CULTURE Secretary Hunt was accused of ‘lying to Parliament’ in the House of Commons yesterday, during the debate demanding that Hunt’s conduct over the BSkyB bid be investigated.
However, Speaker Bercow rejected Tory demands that the Labour MP who made the charge be ejected from the House.
Liberal Democrat MPs were thin on the ground after being ordered by Deputy Prime Minister Clegg to ‘stay away’ from the debate and vote over Hunt’s conduct.
Before the debate, in Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron again rejected Labour demands for the independent adviser on ministers’ interests to examine Hunt’s conduct.
Opening the debate, Labour Deputy leader Harriet Harman said that Hunt had told the House that ‘all the documents relating to all the meetings, all the consultation documents, all the submissions we received, all the exchanges between my department and News Corporation’ had been published.
She continued: ‘When the Murdochs came to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, we discovered that all the exchanges had not been published.’
She added: ‘There is at the very least prima facae evidence that the secretary of state failed to take responsibility for the management and conduct of his special adviser.
‘Either he didn’t know what he was doing when his special adviser was overstepping the mark, and that was a breach of the code, or, as people think more likely, he did know what he was doing when Adam Smith was overstepping the mark and that too would have been a breach of the code.
‘Whichever way you look at it there has been a clear breach of the Ministerial Code.’
During Hunt’s response to Harman’s charges, he said: ‘Paragraph 12c of the Ministerial Code, she referred to it, it’s very clear on this, “if ministers make an inadvertent error they should correct it at the earliest opportunity,” which I did.’
Chris Bryant, MP for Rhonda intervened: ‘I’d like to correct the record as well. There is absolutely no dishonour in correcting the record.
‘However, what the minister just referred to was his reply on the 7th September, when he said that it was for reasons of cost that he wasn’t able to provide anything more.
‘How much would it have cost for him to remember that he’d sent a memo to the prime minister on the matter.
‘Or for that matter to have checked his own mobile phone for the text messages that he sent to James Murdoch. He’s lying to Parliament.’ The motion was lost by 290 to 252
• Ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday.
Brooks, 44, who faces three charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, was bailed until 22 June.
Her husband Charles Brooks and four former colleagues, who each face one charge of the same offence, were bailed to the same date to appear at Southwark Crown Court.
The offences, which she denies, allegedly occurred in July last year.
Brooks is accused of conspiring to conceal documents, computers and electronic equipment from police and conspiring to remove seven boxes of material from the archive of News International.