Labour to call vote on whether Jeremy Hunt should be investigated

Harriet Harman said Labour wanted to force David Cameron to "do the right thing"

MPs could be asked to vote on whether Jeremy Hunt has broken the ministerial code, Labour has confirmed.

The party wants to keep up pressure on the prime minister following his decision not to refer Mr Hunt to an independent investigator.

But any vote would not be binding and decisions on the ministerial code are solely a matter for the PM.

Deputy Leader Harriet Harman accused David Cameron of trying to sweep the issue under the carpet.

Following Mr Hunt's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday, Number 10 said the prime minister would not refer the case to Sir Alex Allen, his adviser on the ministerial code.

The prime minister believes the culture secretary acted properly when he was responsible for the BSkyB takeover bid.

'Code torn up'

But Ms Harman said Mr Hunt had clearly breached the rules.

"Jeremy Hunt has broken the ministerial code and misled Parliament", she said.

"It is not acceptable that these rules have been broken and we will call a vote insisting that Jeremy Hunt's breaches of the code are referred to the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests."

What does the ministerial code say?

  • The code sets out the standards which ministers are expected to live up to in office
  • It was revised in May 2010 by David Cameron
  • It says ministers are expected to uphold "the highest standards of propriety"
  • The PM is the "ultimate judge" of a minister's behaviour and decides what happens to anyone who breaches the code
  • Labour think Mr Hunt has breached the code in two ways
  • Firstly, that he misled parliament by telling MPs all correspondence with News Corp had been published
  • The code says: "Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister"
  • Secondly, that he has not taken responsibility for the actions of his special adviser who quit over inappropriate contact with News Corp
  • The code says: "Individual ministers will be accountable to the prime minister, Parliament and the public for their actions and decisions in respect of their special advisers"

She added: "The ministerial code sets the standards which secretaries of state must live up to. When David Cameron came into power, he upgraded the code and he said he was going to have higher standards in public office. Today those words ring hollow - he has just torn up the code.

"Even if the David Cameron thinks it is acceptable for a minister to break the code he drew up, we do not and will call a vote."

Unless something significant happens before MPs return from their Whitsun break, Labour will use its next scheduled debate day, 13 June, to call the vote.

Deputy chairman of the Conservative party, Michael Fallon, denied that there had been a serious breach of the code.

"The code is there to make sure that ministers conduct themselves appropriately, but the best test of that was the inquiry session that was held yesterday (Thursday) in front of a judge where all these issues were fully brought out and evidence was taken under oath from the secretary of state himself.

"And nothing happened yesterday (Thursday) to indicate any serious breach of the code," he said.

"Of course the minister's responsible for his special advisor. He should have known the full extent of the contact the special advisor was having with Murdoch and News International, but once that was established then of course the special advisor resigned," he added.

A report by the Public Administration Select Committee - chaired by senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkins - said the independent adviser on the ministerial code should be given the power to launch an investigation without being requested to do so by the prime minister.

The report from, 14 March this year, said: "The independent adviser should be empowered to instigate his own investigations.

"The Prime Minister could do this on his own initiative, without any need for legislation, but placing the post on a statutory footing would be preferable."

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