Jeremy Hunt at the Leveson inquiry – live

• Cameron says he is satisfied Hunt didn’t break ministerial code
• Murdoch had ‘massive, massive suspicions’ about Ofcom
• Smith ‘did use inappropriate language’ under pressure
• Hunt text on Brooks’s resignation: ‘About bloody time!’
• Hunt: we didn’t know hacking was volcano about to erupt
• Hacking ‘only raised governance concerns after NoW closure’
• News Corp lobbyist made ‘extraordinary amount’ of contact
• Special adviser given no instructions on BSkyB bid
• On day he was handed BSkyB bid, Hunt texted Murdoch
• Osborne texted Hunt ‘I hope you like our solution’
• Hunt admits he was ‘sympathetic’ to News Corp’s BSkyB bid
• Spoke to Murdoch on mobile after being told not to meet him
• Hunt advised in November 2010 not to get involved in Sky bid
• Says he was ‘worried’ at that time about the deal
• Used personal email account rather than official DCMS one

6.19pm: The full text of Hunt’s witness statement is available here, and you can read all of his text messages to James Murdoch, Frédéric Michel, Adam Smith and others here.

6.13pm: A Downing Street spokesman has made the following comment:

Jeremy Hunt’s evidence has shown that he acted properly while he was responsible for the BSkyB bid. He took independent advice at every turn, as well as a number of decisions which were against News Corporation’s wishes.

As the permanent secretary of the department made clear, Jeremy Hunt set up a process which left him with a “vanishingly small” chance to “manipulate” the bid for “political or other ends”.

There are some lessons to be learned from this process and that’s why the cabinet secretary has already written to all departments regarding the way quasi-judicial decisions are taken.

The prime minister will not be referring Jeremy Hunt to Sir Alex Allan.

6.00pm: Press Association now has a full story on Cameron’s decision not to order an investigation into whether Hunt breached the ministerial code:

Jeremy Hunt held on to his place in the cabinet today, after prime minister David Cameron decided not to order an investigation into whether he breached the ministerial code of conduct in his handling of the News Corporation bid for BSkyB.

After watching the culture secretary give evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Cameron judged that he had acted “properly” throughout the period when he was responsible for the bid, said Downing Street.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said it was “frankly disgraceful” that Mr Hunt was not being referred to the PM’s independent adviser on the code Sir Alex Allan.

Downing Street sources said the top civil servant at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens, had made clear to Lord Justice Leveson that Hunt had given himself very little room for political manoeuvre by referring the BSkyB bid to independent regulators.

In taking the regulators’ advice throughout the process, he took a series of decisions which were contrary to News Corp’s interests.

But Harman said Hunt was “clearly already biased” when he was handed quasi-judicial responsibility for overseeing the BSkyB bid in December 2010.

Hunt had misled Parliament about his communications with News Corp and he did not obey the legal advice he was given about intervening, said Harman.

She said this meant there was “no doubt” he had broken the ministerial code.

“He broke the ministerial code, he misled Parliament, and yet David Cameron is keeping him in his cabinet. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

“All of those things mean he should not be carrying on in his job.”

5.43pm: The shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, has attacked David Cameron for clearing Jeremy Hunt for his handling of the BSkyB takeover bid.

Harman told Sky News that Hunt was guilty of “a catalogue of errors and wrongdoing” and should never have been given quasi-judicial oversight of the media merger in the first place.

“It is a catalogue of errors and wrongdoing that now David Cameron is going to say it’s fine and we’re going to carry on as usual. It’s not and it’s deplorable,” she said.

“You’ve got an £8bn bid and Jeremy Hunt was not abiding by the rules and the prime minister appears to think that was perfectly all right. David Cameron should never have given him responsibility for the bid in the first place.”

5.29pm: Hunt’s witness statement and other evidence has now been published on the Leveson inquiry website.

5.23pm: Press Association has confirmed:

Prime minister David Cameron will not refer culture secretary Jeremy Hunt to his independent adviser on the ministerial code following his evidence to the Leveson inquiry today.

5.17pm: PoliticsHome’s Paul Waugh has just tweeted:


5.08pm: Here is a summary of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence to the inquiry today:

• Hunt texted James Murdoch on 21 December 2010 – hours before he was given responsibility for BSkyB bid – congratulating him on European clearance for News Corp’s £8bn takeover. “Just Ofcom to go,” he told Murdoch.

• Hunt texted George Osborne saying “seriously worried we are going to screw this up” minutes after Vince Cable’s anti-Murdoch remarks were made public.

• Osborne replied “hope you like the solution” – a reference to No 10 handing Hunt responsibility for the controversial takeover.

• Hunt considered resigning after the inquiry published 160 pages of emails between his special adviser and News Corp lobbyist.

• Hunt accepted he expressed a “positive view” in a private text message to James Murdoch on 21 December 2010.

• Hunt exchanged text messages with James Murdoch in March 2011, while he had quasi-judicial oversight of the bid.

• Hunt texted Smith “About bloody time!” after Rebekah Brooks resigned as News International chief executive.

• We did not know phone hacking was “a volcano waiting to erupt”, Hunt told the inquiry.

• Closure of the News of the World raised corporate governance concerns about News Corp for the first time, said Hunt.

• News Corp’s Frédéric Michel urged need for the BSkyB takeover to be completed by June 2011 otherwise it would be “catastrophic for many important reasons”.

5.01pm: The hearing ends.

The inquiry will resume on Monday 11 June.

5.00pm: Leveson says that only eight pages in three bundles of Hunt’s evidence will not be published as soon as possible. He wants those eight pages of redactions sorted overnight.

4.58pm: Hunt has now completed his evidence.

4.56pm: Hunt believes the inquiry has an opportunity to establish a regulator that “works across all technology platforms”.

4.54pm: On the future of press regulation, Hunt says that a new body should should be independent of politicians and serving editors.It should be able to compel media groups to join, otherwise it will lack credibility.

“We need to solve what, in loose parlance, is called ‘the Desmond problem’,” he says.

He adds that the successor body to the PCC should be a champion for press standards as well as a complaints-handling body.

4.51pm: Hunt is coming to the end of his evidence.

Jay turns to the general questions the minister answers at the end of his witness statement.

4.49pm: The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has written an analysis of Hunt’s evidence so far:

The culture secretary Jeremy Hunt attempted to achieve two goals at the Leveson inquiry on Thursday – to show he handled the BSkyB bid with procedural fairness and also show that unlike the business secretary Vince Cable, he was able to set aside personal sympathies and judge the bid on its merits.

In addition he hoped to display a personal loyalty to his special adviser Adam Smith, and that Smith had rightly interpreted his role as acting as his buffer to News Corporation.

Morning sessions on the opening day of a cricket match can sometimes be misleading, but judging by the opening three hours, Hunt was struggling to achieve these goals. The torrid first hour of hostile bowling from Robert Jay repeatedly penetrated Hunt’s defences, with the result that far from answering questions, Hunt was facing more.

It emerged he held inappropriate unminuted meetings, something he conceded, he had phone calls with James Murdoch when being expressly advised not to do so by his officials, conducted most of his business via a private email account, and was aware that his special adviser Adam Smith was in constant contact with News Corp, a fact that his permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens did not know. He also frequently derided Ofcom, even though, as he pointed out, he insisted the regulator had to be involved in the critical role of assessing the undertakings.

As the evidence session wore on, the scale of Hunt’s sympathies towards News Corp emerged to be greater than imagined. At one point he described the bid as critical to thousands of jobs and the future of the sector.

Hours before he was considered to take over the role of judging on the bid from the business secretary Vince Cable, he texted James Murdoch to congratulate him on the decision, made coincidentally on the same day by the European Commission, to clear the bid on competition grounds. He texted “Only Ofcom to go”.

Hunt conceded that text sent at 12.54pm showed sympathy for the bid. Later that afternoon, once Cable’s remarks declaring war on Murdoch are leaked by the BBC, he spoke with James Murdoch and then lobbied the chancellor George Osborne by text and Andy Coulson by email, expressing concerns that the whole bid was in danger of being “screwed up”.

Yet when asked to take over the handling of the bid, he did not tell the cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell of these exchanges. Nor did he tell the cabinet secretary that he had lobbied No 10 privately in November 2010 to demand that the business secretary Vince Cable take a different approach to the bid.

The fresh evidence of texts and emails between Hunt, Osborne, Coulson and James Murdoch shed further light on the nexus of relationships in Downing Street. It makes it increasingly likely that Osborne himself will be called to give evidence.

You can read the full article here.

4.48pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

4.46pm: Hunt says he has sympathy with the view that regulators should have been given full oversight of the bid. The impartiality of his handling of the bid was always going to be questioned whatever the outcome, he adds.

“I still believe it’s perfectly possible for politicians to set aside their views and take decisions in an impartial, quasi-judicial way,” Hunt says.

“I think it can be done but it adds to the difficulty of the situation entirely.”

4.41pm: Leveson suggests that on one reading, Hunt was dropping out of the decision.

Hunt says: “I was trying to create a situation with no wriggle room.”

4.41pm: Hunt says he did not predict the pressure Smith would come under from News Corp.

He suggests new measures be put in place in future to stop special advisers being “susceptible” to this scale of lobbying.

4.40pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

4.39pm: Jay asks if Hunt offered to resign.

Hunt says “I did think about my own position” but he maintains “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go but there was no other choice but to accept with a heavy heart Adam’s resignation”.

4.38pm: Hunt accepts he has responsibility for Smith’s behaviour.

4.37pm: Hunt says DCMS officials came to the conclusion that Smith had to resign.

“It seemed terribly unfair, but the pressure was such that it did seem inevitable,” Hunt adds.

Hunt makes clear that he was not necessarily including himself when he told Smith “Everyone here thinks you need to go”.

4.36pm: Hunt then met the permanent secretary, Jonathan Stephens, in the morning at DCMS.

Smith again offered to resign.

“It was still very much my hope that it wouldn’t come to that,” Hunt says.

Discussions over Smith’s fate continued into the morning.

“We knew there was some language that was inappropriate,” he adds.

4.34pm: Jay takes Hunt to Smith’s final day in office.

Hunt confirms that Smith told him he would resign if it would be helpful. He also confirms he may have replied along the lines of “It won’t come to that”.

4.33pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

4.32pm: Michel said in an email to James Murdoch on 7 July: “The closure of NoW does not affect JH decision and if anything helps the media plurality issue by weakening our voice.”

Hunt says that was “just wrong”.

The closure of the News of the World led to a step change in his thinking about corporate governance of News Corp, he repeats.

4.29pm: Hunt says there were “lots and lots of options floating around at the time” on public inquiries into the press.

4.28pm: Jay now turns to messages exchanged on 7 July 2011, when News Corp announced the closure of the News of the World.

Hunt met the prime minister on or near that day to discuss a possible public inquiry.

4.27pm: Hunt cannot remember thinking that the Commons debate led by John Prescott and Tom Watson was “idiotic”, as interpreted by Michel.

4.24pm: Hunt says there was no political reason to want the BSkyB deal to go ahead because each of Conservative-supporting newspapers – except the News International titles – opposed the bid.

4.17pm: Hunt says the DCMS received thousands of representations from opponents of the bid, including about 40,000 prompted by Avaaz, and some of these raised “substantive points”.

He adds that the delay was frustrating, but it was important to follow due process.

Jay puts it to him that the reason he told Smith “the deal must take as long as it takes” was due to the fear of judicial review.

Hunt says he wanted to reassure the public that the decision was being made in an impartial way, and this meant involving Ofcom and the OFT.

4.14pm: Hunt leads Jay down a track he might regret by saying that Michel sought to boost morale in News Corp so may have inflated certain conversations.

Jay points out that Michel said this was the case only when Cable had oversight of the bid.

“Morale at News Corp was low for good reason under Dr Cable but much higher under you if you follow me,” says Jay.

Hunt is silent.

Jay says: “OK.”

4.10pm: Hunt says he has ” no memory” whether those who opposed the bid were “crestfallen” at a meeting with the culture secretary in March 2011.

Michel told James Murdoch after a conversation with Smith that those who opposed the bid looked miserable and “knew they had lost the fight”.

Hunt says maybe Smith did tell Michel this, or maybe Michel invented it.

4.07pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

4.04pm: News Corporation had “massive, massive suspicions” about Ofcom, Hunt says.

He adds that he believed Ofcom was a “highly professional and independent regulator”.

3.58pm: Hunt says he agrees that a pre-existing relationship between Michel and Smith may have been an issue in his special adviser being “sucked into” inappropriate language with the News Corp lobbyist.

3.55pm: Jay turns to the mystery of whether Hunt went to see Swan Lake.

“It was Black Swan,” says Hunt. “The mystery is resolved.”

Leveson says dryly: “Well, I’m pleased about that.”

3.51pm: Jay asks whether Hunt is really saying that Smith should not have been expressing any personal views to Michel.

Hunt repeats that part of the reason Smith “lapsed into personal language” was because of the volume of messages he received from Michel.

3.47pm: Hunt maintains his defence of Smith, that the special adviser was “trying to deal with a difficult stakeholder”.

“The barrage … ended up pushing him into certain situations and language that wasn’t appropriate,” he adds.

3.42pm: The inquiry has resumed and Hunt says that once he took over responsibility for the BSkyB bid he had a “much higher order job to do: I had to make sure that our democracy was safe”.

3.26pm: The inquiry is now taking a short break.

3.21pm: Hunt is asked if he agreed with messages sent by Smith that “we just need space” and “legal wriggle room” when pressed by Michel.

Hunt says he thinks Smith is saying things to get Michel off his back, not giving any substantive help.

3.21pm: Hunt is asked about the text message from Michel to James Murdoch: “JH [Hunt] believes we are in a good place tonight. Let’s see what the morning’s coverage brings.”

“I would have wanted the coverage to be fair,” says Hunt.

3.15pm: Hunt denies that he “shared News Corp’s objectives” as interpreted by Michel in an email to Murdoch.

3.13pm: Hunt says he would have “absolutely not” used the phrase “game over” in the context of the BSkyB bid.

3.11pm: Hunt is asked whether he was aware that Smith was working at all hours on a weekend on the BSkyB bid.

Hunt says “I am sorry for him actually”, adding: “I was totally shocked when I discovered the level of that contact and I think it explains why he sometimes slipped into inappropriate language.”

3.06pm: Here are Jeremy Hunt’s texts with James Murdoch, as seen at the inquiry:

03/03/11 18.33 JRM to JH – Big few days. Well played JRM

03/03 18.55 JH – Thanks think we got right solution!

03/03 18.55 Thanks think wY

04.03 16.59 JH – JRM Just been with the Team GB cycling team in Manchester who are most impressed with the personal interest you show in their performance!

31/03 08.59 JH – JRM Many congratulations on the promotion although I am sure u will really miss Ofcom in NY! Jeremy

31/03 08.59 JM to JH Thanks Jeremy – sadly I fear the wont’ see the back of me that easily! Hopefully we can move our other business forward soon so we can catch up properly. Best

3.05pm: Hunt says James Murdoch told him on 6 January that a Competition Commission referral would be very expensive and that “they would probably not have gone ahead with the deal”.

3.02pm: Jay turns to Michel’s now-infamous emails to James Murdoch first revealed at the inquiry in April.

You can read a timeline of these emails here .

2.29pm: Hunt texted Ed Llewellyn, the No 10 chief of staff, on 3 March 2011 saying: “Not a single PMQ on Murdoch – I declare victory!”

Hunt explains that he believed “we had finally convinced the world that we handled the process fairly.”

2.56pm: Hunt says he would “avoid all text messages” if he were to go back on the process. “It was just me being courteous,” he adds.

2.54pm: Hunt texted Murdoch on 31 March 2011: “Many congratulaions on the promotion although I am sure you will really miss Ofcom in NY!”

Hunt says:

This was nothing to do with the bid. I’d heard on the Today programme he had been promoted … so I was just sending him a congratulations message. I was pulling his leg about … his much-hated Ofcom.

2.53pm: Hunt is now asked about his text messages with James Murdoch.

On 3 March 2011, Murdoch texted Hunt: “Big few days. Well played. JRM.”

Hunt replied: “Thanks think we got the right solution.”

Hunt says he interpreted this as an olive branch from Murdoch because their last two meetings had been difficult.

2.50pm: Beeby, Hunt’s press adviser, warned him off having a drink with Coulson on 17 February 2011 after the former News of the World editor had quit his post at No 10.

Hunt says he might have messaged Coulson saying “Let’s meet up for a drink” after his resignation.

Beeby also warned Hunt not to take any phone calls from Vince Cable. There was a rumour that Cable was “trying to be very sneaky over News Corp”, Jay tells the inquiry.

2.49pm: Hunt told Beeby in a text message on 22 December 2010 that the Daily Telegraph “hardly have credibility reporting this issue” when the paper wrote about his earlier meeting with Murdoch.

Hunt explains that he was referring to the Telegraph as an opponent of the BSkyB bid.

2.47pm: In March 2011, Oliver told Hunt there was a view emerging “Murdoch will pull a fast one” on selling Sky News.

2.46pm: Jay now turns to Hunt’s text messages with Craig Oliver, the No 10 communications director.

2.44pm: On 15 July 2011, Smith texted Hunt to say Rebekah Brooks had resigned.

“About bloody time!” replied Hunt.

“Um, nothing personal against Mrs Brooks,” he comments.

2.43pm: Jay is now giving a “flavour” of Hunt’s text messages with Smith.

2.38pm: Hunt does not accept that once Michel had managed to push the door slightly open (by Hunt responding to his texts) “he was in”. The culture secretary says none of the text messages “led to a substantive discussion about the bid”.

2.37pm: “He was just looking for any opportunity he could to establish contact of one sort or another,” says Hunt, when asked about Michel’s text to the culture secretary when he was watching Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

2.34pm: On 13 March 2011, Michel sent Hunt a text congratulating the culture secretary on his performance in the House of Commons: “You were very impressive yesterday. “

“Merci! Large drink tonight,” replied Hunt.

In another message, Michel said “Very good on Marr as always”.

Hunt replied: “Merci. Hopefully when consultation over we can have a coffee like the old days.”

Hunt comments:

Flattery is a weapon that Mr Michel tries to develop quite frequently.

2.33pm: Josh: Hunt says he believed a courteous reply to a text message was not inappropriate, but that he did try and “close down the discussion” when Michel texted him.

“I wouldn’t know about the volume of communications he was having with Mr Smith,” Hunt adds.

2.29pm: Hunt is asked about his text messages with News Corp’s Michel on 20 December 2010:

20.54: Michel to Hunt:Great to see you today. We should get little [children’s names redacted] together in the future to socialise. Nearly born the same day at the same place! Warm regards, Fred

23.45: Hunt to Michel: Good to see you too. hope u understand why we have to have the long process. Let’s meet up when things are resolved. J.

Hunt accepts that Michel was a little pushy and “a little cheeky actually” because it came after the culture secretary’s testy meeting with James Murdoch.

2.28pm: Hunt sent an email to his special adviser Sue Beeby on 20 July 2011 saying “You may need to correct any press, make a statement about my apparent admission of a discussion with Rebekah Brooks … Hope it doesn’t cause an issue.”

He also advised Beeby on “the best thing to say”. Jay asks Hunt what he meant by that.

“They had used what I had said to try and confirm that there were such discussions between Rebekah Brooks and the prime minister about the bid. I didn’t know of any and if there were any they were irrelevant,” Hunt says.

Beeby replied saying “there was nothing surprising about your [Hunt’s] meetings at all” and advised him on “lines to take” if asked hostile questions on the issue.

2.25pm: Hunt concedes there was a “political concern” that the government would lose a planned vote by MPs on 13 July 2011 about the BSkyB bid.

2.23pm: Hunt says he had a conference call with No 10 counsel shortly before 11 July 2011 and it was decided that the culture secretary would write to Ofcom and OFT asking whether they stood by previous advice on the BSkyB bid in the light of new phone-hacking revelations.

2.19pm: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:

2.16pm: Jay says that after the Milly Dowler revelations, No 10 was putting pressure on Hunt over phone hacking and its bearing on the BSkyB bid.

On 10 July 2011, Hunt sent an email saying that No 10 were “very worried about the vote on Weds – they think it’s highly possible Miliband will win”.

Hunt says it was the “corporate governance issue” of News Corp closing the News of the World that made him re-evaluate previous advice on the fit and proper test of the company.

2.14pm: Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, returns to questioning Hunt.

2.12pm: Leveson urges News International to work speedily so the documents can be published as soon as possible.

Leveson says he is determined to publish Hunt’s evidence online today, despite News International’s strong protestations, but he is willing for the documents to be examined this afternoon.

2.05pm: The inquiry has resumed.

News International is concerned about the redaction of documents as part of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence that its lawyers contain commercially sensitive information.

Leveson says he wants the documents to be published today and asks why News International did not raise these concerns earlier.

1.46pm: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

The Guardian was part of the coalition of media groups, including Telegraph Media Group and Associated Newspapers, that publicly opposed the BSkyB takeover. This opposition group had just one meeting with Hunt on 24 March 2011 and was told to deal only with Victoria Kaye, a DCMS official, throughout the bid process.

1.33pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

1.09pm: We now have video of Hunt telling the inquiry that he was “sympathetic” to News Corp’s BSkyB bid.

1.06pm: Here is a brief summary of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence so far:

• Hunt texted James Murdoch on 21 December 2010 – hours before he was given responsibility for BSkyB bid – congratulating him on European clearance for News Corp’s £8bn takeover. “Just Ofcom to go,” he told Murdoch.

• Hunt texted George Osborne saying “seriously worried we are going to screw this up” minutes after Vince Cable’s anti-Murdoch remarks were made public.

• Osborne replied “hope you like the solution” – a reference to No 10 handing Hunt responsibility for the controversial takeover.

• Hunt accepted he expressed a “positive view” in a private text message to James Murdoch on 21 December 2010.

• We did not know phone hacking was “a volcano waiting to erupt”, Hunt told the inquiry.

• Closure of the News of the World raised corporate governance concerns about News Corp for the first time, said Hunt.

• News Corp’s Frédéric Michel urged need for the BSkyB takeover to be completed by June 2011 otherwise it would be “catastrophic for many important reasons”.

12.58pm: The inquiry has now broken for lunch.

It will resume at 2pm, when Hunt will continue giving evidence.

12.57pm: Jay now turns to an email from Hunt to Smith describing News Corp’s undertakings in lieu as “pretty thorough”.

He added in the email: “Feels like the world doesn’t trust the Murdochs as far as they can be thrown”.

Asked to explain this remark, Hunt says his office had received tens of thousands of objections to the bid and that it was an accurate description of the mood of the country at that time.

12.54pm: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:

12.51pm: Hunt says:

News Corp is a very determined company and they are always putting everyone under pressure to do things quickly.

Hunt adds that he wanted to do things “briskly but properly”.

He says he would not have been surprised if Smith told him that News Corp was “getting a bit uppity now”, as Jay puts it.

12.51pm: Hunt says Michel’s concern “certainly wasn’t” passed on to him, and that Smith would not have known that the lobbyist was “delphically” referring to phone hacking.

12.48pm: Hunt says the DCMS did not know that phone hacking was a “volcano that was about to erupt”.

Neither he nor Smith knew what was to emerge over phone hacking, Hunt says.

12.46pm: Jay turns to an email on 12 May 2011 from Michel to Smith.

Michel told Smith of the need to get the bid completed by June otherwise it would be “catastrophic for many important reasons”.

Hunt explains that phone hacking was of “growing concern to News Corp and they were worried that it would derail the bid”.

“They might have been more aware than we were that there were more and more explosive revelations down the track,” he adds.

12.44pm: Hunt says of the BSkyB bid process:

I was wanting to structure the process so that no one would believe I had any discretion.

12.42pm: Hunt says he was being open-minded, fair and “had this lock on the process that in the end we were going to get advice from Ofcom and the OFT on the UILs [undertakings in lieu] before I made my decision. And it was going to have a big impact on that decision”.

12.37pm: Asked about another email, Hunt says it is “standard practice” to give companies advance notice of statements made about them in parliament.

12.37pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

12.34pm: The inquiry hears that Hunt’s special adviser on the media, Sue Beeby, asked him whether he could give “our two favourite journalists” an exclusive.

The journalists were Andrew Porter of the Telegraph and Patrick Foster, the ex-Times journalist.

Beebe then told Hunt “spoken to Patrick [Foster, the former Times journalist] and given him [redacted] this is on the proviso that he writes a bit about Labour. He’s happy to do that.”

12.29pm: The inquiry hears that Smith forwarded a leaked email from Ed Miliband’s communications director, Tom Baldwin, to Hunt in which Baldwin warned not to link phone hacking to the BSkyB bid.

Hunt replied “Classic!! One for the despatch box or next time we’re accused of being pro-Murdoch.”

Asked about this, Hunt says he saw a “great irony” in it.

12.28pm: We now have video of Hunt saying his phone call to Murdoch was”entirely appropriate”.

12.27pm: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

12.22pm: After the Guardian’s Milly Dowler revelations in early July 2011, Hunt wrote to Ofcom and the OFT asking them whether they stood by advice from the beginning of June on the plurality issues.

Hunt says he thought in July: “Is this a company that actually doesn’t have control of what’s going on in its own company, even if the management don’t know about it?”

He adds that he never received the advice from Ofcom and OFT because News Corp withdrew its bid for BSkyB a few days later.

12.21pm: Hunt says after the closure of the News of the World he wondered whether there was a corporate governance issue at News Corporation.

I asked myself: ‘If they found it necessary to close down the whole paper, is there a corporate governance issue here?’

12.20pm: Hunt says he then sought legal advice over whether phone hacking was relevant.

He says on 18 April he got legal advice that hacking could impinge if there was an issue of trust.

Hunt maintains that this was a News International issue, but did not believe there was an issue of trust with News Corp.

12.19pm: In April, News International finally dropped its “one rogue reporter defence” and admitted the practice was more widespread.

12.18pm: Hunt says that the phone-hacking issue was developing in parallel to his consideration of this bid.

On 26 January 2011, the Met police launched Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone hacking – Hunt says his perspective at this point was “it is a police matter”.

12.15pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

12.14pm: Ultimately, Hunt says, News Corp’s purchase of the remaining shares in BSkyB without Sky News would have made the news channel “massively more independent of James Murdoch than it was then and it is now”.

12.11pm: Hunt says from March to June there was consultation on News Corp’s undertakings in lieu (the offer to spin off Sky News).

12.10pm: Hunt told Murdoch he had 24 hours to accede to Ofcom and the OFT’s concerns on News Corp’s undertakings.

12.10pm: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

12.09pm: Murdoch first thought he did not need to spin off Sky News at all and was “tantamount to killing the deal,” according to Hunt.

Murdoch also wanted to remain chairman of Sky News after the potential deal, which Ofcom opposed.

12.07pm: The Guardian’s Paul Owen has put together a timeline of what happened on on 21 December 2010, when Hunt replaced Vince Cable as minister with responsibility for overseeing the Sky bid:

The Leveson inquiry has heard evidence from Jeremy Hunt about the day he was handed responsibility for dealing with News Corporation’s bid for full control of BSkyB – and revealed a previously-unpublished text message from Hunt to James Murdoch in support of the bid earlier that day.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, was stripped of responsibility for dealing with the bid on 21 December 2010 after the BBC published comments recorded by undercover Daily Telegraph journalists in which Cable said he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch, comments which were interpreted as showing that he was biased against the bid.

Around midday: The European commission unconditionally approved News Corporation’s bid to take full control of BSkyB on competition grounds.

12.57pm: Jeremy Hunt text to James Murdoch: “Great and congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go.”

2.30pm: The BBC publishes Vince Cable’s comments to undercover Daily Telegraph reporters, in which the business secretary said: “I don’t know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win.”

3.56pm: News Corporation statement: “News Corp is shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable’s comments. They raise serious questions about fairness and due process.”

4pm: Hunt has a phone call with James Murdoch, discussing Cable’s comments.

4.08pm: Hunt texts George Osborne, the chancellor, to say he is “seriously worried we are going to screw this up” regarding the BSkyB bid, and, in a second text, says Murdoch is accusing Cable of “acute bias” over the bid.

4.58pm: Osborne texts Hunt: “I hope you like our solution.”

5.45pm: Downing Street announces that Cable has been stripped of responsibility for the BSkyB decision and that responsibility has been handed to Hunt.

12.04pm: Hunt told News Corp that he would ask both OFT and Ofcom for advice on the undertakings, which did not please Murdoch.

Murdoch believed Ofcom was “hostile” to News Corp, says Hunt.

12.04pm: Hunt says he believed News Corp’s undertakings in lieu – an offer to spin-off Sky News into a separate, independent company – were “a pretty big offer”.

12.03pm: Hunt still believed he should refer the bid to the Competition Commission after his meeting with Richards. Then News Corp said it wanted to make undertakings in lieu in order to present a referral to the Competition Commission. Hunt says he had a legal duty to consider the bid.

11.59am: Jay asks when the minutes of Hunt’s meeting with Ofcom’s Richards were made available to News Corp.

Hunt says he does not know.

11.58am: Hunt then met the Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, on 10 January 2011.

11.55am: Hunt met News Corporation representatives on 6 January 2011, the inquiry hears.

This was a formal meeting between Hunt, other DCMS officials and Murdoch.

Ofcom told Hunt the previous week, on 31 December 2010, that there was a plurality problem with the bid which might require a referral to the Competition Commission.

Hunt told Murdoch at this meeting that he was going to refer the bid to the Competition Commission.

News Corp told Hunt at the meeting that they had concerns about Ofcom’s analysis and that they wanted to consider remedies.

11.54am: ITV’s Tom Bradby has just tweeted:

11.52am: The Guardian’s Severin Carrell has just tweeted about the Andy Coulson case:

11.51am: Jay turns to Hunt’s handling of the bid after 22 December 2010, when he was given quasi-judicial authority by No 10.

Hunt says in his witness statement that he went further than legally necessary to seek regulatory and legal advice on the media merger.

11.50am: Hunt says he felt passionately about the public interest implications of media plurality “even more so than the commercial viability of the UK media industry”.

11.47am: Hunt says:

We weren’t expecting 542 text messages to Mr Smith … when you do the analysis it looks like Mr Michel was trying to contact Mr Smith five times every working day, which is an extraordinary amount we didn’t anticipate at all.

11.46am: Hunt is pressed on Michel.

He says there was “was a bit of pushiness” from Michel over the bid and that his text message replies to the News Corp lobbyist “got pretty brief”.

11.43am: The inquiry resumes.

Hunt denies that Smith was an “extra layer of contact” with News Corp.

Jay argues that the lawyers were the primary layer of contact between News Corp and the DCMS and Smith was in addition to that.

Hunt denies again that it was an extra layer, saying that Smith was one of several points of contact during the bid.

11.41am: We now have a transcript of Hunt’s texts on 21 December 2010:

12.46: Hunt to Murdoch: Sorry to miss your call. Am on my mobile now. Jeremy

12.52: Murdoch to Hunt: Have to run into next thing. Are you free anything after 2.15? I can shuffle after this

12.55: Hunt to Murdoch: How about 4?

Murdoch to Hunt: Done.

12.57: Hunt to Murdoch: Great and contrats on Brussels, just Ofcom to go!

16.10: Hunt to Coulson: Could we chat abvout this? Am seriously worried Vince will do real damage to coaltion with his comments …

16.08: Hunt to Osborne: Cld we chat about Murdoch Sky bid? Am seriously worried we are going to screw this up.

16.08: Hunt to Osborne: Just been called by James M. His lawyers are meeting now & saying it calls ino question legitmach of whole process form beginning ‘acute bias’ etc

16.58 Osborne to Hunt: I hope you like the solution!

11.37am: Here is a brief summary of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence so far:

Hunt texted James Murdoch on 21 December 2010 – hours before he was given responsibility for BSkyB bid – congratulating him on European clearance for News Corp’s £8bn takeover. “Just Ofcom to go,” he told Murdoch.

• Hunt texted George Osborne saying “seriously worried we are going to screw this up” minutes after Vince Cable’s anti-Murdoch remarks were made public.

• Osborne replied “hope you like the solution” – a reference to No 10 handing Hunt responsibility for the controversial takeover.

• Hunt accepted he expressed a “positive view” of the BSkyB bid in a private text message to James Murdoch on 21 December 2010.

11.33am: The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has just tweeted:

11.29am: The inquiry is now taking a short break.

11.29am: Leveson asks Hunt whether it was “abundantly clear that enormous care had to be exercised” over the bid.

Hunt says that is “absolutely right”.

11.28am: The Sunday Times political correspondent Isabel Oakeshott has just tweeted:

11.28am: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

11.25am: Hunt agrees that Smith was “politically astute” but says he was “politically pretty neutral”.

“I doubt there’s a minister who worked more closely with a special adviser than I worked with Adam Smith,” he says.

He confirms that Smith knew his views on the BSkyB bid, but did not specifically ask for them.

11.25am: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:

11.24am: Hunt confirms he did not give Smith instructions on what not to do in his role in the BSkyB bid, adding that the special adviser knew the sensitivities.

11.23am: Hunt says he saw Smith as an official point of contact for News Corp but not as a gobetween for Hunt and the media giant.

11.21am: Hunt believed once given control of the bid that it was important to be fair and transparent. Jay asks if interactions with News Corp and opponents would have to be through official channels.

Hunt says he did not think courteous replies to text messages were off limits.

“He adds that “any formal interactions with respect of my decisions” should be through official channels, by which he means his special adviser Adam Smith.

11.21am: The BBC’s Evan Davis has just tweeted:

11.20am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

11.19am: The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has just tweeted:

11.17am: Jay turns to the legal advice Hunt was given in the days after he had been given responsibility for the BSkyB bid.

Hunt says he believed his quasi-judicial role meant “he had to be fair to both sides” but that did not mean having an equal amount of meetings with both News Corp and opponents of the bid.

Because of my other duties as secretary of state I was going to be bumping into people who had views on the bid.

11.16am: ITV’s Tom Bradby has just tweeted:

11.15am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

11.12am: Jay asks if the decision to give Hunt authority was made “overhastily”.

Hunt says it was not because No 10 received legal advice.

The situation demanded the government acted quickly because it was a very important merger decision … I think it was absolutely right that the prime minister acted decisively.

11.10am: The Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll has just tweeted:

11.09am: “I’m not a lawyer but I would says I don’t believe there is a substantive difference,” says Hunt on his private remarks to Murdoch and Osborne about the bid.

He adds that it was “widely known” that he was sympathetic towards the BSkyB bid, but he was approaching it impartially.

11.09am: The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has just tweeted:

11.08am: Hunt argues that once given quasi-judicial authority over the bid he set up a process to set aside his sympathies.

11.07am: The Guardian’s Josh Halliday has just tweeted:

11.06am: Jay presses Hunt on this, asking whether he believes this showed he had an apparent bias towards the bid.

Hunt answers “You don’t appoint a quasi-judicial role with your brain wiped clean,” and mantains that he “set aside” his personal view once he was given responsibility for the bid.

11.05am: Hunt says he probably would not have sent the text congratulating Murdoch on the Brussels green light if he had responsibility for the bid.

“No I don’t think I would have sent that text,” he says.

Hunt was given responsibility at about 6pm that day.

I don’t think there’s anything substantively different in my text to Mr Murdoch – it just shows I was broadly sympathetic to the bid.

11.04am: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

11.03am: Hunt agrees he knew this meant he would be put in charge but was also wary that he had made positive comments about the bid previously.

He says he wanted No 10 not to announce him as taking charge in case these positive comments would preclude him from being able to take the role.

11.02am: Osborne replied at 4.58pm the same day saying “I hope you like the solution.”

Hunt confirms this was a reference to him being given control of the BSkyB bid after Cable’s responsibility was discharged.

11.01am: The inquiry hears that Hunt texted George Osborne twice at 4.08pm, saying “seriously worried we are going to screw this up” about the BSkyB bid after Cable’s comments broke.

Hunt texted Osborne a second time saying Murdoch was accusing Cable of “acute bias” over the bid.

10.58am: Andy Coulson emailed Hunt later that day asking him to call and saying: “seriously worried Vince will do serious damage to coalition with his comments”.

Hunt says he does not believe he returned Coulson’s message.

10.57am: Hunt discussed Cable’s comments in a phone call with James Murdoch at 4pm that day, he confirms.

10.56am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

10.54am: Hunt sent Murdoch a text at 12.57pm on that day saying:

Great and congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go.

Hunt accepts this was expressing a “somewhat positive view” of the fact that News Corp had been given European approval for the bid.

10.54am: Murdoch and Hunt texted each other to arrange a phone call for 4pm on that day, Jay says.

Hunt says he is not sure whether he was aware of Cable’s “war on Murdoch” remarks at this time because they broke on mid- to late afternoon.

10.53am: Jay turns to text messages on 21 December 2010, the day Cable was discharged from his oversight of the BSkyB bid.

10.52am: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:

10.51am: Michel and Smith met at the DCMS in the special advisers’ room – or “spads’ room” – on 6 December 2010, the inquiry hears.

Hunt says he did not know about the meeting at the time. “Smith was the contact point with all stakeholders,” he adds.

10.51am: Hunt confirms that Smith knew his view on the takeover, described by Jay as a “critical issue”.

10.51am: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

10.50am: Hunt confirms he made the second draft of the memo, in which the “wrong place not just politically” reference was removed and the warning about “caving in” to opponents of the bid was beefed up.

10.49am: Jay asks why Hunt called for a high-level meeting with David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

Hunt says he wanted the meeting because of the media policy implications, but adds:

I now realise it would not have been possible for Vince Cable to attend such a meeting.

10.46am: Jay asks what Hunt means by “wrong place in terms of media policy”.

Hunt explains he has a concern that the model of the newspaper industry is not viable in the long term, and saw this bid “as an opportunity to help modernise the industry”.

He says he was “sympathetic” towards the bid, when asked by Jay whether he was supportive of it.

10.44am: Hunt confirms he drafted the original memo.

He is asked what he meant by warning that the Tories could “end up in the wrong place not just politically” if they blocked the BSkyB bid.

Hunt explains that the Tories are traditionally a free market, pro-competition party and blocking such a business deal would have been inconsistent with their policy.

“I don’t think there’s any political win in any possible outcome as far as a Conservative-led government is concerned,” he adds.

10.43am: Hunt is asked about his private memo to David Cameron on 19 November 2010.

In the draft, Hunt wrote:

James Murdoch is pretty furious at Vince’s referral to Ofcom. He doesn’t think he will get a fair hearing from Ofcom. I am privately concerned about this because News Corp are very litigious and we could end up in the wrong place in terms of media policy. Essentially what James Murdoch wants to do is to repeat what his father did with the move to Wapping and create the world’s first multiplatform media operator available from paper to web to TV to iPhone to iPad. Isn’t this what all media companies have to do ultimately? And if so we must be very careful that any attempt to block it is done on plurality grounds and not as a result of lobbying by competitors.

The UK has the chance to lead the way on this as we did in the 80s with the Wapping move but if we block it our media sector will suffer for years. In the end I am sure sensible controls can be put into any merger to ensure there is plurality but I think it would be totally wrong to cave into the Mark Thompson/Channel 4/Guardian line that this represents a substantial change of control given that we all know Sky is controlled by News Corp now anyway.

What next? Ofcom will issue their report saying whether it needs to go to the Competition Commission by 31 December. It would be totally wrong for the government to get involved in a competition issue which has to be decided at arm’s length. However I do think you, I, Vince and the DPM [deputy prime minister] should meet to discuss the policy issues that are thrown up as a result.

10.40am: Hunt says he “just heard Mr Murdoch out” over the telephone. If he had wanted a meeting we would have said we could not intervene, he adds.

Murdoch used “colourful language” to express his frustration over the process, Hunt says.

10.39am: The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:

10.38am: Hunt spoke to Murdoch on his mobile phone around this time.

Hunt maintains this was not a replacement for the meeting cancelled after legal advice.

Michel told Murdoch on 15 November 2010: “You could have a chat with him on his mobile which is completely fine and I will liaise with his team privately as well.”

10.38am: Hunt says he now believes it is a good idea to have officials present when meeting media owners because of the “massive number of conspiracy theories about”.

10.38am: Hunt says he was told that it was appropriate to have meetings with “stakeholders” where minutes were taken and officials were present. It was at his discretion to have unminuted meetings with no officials present, he adds.

10.37am: Jay asks if Hunt was frustrated, as Michel claimed.

Hunt says:

I may have been frustrated. I was worried about a bid in my sector which could meant that thousands more jobs would be created and the main protagonists were concerned … So I may well have been worried.

10.36am: On 15 November 2010, Michel emailed Murdoch saying about Hunt:

Hunt meeting – urgent. Jeremy tried to call you. He has received very strong legal advice not to meet us today as the current process is treated as a judicial one (not a policy one) and any meeting could be referred to and jeopardise the entire process.

Hunt says he does not believe he spoke to Michel before the News Corp lobbyist sent this email. He may have had a conversation with Adam Smith, Hunt says.

10.35am: Hunt received further legal advice on 7 December 2010 stating “that’s probably not what JS [Jonathan Stephens, the permanent secretary] and JH wanted to hear”.

10.35am: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has tweeted:

10.31am: Jay turns to the legal advice given to Hunt on 19 November 2010.

He was told it would be “unwise” to make an intervention on the BSkyB bid.

10.30am: Hunt explains that November 2010 was the first time he heard the phrase “quasi-judicial”.

“I thought I had an absolutely duty to be across the most important issue in that industry,” he adds.

10.29am: Hunt says:

I think I had a concern about the situation where we had this very important, very significant merger in my sector where I didn’t think there was a particular problem with it, but the organisation concerned said they did feel they were facing a number of obstacles with it.

10.28am: Hunt says he was asking for his “locus to express an opinion that might be taken into consideration by Dr Cable”.

He interpreted the advice to mean he should not have an external conversation that could be seen as an intervention in Cable’s oversight of the bid.

Hunt adds that he did not believe he could not speak to industry figures about the bid.

10.27am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:


10.27am: Jay turns to Hunt’s meeting with James Murdoch on 12 November 2010.

Hunt received legal advice on that same day to “not have external discussions about the bid” nor write to Vince Cable.

10.25am: Jay shows Hunt an email of 2 November 2010 and then on 9 November 2010 from Michel asking him to “meet JRM” on 15 November 2010.

Hunt texted back: “Great.”

10.24am: The Guardian’s deputy editor, Ian Katz, has just tweeted:

10.23am: Hunt says he does not believe other officials knew he received the briefing documents “nor would I have made a secret of it”.

Asked why Smith sent the email to Hunt’s personal account, the minister says that is the only email account he uses; his private secretary looks after his official DCMS account.

10.22am: Hunt is asked about the briefing documents from News Corp he described as “very powerful” in an email to Adam Smith, his special adviser.

Hunt explains that he did not believe there was a “major plurality issue” in the media merger.

10.20am: Hay asks how well Hunt knew Michel.

Hunt says he never socialised with Michel but got to know him well because they both had children in the same hospital at the same time.

10.19am: Hunt says he met Rebekah Brooks and Frédéric Michel at the Conservative conference in October 2010.

He adds that the News Corp pair complained they would not get a fair hearing from Vince Cable.

Hunt says that he may have expressed surprise that Cable believed there may have been a plurality issue with the bid.

10.17am: Hunt says he was told it was acceptable and at his discretion whether to have meetings with News Corp executives.

He admits having an unminuted meeting with Murdoch with no officials present on 20 June.

The Sky bid was probably discussed, he says.

10.16am: Jay presses Hunt on when he first learned of News Corp’s BSkyB bid.

Hunt says he is not sure whether he was told about the bid before it was publicly announced, adding:

My view was that the Murdochs controlled BSkyB … so I didn’t think there was a significant change in plurality.

10.14am: Hunt is asked whether he hid behind a tree to avoid being spotted at a party at which Murdoch was present.

The Daily Telegraph’s Iain Martin offers his first-hand account of the incident here.

Hunt says he spotted a large group of media journalists outside the entrance and thought “this is not the time to have an impromptu interview and so I moved into a different quadrangle”.

“There may or may not have been trees,” Hunt adds, before Leveson urges Jay to move on.

10.12am: Hunt met News Corp executives on a trip to New York in September 2009.

He had “general discussions” with News Corp executives about broadcasting, but Murdoch was in London at the time. They spoke about impartiality rules, he says.

10.11am: Jay asks if Hunt agreed with Murdoch on “top slicing” the BBC licence fee.

“Generally speaking I didn’t agree with him on the licence fee, full stop,” Hunt says.

He points out that Murdoch opposes the licence fee completely, whereas Hunt believes the BBC is an “important benchmark” for broadcasting quality.

10.08am: Hunt says he disagreed with the thrust of Murdoch’s MacTaggart lecture remarks on the BBC.

Murdoch described the corporation’s size and ambitions as “chilling” and accused it of mounting a “land grab” in a beleaguered media market.

You can read the full text of his speech here.

10.07am: Jay asks about meetings with James Murdoch.

In one meeting, Hunt and Murdoch spoke about reforming Ofcom.

Hunt says his focus in the meeting was local TV and superfast broadband but “I did not manage to excite much interest from him in either of those two issues.”

10.07am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

10.05am: Hunt is asked about the comments on his personal website praising Rupert Murdoch’s contribution to the British economy.

He explains that this section on his website feature press articles about him and that comment was by a journalist from Broadcast magazine “but it’s not how I would describe myself”.

Hunt says he puts up “positive or negative” comments on his website because he believes they are helpful to his constituents.

10.04am: Hunt has been an MP since 2005, shadow culture secretary, then culture secretary from May 2010.

10.02am: Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is sworn in and has taken the witness stand.

Robert Jay QC, lead counsel to the inquiry, is leading the questioning.

9.52am: The Guardian’s John Plunkett has sent us this picture from outside the Royal Courts of Justice of protesters wearing Hunt and Cameron masks:

9.51am: Hunt has submitted more than 160 pages of internal memos, emails and text messages to the Leveson inquiry, according to the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson.

Robinson reports that Hunt originally believed that Adam Smith, his special adviser, had done nothing wrong in his contacts with News Corp’s Frédéric Michel and that the culture secretary was prepared to resign himself.

9.51am: The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:

9.42am: The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has just tweeted:



9.40am: Sky News’s Mark White has posted video on Twitter of protesters wearing Hunt masks doing the lambada:

9.30am: Here is the list of questions Dan Sabbagh, Josh Halliday and Lisa O’Carroll ask Jeremy Hunt in the Guardian today:

1. Why did you agree to talk to James Murdoch on the telephone on 15 November, when you had been explicitly told by your permanent secretary that you could not meet him? Were you seeking to get information from him that could be used to influence David Cameron and pressurise Vince Cable?

2. Why did you draft a memo to the prime minister on 19 November, after having spoken to a “pretty furious” James Murdoch, asking that he intervene to rein in Vince Cable – after you had been told by the DCMS legal director, Patrick Kilgarriff, that it would be unwise to get involved?

3. What did you mean when you wrote that the coalition “could end up in the wrong place in terms of media policy” and that it would be a mistake to “cave in” to opponents of the bid? Why did you think it was appropriate to ask the prime minister to lean on Cable?

4. Why did you tone down your original memo? Why did you write in an earlier draft that the Tories “could end up in the wrong place politically?” Were you concerned that the Conservatives would lose the support of News Corporation and its newspapers? Did your conversation with James Murdoch on 15 November give rise to that concern?

5. Did you have any further discussion with Cameron, Osborne or other Conservative ministers after sending the memo as regards trying to influence Cable in the quasi-judicial process? And why did you tell parliament on 25 April 2012 that you made “absolutely no interventions seeking to influence a quasi-judicial decision that was at that time the responsibility of the secretary of state for business”?

6. When Gus O’Donnell was asked to determine if you could be an objective judge of the BSkyB bid, did you make him aware of the 19 November memo you wrote to the prime minister? If not, why not? Was it because it would have revealed the appearance of bias on your part?

7. Adam Smith said he knew “very much what [you] thought” and received an excellent performance review in December 2011. Given his acknowledged talent and knowledge of your ways of working, how can you maintain that you were unaware of “volume and tone” of Smith’s contacts with Fred Michel during the bid?

8. Did you receive any advice about whether it was appropriate for you to consider the phone-hacking issue as relevant to your decision on the Sky bid? If so, what did that advice state, and when was it received? Why did you continue to insist that concern about hacking was immaterial to the bid – particular given that it was the reason the bid collapsed?

9. Were you aware that News Corp had been given an early copy of your 3 March 2011 statement to parliament on the proposed undertakings in lieu? Was it appropriate for your special adviser to be texting Michel at 3am with advance details of your Commons statement? Were you also aware that Michel believed he was passed information “although absolutely illegal” by your department on 23 January 2011?

10. Why did you hide behind a tree to avoid being seen by Wall Street Journal journalist Iain Martin at an evening event on 20 May 2010 where James Murdoch had just given a speech? What did you discuss at the subsequent dinner; were you tipped off about the impending BSkyB bid? Is is fair to say that you “wanted to be close to News International, and to have dinner with Murdoch, but didn’t want to be seen as being close to News International”?

9.23am: Good morning and welcome to the Leveson inquiry.

Embattled culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will face sustained questioning today as the inquiry turns its focus to his dealings with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Hunt will be pressed on his controversial handling of News Corp’s £8bn BSkyB takeover bid as the minister fights to save his political future.

Hunt has faced mounting questions about his apparent bias in favour of the News Corp bid since the inquiry published 160 pages of emails between his key aide, Adam Smith, and the News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel in April.

Hunt will be questioned for almost seven hours on whether he repeatedly misled parliament about his position on the bid, repeatedly claiming that he had made no interventions on the bid before he took control and had no unofficial contact with Michel.

Documents revealed at the inquiry show that Hunt wrote a pointed memo to David Cameron in November 2010 in support of the bid on the same day he was given legal advice not to. He also exchanged a string of text messages with Michel while exercising quasi-judicial oversight of the media merger.

The inquiry begins at 10am. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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