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Murdoch fallout: Top UK minister's aide quits

April 25, 2012 18:36 IST
An aide of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday resigned following the publication of a large number of emails that reflected proximity between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Hunt's office on the issue of pay-television giant BSkyB's takeover bid.

Hunt resisted pressure to resign by stating in the House of Commons that he "strictly followed due process" in the way he handled the bid, and claimed that it was "categorically" not true that he acted as a "back channel" for the company rather than being impartial. His special adviser Adam Smith quit over contact with the firm that he said "went too far".

The string of emails released on Tuesday by the inquiry suggested there was a steady flow of information from the culture secretary's office to News Corp advisers from June 2010 onwards. The takeover bid was withdrawn under intense pressure in the wake of the phone-hacking row.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he had full faith in Hunt, and insisted that the final decision on Hunt's dealing on the takeover bid was for Justice Leveson to make and not for the opposition Labour party.

Hunt has asked to appear before the Leveson Inquiry at an early date to present his side of the controversy, but Labour's Harriet Harman insisted that he was "not judging this bid, he was backing this bid and therefore should resign".

During the prime minister's questions, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Hunt of "colluding with News Corp to provide them with information in advance" and "hatching a plan" to make sure it would be "game over" for opponents of the takeover bid. He also accused Hunt of "not being straight with this House of Commons", by not publishing the emails earlier. He said if Cameron "can't defend the conduct of his own ministers, his ministers should be out of the door, he should fire them".

However, Cameron said it would be wrong to "pre-judge" the Leveson Inquiry and accused Miliband of not being able to resist "the passing political bandwagon".

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