The culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended himself against accusations that he secretly backed News Corporation’s bid to take over BSkyB when he was supposed to be impartial, by claiming he is not the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport at all.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt said:
It is categorically untrue that as Culture Secretary my handling of the BSkyB merger was unduly influenced by News Corporation because I am not and never have been the Culture Secretary. Therefore I could never have held any meetings with News Corp representatives or had improper communications with them – and as I obviously can’t resign from a job I don’t actually do – my adviser has been made to resign instead.
Mr Hunt’s robust rebuttal of the accusations of impartiality against him surprised many experts, and several MPs demanded to know the true identity of the Culture Secretary. In reply, Mr Hunt agreed the matter needed to be resolved as soon as possible:
I would like to resolve the very important issue of who the Culture Secretary is with as little delay, which is why I have today written to Lord Justice Leveson asking if my appearance can be brought forward in order for him to urgently look into the matter of my identity.
However, I am very confident that when the evidence is presented, the public will see that I have conducted myself with absolute objectivity and scrupulous fairness at all times, even though I have no idea who I actually am.
The Prime Minister David Cameron also released a statement giving his full support to the Secretary of State:
I can categorically confirm that Jeremy Hunt has never actually done a day’s work as Secretary of State and that’s why I have no hesitation in giving him my full support and have full confidence in him in this matter.
In another related development, Mr Hunt’s wife has criticised him for claiming he has no knowledge of any improper communications or encounters with her related to the procreation of their children, instead claiming his adviser Adam Smith had been present at the relevant meetings without his knowledge.
In response to the accusations, Mr Adams immediately stepped down from his position and in a statement, explained the reasons for his resignation:
While it was part of my role to keep Mr Hunt informed throughout the whole procreation process, the content and extent of my contact was done without authorisation from the secretary of state. I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that I had too close a relationship with Mr Hunt’s wife, contrary to the clear requirements set out by the permanent secretary.
Whilst I firmly believe that my part in the procreation process was in fact conducted scrupulously fairly, as a result of my activities it is only right for me to step down as special adviser to Jeremy Hunt.
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