case.
However the volume and tone of those communications were clearly not appropriate in a quasi-judicial process and today Adam Smith has resigned as my special adviser.
Although Adam Smith accepts that he overstepped the mark on this occasion I want to set on record that I believe that he did so unintentionally and did not believe that he was doing anything more than giving advice on process. I believe him to be someone of integrity and decency and it is a matter of huge regret to me that this has happened.
I only saw the transcripts of these communications yesterday. They did not influence my decisions in any way at all - not least because I insisted on hearing the advice of independent regulators at every stage of the process.
I will give my full record of events when I give evidence to Lord Justice Leveson. However, I would like to resolve this issue as soon as possible which is why I have written to Lord Justice Leveson asking if my appearance can be brought forward.
I am totally confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness throughout.