As it happened: Jeremy Hunt testifies at Leveson Inquiry

Key points

  • Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has spent about six hours giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.
  • Mr Hunt has defended his handling of News Corp's bid to take over BSkyB, saying he had been sympathetic to the deal but set this aside when made responsible for ruling on it.
  • Following Mr Hunt's testimony, Downing Street has announced that he had "acted properly" and the PM would "not be referring his case to the adviser on the ministerial code".

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  1.  
    0948:

    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry. He is set to be the sole witness of the day and due to take the stand at 10:00 BST.

     
  2.  
    0950:

    Mr Hunt is expected to defend his handling of News Corp's attempt to take over broadcaster BSkyB. The questioning from Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, is likely to focus on what contact he authorised between his adviser Adam Smith and News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel.

     
  3.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    says in his blog that the evidence is likely to determine the fate of the culture secretary. He says Mr Hunt is expected to insist he acted in ways which frustrated rather than accelerated News Corp's bid, once he was given the role of overseeing it.

     
  4.  

    Mr Hunt went for a run on Thursday morning as he geared up for his appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

    Jeremy Hunt running
     
  5.  
    0953:

    To get up to speed with what the inquiry is examining and how we got to this point take a look at our Q&A.

     
  6.  
    0954:

    And the culture secretary is profiled here.

     
  7.  
    Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: All the Queen's horses, 50 or so of them at least, pass gathering media throng outside Royal Courts of Justice #leveson

     
  8.  
    0956: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    will be following all the day's evidence at the inquiry, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

     
  9.  
    0957:

    Ahead of the evidence, media commentator Steve Hewlett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the events surrounding the takeover bid had a wider significance for the inquiry. "In the bigger picture this [the inquiry] is about the relations between the press and politicians," he said.

     
  10.  
    0958:

    He went on: "Cut to the chase, it's really about did Rupert Murdoch's empire have disproportionate influence, and was it of any effect? The BSkyB takeover case has become a kind of touchstone question for Leveson, because if you can get to the bottom of what happened in this case, you might be able to answer that question."

     
  11.  
    1004:

    Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt takes the oath and is sworn in. His questioning from Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, begins.

     
  12.  
    1005:

    Asked about comment on his website which said he was a "cheerleader for Murdoch", Mr Hunt says it was a comment by a journalist and not how he would describe himself.

     
  13.  
    1008:

    Mr Jay asks about two meetings with News Corp's James Murdoch while in opposition. One of the agenda items was reform of Ofcom. Mr Hunt says Mr Murdoch was generally opposed to Ofcom and the BBC, and may have said burden of regulation was too onerous. "My focus on meetings were my policy priorities which were super-fast broadband and local TV," he says.

     
  14.  
    1009:

    Mr Hunt says he disagrees with Mr Murdoch's views on the BBC that it is "state-sponsored journalism and an arm of the state". Says he did not agree with Mr Murdoch's objections to the licence fee.

     
  15.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt I believe BBC is a benchmark for quality in broadcasting #leveson

     
  16.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (Hunt distancing himself from J Murdoch's views)

     
  17.  
    1013:

    Mr Hunt denies hiding behind a tree to avoid being spotted by Wall Street journalist on the way to a dinner with James Murdoch. He says he spotted a large group of journalists and thought it was "not the time to have an interview so moved to another part of the quadrangle".

     
  18.  
    1013:

    Mr Hunt says he is sure he did not know about News Corp's BSkyB bid in advance of its public announcement.

     
  19.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: I hear that emails may be released today showing direct contact between Hunt and News Corp after he took responsibility for the BSKYB bid.

     
  20.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: No wonder Hunt's allies want to focus on bid decisions not how he behaved. Problem is ministerial code says perception matters

     
  21.  
    George Eaton, editor of the New Statesman's Staggers blog

    tweets: Worth remembering Cameron's promise that he will take action against Hunt if any "new evidence" emerges that he broke the ministerial code.

     
  22.  
    1018:

    On meeting with James Murdoch on 28 June 2010 where there were no officials and no minutes taken, he says he also had meetings with BBC Trust and ITV. "I would be very surprised if BSkyB bid wasn't discussed," he says.

     
  23.  
    James Macintyre, Politics editor of Prospect

    tweets: Hilarious. Hunt confirms @iainmartin1 story abbbt him hiding behind trees to avoid media journalists.

     
  24.  
    1021:

    Mr Jay asks how well Mr Hunt knew News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel by October 2010. Mr Hunt says he "probably had a few coffees with him during time in opposition". He said he subsequently got to know him a little bit better as they had children born on the same night and by chance bumped into each other in a maternity ward, "but we never socialised together".

     
  25.  
    1023:

    Mr Jay refers to "very powerful" email sent from former special adviser Adam Smith to Mr Hunt which came from Mr Michel at News Corp. "The document cofirmed the view I already had that I didn't think there was a major plurality issue," he says.

     
  26.  
    1023:

    Mr Hunt says he only uses his personal email account. He says his departmental email is looked after by staff, who alert him to anything significant.

     
  27.  
    Ross Hawkins, political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (so Hunt didn't think there was plurality problem & said as much to News Corp & publicly before getting responsibility for bid)

     
  28.  
    1028:

    On texts between Mr Hunt and Mr Michel arranging a "catch-up" with James Murdoch on 12 November 2010, the culture secretary says he was then given legal advice not to have any external discussions about the bid.

     
  29.  
    1031:

    Mr Hunt says he had concerns that there was a merger happening in his sector that was encountering obstacles but he wanted to be "absolutely proper" about how he approached it.

     
  30.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: Hunt didn't interpret Nov 2010 legal advice as meaning he couldnt talk to people in media industry (eg James Murdoch) #Leveson

     
  31.  
    1033:

    He says he cancelled the meeting with James Murdoch, not because he thought it was wrong, but because he knew Business Secretary Vince Cable had refused a similar meeting. He says that to have gone ahead would lead to a parallel process taking part with two departments.

     
  32.  
    1033:

    But he says he did feel he had an absolute duty to be across the most important issue in the industry at that time.

     
  33.  
    Ian Katz, Deputy Editor, The Guardian

    tweets: If Hunt understood legal advice to preclude any attempt to intervene with Vince Cable over bid, why did he ask PM for meeting with Cable?

     
  34.  
    1037:

    Mr Hunt says it's possible he had said he was "very frustrated" about having to cancel the meeting with James Murdoch, which was relayed in a message from Mr Smith to Mr Michel. He says: "I may have been worried about a bid in my sector which potentially could mean thousands of new jobs were created and the main protagonist was feeling frustrated."

     
  35.  
    1039:

    On a phone call he then took from James Murdoch, Mr Hunt says he thought it was entirely appropriate to hear what a big player in the industry was saying.

     
  36.  
    1039:

    Mr Jay asks what was said in the phone call from James Murdoch. "I just heard Mr Murdoch out and heard what he had to say about what was on his mind at that time," Mr Hunt says.

     
  37.  
    1043:

    On text messages between Mr Michel and Mr Hunt following the call on 16 November: Mr Jay asks whether it is reasonable to assume their tone suggests the call was successful in reassuring Mr Murdoch. "I wouldn't have given him any reassurance about the media plurality decision," Mr Hunt says. "I probably gave him a sympathetic hearing but would not have said I could get involved in that decision."

     
  38.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Jay at #leveson slowly building up evidence that Hunt knew that his adviser dealt regularly with News Corp

     
  39.  
    1049:

    Mr Hunt says he was "sympathetic" towards the bid but he hesitates to use the word supportive, "because apart from informing the prime minister of my views I wasn't actually doing anything about it".

     
  40.  
    1049:

    He says he is a supporter of having a free and vibrant press and was concerned that the model of newspaper industry was not viable in long term. "Because of that I saw the potential of the bid as a chance to modernise the industry".

     
  41.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt: thought it wd be appropriate to have a meeting to discuss policy & not Cable decision; now know Cable cdnt have done that

     
  42.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt: I do now understand more about quasi judicial decisions #leveson

     
  43.  
    1052:

    Mr Hunt says he "doesn't think" he knew Mr Michel and Mr Smith had met in his department. He adds: "Mr Smith wouldn't tell me as a matter of course who he was meeting. His job was to be a contact point with all outside industry stakeholders."

     
  44.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (suggestion that Hunt didn't understand process when he was sending a memo to the PM about BSkyB deal #leveson)

     
  45.  
    1053:

    Mr Jay is now leading Mr Hunt through his texts to James Murdoch.

     
  46.  
    1055:

    The messages took place around the time the comments Vince Cable was recorded making saying he had "declared war" on the Murdoch empire.

     
  47.  
    1057:

    After a favourable ruling in Europe on the competition aspect of the BSkyB bid, Mr Hunt texted James Murdoch with a congratulatory text message, adding the only remaining obstacle was now Ofcom.

     
  48.  
    1059:

    Mr Hunt says he spoke to James Murdoch that afternoon. "It was not a long conversation. I think he was just saying he was totally horrified as it seemed to show 'acute bias'. I think that was probably the phrase he said to me."

     
  49.  
    1103:

    Mr Hunt texted Chancellor George Osborne expressing concern that Mr Cable's comments showed the process of judging the BSkyB bid was not being run fairly. On a reply from Mr Osborne that said "I hope you like the solution," Mr Hunt says he thought he knew it was "in the offing" that responsibility may be handed to him.

     
  50.  
    1104:

    But he goes on: "I was worried about that being the solution because I had publicly made some comments that were sympathetic to the bid. We were making sure No 10 knew about those comments."

     
  51.  
    Iain Martin, Political journalist, The Telegraph

    tweets: @MotoClark Hunt is a decent man, out of his depth with the Murdochs and Cameron. Should have resigned a month ago.

     
  52.  
    1108:

    Mr Hunt says he would not have sent the congratulatory text to Mr Murdoch, about the competition ruling from Brussels, after he had formally been given responsibility. But he denies it showed bias in favour of the Murdochs. "As I understand it the point of a quasi-judicial role is not that you approach it with a brain wiped clean, but you set aside any views you have and decide objectively."

     
  53.  
    1108:

    "My suitability for the role … is demonstrated by the actions that I took" after assuming responsibility for assessing the BSkyB bid, Mr Hunt adds.

     
  54.  
    1113:

    On whether he was approaching the bid fairly, Mr Hunt says: "When there was a critical decision I would also publish the independent advice I had been given, it was the best way of giving confidence that I was approaching the decision without bias."

     
  55.  
    1114:

    "I wanted the public to know that I was approaching this completely even-handedly," he says.

     
  56.  
    1114:

    Mr Hunt denies his appointment to oversee the bid was rushed. He says it was not a consideration that delaying the appointment of a replacement for Mr Cable to oversee the bid would have threatened its success.

     
  57.  
    1115:

    "There was a very serious issue created by Mr Cable's comments so it was right the PM acted decisively," he adds.

     
  58.  

    As well as the evidence to the inquiry currently under way, Mr Hunt has submitted 160 pages of memos, emails and text message transcripts.

    Jeremy Hunt
     
  59.  
    1119:

    Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt considered that his quasi-judicial role on the BSkyB bid allowed frequent interactions with the parties involved. "In terms of the decision I took it meant I had to be fair to both sides or had to be careful to treat them equally," he says.

     
  60.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Story so far-"accumulation of evidence" that Hunt biased in favour of BSKYB bid when PM gave him job after sacked Cable for bias against it

     
  61.  
    1122:

    Mr Jay asks whether any communication with parties involved in the bid would have to be transparent and documented. "Anything material to the decison," Mr Hunt says.

     
  62.  
    1122:

    Mr Jay now asking about Mr Hunt's former special adviser Adam Smith, who resigned over his contacts with News Corp about the bid.

     
  63.  
    1123:

    Mr Hunt says he saw Mr Smith as the official point of contact in the process so News Corp had someone to call about concerns. But he denies Mr Smith was "his agent" in this situation. "It was a different one, he was a point of contact to advise News Corp and reassure them the process was fair."

     
  64.  
    1125:

    Mr Jay asks what instructions Mr Smith was given. "I don't think he was given any express instructions other than how I have described it." Says he was not given any express instructions on what not to do.

     
  65.  
    Patrick Wintour, The Guardian

    tweets: Did not Andy Coulson say he had no involvement in News Corps bid at Number 10, yet Hunt is emailing him about Cable's bias and seeking chat

     
  66.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Hunt's written statement "I did not interpret my role to mean all social relations were suspended with everyone associated with the bid".Mmm

     
  67.  
    1127:

    Mr Hunt says Mr Smith would be seen by third parties as someone who had a good understandng of what he thought because they had worked closely for six years. "It was a given he would know what I thought. I don't think it is the same as speaking for me, but he would have known my views."

     
  68.  
    1128:

    Mr Smith was the person News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel would naturally want to contact, Mr Hunt says.

     
  69.  
    1130:

    Mr Jay asks about a text Mr Hunt sent to Mr Michel in which he said "all contact with me now needs to be through official channels until the decision is made". Mr Hunt says he meant he had to go through the official machinery of which Mr Smith was a part.

     
  70.  
    1131:

    The hearing takes a short break.

     
  71.  
    Katherine Tauton, London

    writes: Alongside the issue of Hunt's conduct in quasi-judicial role in the bid, the separate issue of relationship between him and media chief Murdoch seems pretty shocking, chatty, friendly texts several times a day. Is this appropriate conduct for a cabinet minister?

     
  72.  
    1142: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    says Mr Jay has set out his case against Mr Hunt, which is that the decision was taken away from Business Secretary Vince Cable because he was biased - but was then given to someone who was biased in the opposite direction.

     
  73.  
    1143:

    The hearing resumes, and Mr Jay opens by asking why a special adviser was involved at all. Mr Hunt says Mr Smith was a "key and trusted aide" who was "believed would have a very positive role". He adds it "would have been quite a natural thing, entirely right and appropriate".

     
  74.  
    1146:

    Mr Hunt says the context his department inherited was whether the goverment was being fair to News Corp over the bid and he wanted to be "fair and transparent".

     
  75.  
    1146:

    "I think we are all aware now" that News Corp's Mr Michel is a highly effective lobbyist, Mr Hunt says. "He was certainly a character - I didn't mark him out as being more effective or less effective" than other lobbyists. But there was a bit of pushiness, Mr Hunt adds.

     
  76.  
    1147:

    Mr Hunt adds: "We didn't predict the barrage of contact from Mr Michel."

     
  77.  
    1148:

    Mr Michel was contacting Mr Smith five times every day, Mr Hunt says.

     
  78.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: Hunt denies aide Smith was exposed to danger. #Leveson #hacking

     
  79.  
    1151:

    Mr Hunt says he doesn't think Mr Smith communicated any of the culture secretary's private views to News Corp. "My private view was the same as my public view, I had to make a decision about plurality objectively and impartially," he adds.

     
  80.  
    1154:

    Mr Jay is now asking why Mr Hunt didn't refer the takeover bid to the Competition Commission, as was suggested by Ofcom.

     
  81.  
    1155:

    Outside the court in which the culture secretary is defending his actions, demonstrators offer a prediction about Mr Hunt's political fate.

    Demonstrators
     
  82.  
    1206:

    Mr Hunt says James Murdoch was "very cross" when he said he was going to get independent advice from the Office of Fair Trading and ask for Ofcom's advice on plurality. "It was a very difficult meeting," he says.

     
  83.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: Hunt delivers key defence - James Murdoch thought his decision to refer to Ofcom plan to spin-off Sky News 'tantamount to killing the deal'

     
  84.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt emphasising James Murdoch's objections to Sky News spin off - it wasn't an easy concession for News Corp #leveson

     
  85.  
    1214:

    Mr Hunt says the Sky News spin-off would have made it massively more independent of James Murdoch than it is now.

     
  86.  
    Patrick Hennessy, Political editor, Sunday Telegraph

    tweets: Classic parallels w' early Blair: Cab ministers seeking strategic help from powerful CX (Brown/Osborne) & comms chief (Campbell/Coulson)

     
  87.  
    1218:

    Mr Hunt says he wants to highlight the way the phone-hacking situation was developing in parallel to the bid.

     
  88.  
    1220:

    In April, Mr Hunt was advised the way phone hacking could impinge on his decision over the bid if it was thought there was an issue of trust related to News Corp.

     
  89.  
    Matthew Oakeshott, Liberal Democrat peer

    tweets: When's Osborne at Leveson to explain Murdoch bid decision switch from Cable to Hunt? Downing St cat not put out at night without his say so.

     
  90.  
    1224:

    Mr Hunt says the revelation that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked was "horrific". He says it was a significant moment as it made him consider whether the management issue had spread beyond News International to News Corp.

     
  91.  
    Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    tweets: Hunt presenting himself a heroic figure at #leveson, defender of media plurality and champion of public good. Evidence suggests otherwise

     
  92.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: U turn on charity tax breaks coming doesn't 'bury bad news' but No 10 will hope more interesting/easier to follow than #Leveson

     
  93.  
    1232:

    Incidentally, our coverage of that U-turn on charity giving tax relief - previously mentioned by Nick Robinson - is on the site here.

     
  94.  
    1233:

    On asking another special adviser to give exclusive stories to "our favourite two journalists", Mr Hunt says: "When you're managing your media you have a choice, you can sometimes put a story out to everyone or give to one journalist to give it a good show."

     
  95.  
    Commenting on the BBC News Facebook page Janet Shaw

    writes: I suppose that the Leveson Inquiry will be interviewing every neighbour, friend or business contact of the Murdochs next, and then every neighbour, friend or business contact of Jeremy Hunt, and then every neighbour, friend or business contact of all of their contacts. I am sure that they will get around to the rest of us within the next 10 years.

     
  96.  
    Labour MP Paul Flynn

    tweets: Jeremy Hunt cannot extricated himself from responsibility or knowledge of the incessant, intimate contacts with Murdoch's persuader.

     
  97.  
    Environmentalist George Monbiot

    tweets: So #Hunt now claims that though he and Smith thought as one for 6 years, Smith suddenly went off-script & ran amok. Really?

     
  98.  
    1244:

    Mr Hunt says it was important that they were being "open-minded and even-handed" and they had "a lock-on process that we would get advice from OFT and Ofcom before I made my decision."

     
  99.  
    1250:

    Mr Hunt says he wanted to establish if he could invoke the "fit and proper person" test on the bid process because of phone hacking but was advised he couldn't.

     
  100.  
    1251:

    Mr Hunt says News Corp lobbyist Mr Michel's comment to his adviser Mr Smith that a delay to the decision would "be catastrophic for many important reasons" was not conveyed to him.

     
  101.  
    1252:

    Mr Hunt says Mr Smith "saw himself as a buffer" and would not inform the culture secretary of every conversation.

     
  102.  
    1253:

    Mr Hunt says he wanted to do things "briskly but properly", and Mr Smith would have thought the comments from Mr Michel were another attempt by News Corp to pile on the pressure.

     
  103.  
    1301:

    Mr Hunt is asked about an email to Mr Smith in which he said "it feels like the world doesn't trust the Murdochs further than they can be thrown at the moment". He says there had been "40,000 objections to UILs" (undertakings-in-lieu proposed as part of the bid, such as News Corp's offer to spin off Sky News), and "it seemed a fairly accurate reflection of the mood of the country at that time".

     
  104.  
    1301:

    The inquiry breaks for lunch, but stay with us as we bring you reaction to the morning's evidence.

     
  105.  
    1313: Norman Smith BBC political correspondent

    tells the BBC News Channel that the Leveson Inquiry is part of an extraordinarily bruising time for the government, stretching back to the Budget, right through to the arrest of former Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson on Wednesday.

     
  106.  
    1318:

    Conservative MP Louise Mensch tells BBC Radio 4 that there is no question whatsoever that Mr Hunt lied to parliament - "it's absolute complete and total rubbish".

     
  107.  
    1318:

    She says Mr Hunt "ran a proper quasi-judicial" process at all times.

     
  108.  
    1320:

    But Labour MP Chris Bryant tells Radio 4 Mr Hunt was so wedded to the bid that he did everything possible to support it.

     
  109.  
    1321:

    While Mr Bryant says the prime minister should sack Mr Hunt, Ms Mensch says: "He has been completely exonerated today."

     
  110.  
    1327: Alan Rusbridger Guardian editor

    Tweets: No chummy texts or spad for opponents of Sky. Were told to address all concerns to Treasury Solicitor. Just one mtg w Hunt

     
  111.  
    1339:

    Ms Mensch, commenting on the treatment of Adam Smith, said it was a tribute to Jeremy Hunt that he had not thrown him under the proverbial bus.

     
  112.  
    1339:

    "There's nothing here for the ministerial code. I wouldn't be surprised to see Labour drop this," she says.

     
  113.  
    1341:

    Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror, tells the BBC News Channel that Mr Hunt has a lot of questions still to answer. He says Mr Hunt looked "incredibly uncomfortable" during the three hours he watched him in the Royal Courts of Justice.

     
  114.  
    1349:

    Mr Maguire says Jeremy Hunt was "backing the bid and interfering when he shouldn't have been".

    He adds: "Every councillor in Britain, your most humble local authority, knows what a quasi-judicial role means and what you should and shouldn't do - and yet Jeremy Hunt says 'I didn't'."

     
  115.  
    Former employment minister Tony McNulty

    Tweets: Hunt only role now is to set out his potential for a comeback by doing all he can to stop the waters lapping around the feet of the PM.

     
  116.  
    1404:

    We're back at the Leveson Inquiry.

     
  117.  
    Owen Jones, author of 'Chavs'

    tweets: Blimey. To think Jeremy Hunt once had favourable odds to succeed David Cameron. How many other Jezza-Not-Very-Nice-And-Dims in the Cabinet?

     
  118.  
    1405:

    They are discussing the redaction of information on Mr Hunt's documents. Lord Justice Leveson is unhappy that they are not ready to be released.

     
  119.  
    1406:

    Rhodri Davies QC for News International raises concerns about redactions in Mr Hunt's evidence. Lord Justice Leveson is unhappy and says he wants documents to be published on Thursday.

     
  120.  
    1408:

    Apparently information has been redacted in some places but not others and the lawyers fear checking of material will not be completed on Thursday.

     
  121.  
    1409:

    Lord Justice Leveson says it's important that if he's given his assurance that documents will be published, that they should be published.

     
  122.  
    1412:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he is going to fulfil the commitment he has given to publish. He is happy to consider individual documents, and adds that he is not convinced how sensitive information about a historical bid would be.

     
  123.  
    1413:

    Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, goes back to looking at events of July 2011 when there were debates going on in Parliament on phone hacking - after it was revealed the News of the World had hacked murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone.

     
  124.  
    1418:

    Mr Hunt says that after the Milly Dowler revelations No 10 started speaking to his department as "it was such a huge national issue, they needed to understand timescales and what was coming up". He says there were lots of discussions between communication teams but not with him or about his decision on the BSkyB bid.

     
  125.  
    1420:

    He says his decision to write to Ofcom was primarily prompted by the closure of the News of the World, "as I thought there might have been a failure of corporate governance which would have made it risky to proceed".

     
  126.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (delay in evidence publication poss gd news for Hunt, no new material for late TV bulls, papers)

     
  127.  
    1434:

    Mr Hunt says he was concerned about the issue of "corporate governance" at News Corp and took the "very significant step" of writing to Ofcom to ask them to look at the "fit and proper person issue". He wrote to them in the morning, and by that afternoon the earlier undertakings from News Corp had been withdrawn.

     
  128.  
    1435:

    Mr Jay asking about text message exchanges with News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel. A text from Mr Michel which said, "You were were very impressive yesterday" was very pushy, Mr Hunt agrees. "It's also a little bit cheeky actually as it's the day I'd had the row with Mr Murdoch as he was cross I said I was going to involve Ofcom. I wonder if he wanted to break the ice."

     
  129.  
    1436:

    Mr Jay asks why Mr Hunt didn't close down the text exchange by saying such contact was inappropriate while he was overseeing the BSkyB bid, and Mr Hunt says he would have "given a courteous reply" while also trying to end the conversation.

     
  130.  
    1436:

    Mr Hunt says "flattery is a weapon Mr Michel deploys frequently and persistently".

     
  131.  
    Simon in Manchester

    emails: I can't ever recall a Cabinet Minister looking so uncomfortable, even Howard when questioned by Paxo looked more comfortable. This man was touted as the heir apparent to David Cameron, he has no credibility whatsoever.

     
  132.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt: one is beginning to slightly discount (Michel's) flattery because one is getting used to it #leveson

     
  133.  
    1439:

    On texts from Mr Michel when he spots Mr Hunt at Wimbledon, the culture secretary says "he showed incredible ingenuity looking for any attempt to make contact". He adds: "What I didn't deduce was the impact of this content multiplied many times over to Adam Smith. We did not foresee there would be such a volume of correspondence."

     
  134.  
    1440:

    Special adviser Adam Smith was most the decent, straight, honourable person one can imagine but even he was not able to maintain impartiality because of the volume of communication from Mr Michel, Mr Hunt says.

     
  135.  
    1442:

    Mr Hunt adds that Mr Michel's text message contact never led to any substantive discussions about the bid.

     
  136.  
    Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian

    tweets: Scenes no screenwriter wd dare invent: wives of Hunt and News Corp lobbyist have babies in same ward on same night #Leveson

     
  137.  
    1443:

    Mr Jay is going through emails between Mr Smith and Mr Hunt to give a flavour of their interactions. He says Mr Smith seems astute and is not holding back. Mr Hunt says they are "fairly normal exchanges" between a minister and special adviser.

     
  138.  
    1445:

    When Rebekah Brooks resigned from News International, Jeremy Hunt wrote, "About bloody time."

     
  139.  
    Dr Evan Harris

    tweets: Why didn't Hunt write to Michel, saying stop contacting me behind the scenes until after bid. #Leveson

     
  140.  
    Toby Helm, Observer's Political Editor

    tweets: Hunt's problem will be issue of whether he misled parliament and broke ministerial code. Those not really for #leveson so on we go.

     
  141.  
    1448:

    On that issue of whether the culture secretary has misled Parliament, our coverage of his statement in the House of Commons last month is archived here.

     
  142.  
    Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror associate editor

    tweets: Adam Smith was the most decent honest person Jeremy Hunt could imagine, so he dropped him like a ton of bricks #leveson

     
  143.  
    1450:

    Mr Hunt tells the hearing he was advised not to have a drink with Andy Coulson when he left Downing Street until the bid process was over, as Mr Coulson was considered to be so close to News International.

     
  144.  
    Chris Ramsey in Truro, Cornwall

    emails: Jeremy Hunt really cannot get away from the following: a) He alone is responsible for setting the tone of the interactions between Adam Smith and Fred Michel and b) Given the huge volume of communications between these two, it beggars belief that he wouldn't know what the nature of these were....particularly if Mr Smith is as honourable a man as JH believes he is.

     
  145.  
    1451:

    On being advised not to have a drink with Mr Coulson, Mr Jay asks Mr Hunt: "Did it need your special adviser to tell you that?"

     
  146.  
    Professor Tim Luckhurst in Chatham, Kent

    emails: Mr Hunt appears honest and engaged. He seems to have made an emphatic distinction between his views as a Conservative politician and his duties as a minister. The evidence so far supports that interpretation.

     
  147.  
    1452:

    Mr Hunt's special adviser, Sue Beeby, told him not to take any calls from Business Secretary Vince Cable as he was "trying to be very sneaky over News Corp".

     
  148.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (will anyone in Westminster ever text anyone again?)

     
  149.  
    1500:

    Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt feels comfortable with the series of texts between himself and James Murdoch. Mr Hunt says his interpretation was that in his quasi-judicial role a "courteous reply to a text message was fine". He adds: "But I think now I would probably not take the same view and would avoid texts. But it had no impact on process, the decisions I took."

     
  150.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Hunt texted James Murdoch to congratulate him on promotion "although I'm sure you'll really miss Ofcom in New York" #leveson

     
  151.  
    Toby Young, writer

    tweets: Stupid question, but how come all these text messages were preserved? Why didn't Hunt & co simply delete them after reading? #Hunt #leveson

     
  152.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: hunt when asked if he'd studied Smith Michel communications, replies -- more times than I would care to mention. #Leveson #hacking

     
  153.  
    Richard Thomson in Cardiff

    emails: Her Majesty should give Robert Jay a knighthood over the weekend.

     
  154.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: impactful -- Lord J Leveson asks is it a word? #Leveson #hacking

     
  155.  
    FleetStreetFox

    tweets: I don't really care *what* #Hunt was texting to James Murdoch in the middle of the BSkyB bid; I'm quite offended he was texting him AT ALL.

     
  156.  
    1513:

    Mr Hunt says he feels sorry for Mr Smith as didn't realise he was dealing with such a vast amount of contact from Mr Michel, on the weekend. He says he was "totally shocked".

     
  157.  
    1516:

    Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt would have referred to the News Corp undertaking to spin off Sky News as a "strong" undertaking, and the culture secretary says that while he might have said it seemed so "on the face of it", it was ultimately going to be up to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to take a view on that undertaking.

     
  158.  
    1517:

    "How could referring these undertakings to Ofcom be political cover? I had absolutely no idea what they would say," Mr Hunt says.

     
  159.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: This is complex but important territory, Jay trying to link Hunt's sentiments and Smith's messages to Michel

     
  160.  
    Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: (complex cos have to work out was Michel boasting, & if he was accurate did Smith's info reflect his boss' views)

     
  161.  
    Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda

    tweets: Cameron must, surely, either sack Hunt or refer him to Alex Allen?

     
  162.  
    1524:

    Sir Alex Allan is the prime minister's independent adviser on ministerial interests, and a decision from Downing Street on whether the adviser should investigate Mr Hunt's actions is expected soon after his evidence to the inquiry.

     
  163.  
    1527:

    On exchanges between Mr Smith and Mr Michel, Mr Hunt says he he believes his aide is "trying to say things to get Mr Michel off his back".

     
  164.  
    1528:

    Mr Hunt says: "What Mr Smith hasn't done as far as I can tell is ever go back and agitate for the thing Mr Michel is putting him under pressure to achieve." He says Mr Smith never approached him about the role of Ofcom, for example, "he just bats it back".

     
  165.  
    Robin Franke in Worthing

    Emails: If we are to believe that Hunt acted correctly in the process and without bias, anyone that has held a position of responsibility would know that this level of contact with interested parties outside a process is not appropriate behaviour. I am surprised Hunt does not see this as a issue. Very concerning as he is meant to be a competent individual holding a very important job.

     
  166.  
    1530:

    Mr Smith was, he says, "someone trying very hard to keep a stakeholder on board under great pressure, who occasionally lapses into inappropriate language but isn't giving them any help at all".

     
  167.  
    1530:

    With that, the hearing takes a short break.

     
  168.  
    1538:

    The hearing resumes.

     
  169.  
    1538:

    Lord Justice Leveson says he is still very keen to ensure the documents submitted by Mr Hunt will be published on Thursday.

     
  170.  
    1541:

    Mr Hunt says Mr Smith's use of the phrase "we just need space" in a message to Mr Michel, did not represent the culture secretary's view. "I think the phrase has an implicit suggestion of wanting to get to the same destination and that wasn't my view," he says.

     
  171.  
    1544:

    Mr Hunt says he put his personal views aside: "When I took responsibility for the bid I had a higher-order job to do."

     
  172.  
    1544:

    Mr Jay: "It's impossible to wash one's mind clear from anterior thoughts is it?" Mr Hunt: "No."

     
  173.  
    1547:

    Mr Jay refers to former special adviser Mr Smith's witness statement in which he said he had not received any specific instructions regarding the BSkyB bid and approached the matter in the same way as other projects.

     
  174.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: Hunt on his BSkyB role -- it was about making sure our democracy can function properly. #Leveson #hacking

     
  175.  
    1549:

    Mr Hunt says he wishes he had done more to spell out to Adam Smith what he could say and do in contacts with News Corporation. "When something sad has happened and someone capable has lot his job you think about what you could have done differently."

     
  176.  
    1550:

    "I wish he had told us about the pressure he was under and the barrage he was getting - we could have perhaps warned him at that stage," Mr Hunt adds about his former special adviser.

     
  177.  
    1550:

    Mr Hunt says: "I'm not sure Mr Smith did ever misrepresent my private view. We don't know from Michel's private emails how much was fact and how much fiction."

     
  178.  
    1552:

    In terms of passing on the culture secretary's thoughts, "the evidence I have seen is just that Mr Smith was repeating what News Corp would have already known was my thinking", Mr Hunt says.

     
  179.  
    1552:

    Mr Hunt repeats his defence of Adam Smith: "Part of the reason why his conversations did lapse into inappropriate language, if that happened, part of the reason was the volume of contact he was subject to."

     
  180.  
    Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 News

    tweets: I'd like to know who "everyone" was when Hunt told Smith "everyone here" thinks you need to go

     
  181.  
    1553:

    "In this bid Adam Smith's role was to act as an official point of contact for News Corp. That's what we thought his job was," Mr Hunt says.

     
  182.  
    Peter Hunt News correspondent

    tweets: Leveson: Hunt mea culpa -- wish we'd spelt out to aide Adam Smith what was required of him. #Leveson #hacking

     
  183.  
    1557:

    Mr Hunt says to Lord Justice Leveson: "Unlike you, I had to adjudicate on a decision where I had pre-existing relationships with people before and was expected to afterwards."

     
  184.  
    Chris Mason BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Jeremy Hunt clears up a long running issue at #Leveson: it was Black Swan he went to see, not Swan Lake.

     
  185.  
    Stephen Hogg in Northallerton

    emails: If considering a bid is a "quasi-judical" process, why did Mr Smith need to "keep a key stakeholder on board"? The only way the bid was going to be approved was if News International stayed "on board" with the process - does a Judge feel he needs to "keep on board" an appellant in a civil case?

     
  186.  
    1601:

    "News Corp had massive, massive suspicions about Ofcom," Mr Hunt says.

     
  187.  
    1603:

    This timeline details a series of text messages and emails, released to the Leveson Inquiry, that were sent by Mr Hunt after the story broke about Business Secretary Vince Cable having "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.

     
  188.  
    Ant in Barrhead

    emails: For a senior member of the UK government, Mr Hunt appears to be very forgetful...

     
  189.  
    1611:

    Regarding the News Corp takeover bid for BSkyB, about which the inquiry has heard so much, this table details what key figures in government and at News Corp have said in their evidence.

     
  190.  
    Kate in Brighton

    emails: Mr Hunt: "I had to adjudicate on a decision where I had pre-existing relationships with people before and was expected to afterwards". Why was he put in this position?

     
  191.  
    1618:

    Discussion of an email from Mr Michel to Mr Smith about a target date of 24 June, for a decision on the bid, "which journalists can't be told about". Mr Hunt says: "I didn't want not to have target dates otherwise the process would drag on. Mr Smith is saying there's a target date which we can't say publicly."

     
  192.  
    1618:

    Mr Hunt adds Mr Smith is saying (to Michel) if we announce it publicly we'll be putting ourselves under formal pressure.

     
  193.  
    1618:

    Mr Hunt says: "I may well have been frustrated at how long it was taking. I didn't get into a Spanish Inquisition about what was causing the delay."

     
  194.  
    Lisa Egan

    tweets: "I'm afraid I don't know what JH means." Look at your driving licence, passport, birth certificate.... #leveson

     
  195.  
    1620:

    "This was such a controversial deal the politics were close to the legal, the only thing to do was to be scrupulously impartial," Mr Hunt says. The process could have been shorter if he chose to negotiate the UILs with the Murdochs directly rather than including Ofcom, he adds.

     
  196.  
    Stefan Stern

    tweets: A few people on Twtr have gone from "Hunt's definitely finished" to "Hunt's definitely safe" in a couple of hours. #moronicinferno #goldfish

     
  197.  
    Stuart in London

    emails: I think the Conservatives will fight tooth and nail to keep Hunt in his position. The sooner he goes, the sooner people start focusing on the PM's judgement with regards to Coulson's appointment (not to mention Hunt's), as well as his close relationship with Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs.

     
  198.  
    1623:

    "My concern was that the public should be reassured that this had been approached in an impartial way … that did indeed mean it needed to take as long as it took," Mr Hunt says about the BSkyB bid process.

     
  199.  
    1623:

    The deal may have failed because the whole thing took so long and by that time phone-hacking allegations had emerged in much greater number, Mr Hunt says.

     
  200.  
    1625:

    "To say the politics were complicated is understated. Two Tory-supporting newspaper groups against deal and one strongly in favour," Mr Hunt says.

     
  201.  
    Stephen In Halifax

    emails: Predetermined favour for the bid, selective memory lapses, an £8 billion pound takeover bid conducted by text messages between an unelected and unaccountable special adviser using inappropriate language. Really close to his special adviser but no knowledge of hundreds of texts & mails. Absolutely incredible & not credible.

     
  202.  
    1627:

    Mr Hunt says he cannot remember what John Prescott and Tom Watson said, in a parliamentary debate, which he is reported to have described as "idiotic" in a comment passed on to Mr Michel from Mr Smith.

     
  203.  
    James in Maidenhead

    emails: The biggest failure in this whole sorry saga, has been by the Civil Service who failed to lay down clear guidance of what a quasi-judicial process meant, to all those involved - including Mr Smith and the Minister, and subsequently there was a total failure to monitor and police whatever guidance was provided. Surprisingly, I don't think that this abdication of responsibility has been properly examined by the Inquiry.

     
  204.  
    1638:

    Mr Jay asking about the sequence of events surrounding his special adviser's resignation.

     
  205.  
    1643:

    The morning after a drink with Mr Smith where Mr Hunt had told his special adviser that he did not think he would have to resign, Mr Hunt says it was concluded at a meeting within the department that Mr Smith should in fact go. "We knew there was some exaggeration but we knew there were some text messages where Adam had used inappropriate language," Mr Hunt says. He adds: "I think we came to the conclusion with very heavy hearts that we were going to have to accept his decision to resign."

     
  206.  
    1643:

    Mr Hunt says he has responsibility for Mr Smith and his department as a whole. "I did think about my own position, but I had conducted the bid scrupulously fairly and I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to go. It was with a very heavy heart I felt we had no choice but to let Mr Smith go," he says.

     
  207.  
    1645:

    Mr Hunt says: "I personally found the whole thing very difficult, I had worked closely with Adam for six years, felt responsible for him, felt it was terribly unfair." But he says the pressure was such it felt inevitable.

     
  208.  
    Adam Boulton Sky News political editor

    tweets: Jay quoting ministerial code "person responsibility for discipline" of SpAd. Hunt not picking up reference

     
  209.  
    1647:

    "I still believe it's possible for politicians to set aside their views and take decisions in a quasi-judicial, impartial way," Mr Hunt says.

     
  210.  
    1651:

    Mr Jay asks about an irony that oversight of the bid was taken away from Vince Cable for apparent bias against the takeover - but given to Mr Hunt, who had expressed apparent bias in favour of the bid. Mr Hunt says: "I had views on the bid that were public but I set them to one side and I think I have demonstrated that the process was impartial. If you look at the process and the decisions I took it's clear there is no bias."

     
  211.  
    Michael Savage Political Staff, the Times

    tweets: "I have more direct responsibility" for Smith, says Hunt. Are you watching, Alex Allan? #Leveson #ministerialcode

     
  212.  
    John Rentoul, columnist for Independent on Sunday

    tweets: Curious slip into the plural "we" by #Hunt when he came to sack Adam Smith, who seems to have done nothing wrong.

     
  213.  
    Rafael Behr, political editor of New Statesman

    tweets: not sure #hunt gets enough credit for courageous sacking of advisor who maintained by secret proxy his boss's improper relationship with NI

     
  214.  
    1659:

    Questioning finally turns to Mr Hunt's views on the future of the press. "The vast majority of journalists are incredibly professional and do a fantastic job," he says. "The business model of the press is slowly dying on its feet as the world becomes electronic."

     
  215.  
    Dan Roberts, national editor at The Guardian

    tweets: Jay reminds us that Hunt is one of the two sponsoring ministers of the inquiry. how bizarre is that?

     
  216.  
    1659:

    After six hours on the stand, Mr Hunt finishes giving evidence.

     
  217.  
    1708: Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

    says it was "sometimes cautious evidence at times" and that Mr Hunt had looked "fairly nervous". "But he stuck by the account he had earlier given the House of Commons," our correspondent says.

     
  218.  
    1711: Breaking News

    From Downing Street: "The PM believes that Jeremy Hunt acted properly when he was responsible for the bid and will not be referring his case to the adviser on the ministerial code."

     
  219.  
    1719:

    Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman says it is "deplorable" Mr Cameron "is keeping in his cabinet someone who has broken the ministerial code and misled Parliament". She says: "He should not have given the decision to Mr Hunt in the first place as he was clearly biased."

     
  220.  
    1723:

    Jeremy Hunt's witness statement and supplementary evidence is now on the Leveson Inquiry website.

     
  221.  
    Robin Brant BBC political correspondent

    tweets: So Downing Street tries to put a line under Huntgate and move into 'past Thursday' mode. Recess helps, blunts Labour attack, for now

     
  222.  
    1730:

    So that concludes this up-to-the-minute report from the inquiry. But our coverage of the story, including reaction and analysis following Mr Hunt's appearance, will continue on the BBC News website. Our current story reflecting the key parts of Mr Hunt's testimony is here.

     

The Leveson report

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