Daily Archives: April 25, 2012

Jim Pickard

Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, is about to send a letter to David Cameron calling for potential breaches of the ministerial code to be investigated by the Independent Adviser on the Ministers’ Interests:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you in respect of questions of breaches of the Ministerial Code which arise from the handling by the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport of the News Corporation bid for BSkyB.

There are clear breaches of the ministerial code detailed below.

These must now be referred to the Independent Adviser on the Ministers’ Interests as a matter of urgency.

The breaches of the ministerial code:

1. Failing to take responsibility for the actions of his special advisor contrary to paragraph 3.3 of Ministerial Code

The Secretary of State admitted in the House of Commons today that in the 

Jim Pickard

Statement issued by DCMS on behalf of Adam Smith:

“While it was part of my role to keep News Corporation informed throughout the BskyB bid process, the content and extent of my contact was done without authorisation from the Secretary of State. I do not recognise all of what Fred Michel said, but nonetheless I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department, contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary that this needed to be a fair and scrupulous process.  Whilst I firmly believe that the 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.”

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Welcome to our live coverage of the Leveson Inquiry into the standards and ethics of the UK press, on the day when Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp, is giving evidence.

By Esther Bintliff and Salamander Davoudi in London, with contributions from FT correspondents. All times London time.

NB: We refer to Rupert Murdoch as Rupert throughout for speed and to avoid confusion with his son James. Jay is Robert Jay QC, who is questioning Rupert.

16.40 We’re going to close the blog for now, but as ever we’ll have more news and analysis for you on FT.com.

And we’ll leave you with the latest development: officials at the FSA are interested in the News Corp emails that were published yesterday, and in particular an email sent by Fred Michel, News Corp’s director of public affairs, in which he described obtaining “absolutely illegal” information from Adam Smith, an adviser to Jeremy Hunt. Read the full story here.

16.15 So, today’s session was shorter than expected, and Rupert’s evidence did not really yield any explosive revelations of the level that James did yesterday. But it’s important to remember that in his questioning of Rupert, Robert Jay QC was largely focused on the decades in the run-up to the two most controversial issues for News Corp (i.e. the phonehacking scandal and the bid for BSkyB) rather than addressing those issues directly – he will presumably concentrate on phonehacking and BSkyB tomorrow.

Thus Jay spent a lot of time asking Rupert about key moments for the business during the 1980s and 1990s; his relationship with different political leaders; and his varying levels of editorial influence over the newspapers.

One could imagine that Jay’s strategy here was to lay the ground – very thoroughly – to then better understand Rupert’s/News Corp’s approach to the more recent issues, and to show whether there was any historical precedent for the behaviour that the company engaged in as it tried to get regulatory approval for its bid for the remaining shares in BSkyB.