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Labour demands emails from Hunt
Labour has demanded the publication of emails and text messages between Jeremy Hunt and his special adviser Adam Smith as pressure continued on the embattled Culture Secretary over his handling of News Corporation's takeover bid for BSkyB.
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said it was not "credible" that Mr Hunt was unaware of the nature of Mr Smith's contacts with News Corp lobbyist Frederic Michel, exposed in an explosive cache of emails published by the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.
But Downing Street said that Prime Minister David Cameron would not ask his independent adviser Sir Alex Allan to launch an inquiry into whether Mr Hunt breached the ministerial code of conduct, as Ms Harman has demanded.
Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch denied that he regarded Mr Hunt as an ally in his bid to gain control of the 61% of BSkyB shares which his company did not already own.
But he said he expected Mr Hunt to be a "fairer" judge of the bid than Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was stripped of the role in 2010 after being secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on the News Corp boss.
"Did I assume that Mr Hunt was on our side? No," Mr Murdoch told the inquiry. "I assumed that any responsible minister would be responsible and deal with it in a completely unbiased way. I thought that Dr Cable was an exception."
Mr Murdoch denied that Mr Hunt had given the BSkyB bid an easy ride, telling the inquiry: "We were made to make very big concessions, for reasons which I can't understand."
Labour also raised questions about Mr Hunt's suggestion that the top civil servant at his Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens, authorised Mr Smith to act as "point man" with News Corp.
Mr Stephens refused to answer questions on the affair when he appeared before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, but the DCMS said in a statement that he was "aware that Adam Smith was amongst a small number of individuals in the department who were in contact with News Corp and was content with that arrangement.
"As Adam Smith's statement makes clear, the content and extent of his contact was done without authorisation, and were contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary."
Ms Harman said: "This is a highly unusual arrangement. So I have today written to Mr Stephens asking him to publish the clear requirements that his department says were set out by him and the Secretary of State for Adam Smith's dealings with News Corporation.
"Yesterday Jeremy Hunt told the House that he did not know what his special adviser was doing. This is scarcely credible, particularly as it was in respect of such an important and controversial matter. But Jeremy Hunt can clarify this and put it beyond doubt by publishing the emails and texts between him and his special adviser, and I have today written to Mr Hunt challenging him to do so."
The Conservative chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee, Bernard Jenkin, said there had been a "breakdown of good process and good governance" at DCMS and added his voice to calls for an investigation by Sir Alex Allan.
"It is extraordinary that any special adviser should have anything to do with a secretary of state's quasi-judicial role in a matter such as a takeover bid," Mr Jenkin told the BBC.
"We have a new Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, and he should demonstrate his independence and advise the Prime Minister. If he thinks there has been prima facie case of breach of the ministerial code, it should go straight to the independent adviser."
The Cabinet Office confirmed that Sir Jeremy spoke to Lord Justice Leveson on the evening of the release of the Michel emails to inform him that MPs were pressing him for an investigation and to ask whether this would cut across his inquiry.
The judge said: "Although I have seen requests for other inquiries and other investigations, it seems to me that the better course is to allow this inquiry to proceed. When it is concluded, there will doubtless be opportunities for consideration to be given to any further investigation that is then considered necessary."
Mr Cameron's official spokesman said that Downing Street agreed with this assessment.
"There is a public inquiry looking at these issues. We are going to let it run its course," said the spokesman.
"The Prime Minister supports Mr Hunt and believes he acted properly."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said it "beggars belief" that Mr Hunt is still in his job.
"To believe that he should stay you have to believe that his special adviser was, if you like, a lone wolf, who spent six months in collusion with News Corporation, passing information that was to be announced in the House of Commons, providing information about discussions with the regulator, providing information about what opposing parties were saying," Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"Why is Jeremy Hunt still in his job? Because David Cameron has questions to answer, and Jeremy Hunt is, if you like, acting as a firewall, and if he goes the questions will then move to David Cameron's conversations with Rebekah Brooks, with James Murdoch and others."