Leveson: News Corp Lobbyist To Give Evidence
News Corporation lobbyist Frederic Michel, whose discussions with ministerial aides have put Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt under pressure to resign, will give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry next week.
Mr Hunt's former special adviser Adam Smith will also appear at the inquiry into media ethics on the same day.
Mr Smith resigned last month over his dealings with Mr Michel in relation to the BSkyB takeover bid.
He quit after the release of a raft of emails indicating that contacts between News Corp and Mr Hunt's office went much further than previously thought.
Their evidence on Thursday will lead to fresh scrutiny of Mr Hunt's role in the process.
Sky News' deputy political editor Joey Jones said: "Frederic Michel was the person who was in contact with Adam Smith who subsequently resigned because clearly that contact was too close.
"It gave an impression that Mr Michel was having some sort of influence over the quasi-judicial process that Mr Hunt was leading to decide or not whether the BSkyB takeover bid should be allowed.
"Indeed, Mr Michel did get hold of some advance information as well. This was absolutely clear of ministerial statements including one that was market sensitive, so clearly it will be important to find out precisely how that happened.
"Mr Michel said in his own witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry that he didn't talk to Mr Hunt himself and that when he put 'JH' in a lot of emails he was actually talking about Mr Hunt's office.
"The key area is the level of authorisation Mr Smith had to have contact with Mr Michel, and if he knows anything about that it could be very important indeed."
Also appearing at the inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson next week will be former Labour Cabinet ministers Lord Mandelson, Lord Reid, Tessa Jowell and Alan Johnson.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been one of News International's fiercest critics and helped uncover the phone hacking scandal, will also give evidence, as will BBC journalists Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Marr.
Mr Hunt is still awaiting a date to appear before the inquiry to give his own account of events.