Jeremy Hunt to be investigated over media donations

Parliamentary standards commissioner to investigate claims that culture secretary failed to register donations from media companies while in opposition

Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, is to be investigated by the parliamentary standards commissioner over claims that he failed to register donations from media companies while in opposition.

John Lyon, the parliamentary standards commissioner, announced the inquiry on Monday in response to a complaint earlier in May from Labour MP Stephen McCabe.

McCabe wrote to the commissioner raising concerns about a series of “networking events” involving eight media and creative industry organisations which culture minister Ed Vaizey said he and Hunt had attended while in opposition before the May 2010 general election.

Vaizey recorded the events in the register of interests as donations in kind worth a total of around £27,000. Hunt did not mention them in his own entry in the register, claimed McCabe.

A spokeswoman for the culture secretary, who is facing calls to resign from Labour over his handling of News Corporation’s abandoned takeover bid for BSkyB, said he had amended his register entry since the complaint was raised.

She declined to comment on the allegations, but said that Hunt would co-operate with the commissioner’s inquiry.

Hunt is fighting for his political life after the resignation of his special adviser Adam Smith last month over allegations of an inappropriate level of contact with a News Corp lobbyist during the Sky takeover bid.

Hunt maintains that he acted correctly and in a quasi-judicial manner while he was considering whether to give the bid the green light in 2010 and 2011.

Lyon’s office confirmed that an inquiry had been launched but declined to comment further.

Details of the donations first emerged earlier this month, with the failure to declare them by Hunt described at the time by aides as the result of a “miscommunication” between the culture secretary and Vaizey.

Hunt attended three networking events before the election, it emerged in early May. They were sponsored by the advertising agency DDB UK, which paid £1,473.81 in September 2009; the Groucho Club, which provided £1,435 in November 2009; and M&C Saatchi, which stumped up £4,563.50 in July 2009.

The culture secretary was expected to have to declare donations totalling £3,736.15 – half of the value of the three events.

A spokeswoman for Hunt said earlier in May: “We are going to correct the register. Jeremy Hunt did not go to a majority of these events. He did not attend the BSkyB event but he did attend three of these events which he will declare.

“This was a miscommunication. Ed Vaizey made a declaration. Jeremy thought that covered the events which were organised by Ed.”

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