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Leveson: Pressure Grows On Culture Secretary
Pressure is growing on Jeremy Hunt after claims he secretly backed News Corporation's bid to take over BSkyB and leaked inside information to the media company.
The Culture Secretary has refused to resign and this morning repeated his determination to show he acted with "complete integrity".
But Labour is calling for his resignation and party leader Ed Miliband has accused the minister of acting as a "back-channel" for the Murdochs.
Mr Hunt has asked to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry earlier than scheduled following James Murdoch's appearance on Tuesday.
The row is likely to intensify today as Rupert Murdoch starts to give evidence and David Cameron will be forced to address the allegations at Prime Minister's Questions.
Mr Hunt's position has been put in doubt by the release of a 163-page dossier detailing contact between the Culture Secretary's office and senior News Corp executive Frederic Michel.
In a series of emails to James Murdoch and other executives, Mr Michel - then the company's director of public affairs in Europe - reported on Mr Hunt's thoughts about the progress of the controversial takeover plans for BSkyB.
The bid was dropped last July amid the furore over phone hacking at the News Corp-owned News Of The World.
In one message, Mr Michel detailed what the Culture Secretary would say to Parliament the next day, noting it was "absolutely illegal" for him to obtain the information.
Another email, dated January last year, reported Mr Hunt's belief that it would be "game over" for opponents of the BSkyB takeover once plans to spin off Sky News into a separately listed company were publicly announced.
"He said we would get there at the end, and he shared our objectives," Mr Michel noted.
Although many of the emails refer directly to Mr Michel having spoken to "JH", James Murdoch told the inquiry this was in fact shorthand for contacts with the Culture Secretary's office - usually his special adviser Adam Smith.
Labour claimed the emails showed Mr Hunt had given News Corp privileged access to information about his decision on the takeover and accused him of misleading Parliament.
Mr Miliband said: "He should resign. He himself said that his duty was to be transparent, impartial and fair in the BSkyB takeover.
"But now we know that he was providing advice, guidance and privileged access to News Corporation. He was acting as a back-channel for the Murdochs.
"He cannot stay in his post. And if he refuses to resign, the Prime Minister must show some leadership and fire him."
However, Downing Street stressed its support for Mr Hunt and the minister himself insisted it was not a "time for knee-jerk reactions".
He said he was "confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with scrupulous fairness".
Speaking on Tuesday, he said: "We've heard one side of the story today but some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn't happen."
"Rather than jump on a political bandwagon, we need to hear what Lord Justice Leveson thinks after he has heard all the evidence.
"Let me be clear my number one priority was to give the public confidence in the integrity of process."
Mr Cameron is also under pressure himself after James Murdoch told the inquiry he had spoken to the Prime Minister briefly about the takeover bid in December 2010.
They were at a Christmas dinner hosted by then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, two days after Vince Cable had been stripped of his role in the bid.
Mr Murdoch told the inquiry he and Mr Cameron had talked about the situation with Mr Cable during a "tiny conversation", but it is likely to be leapt on by Labour.