JEREMY Hunt’s top civil servant yesterday refused to back the culture secretary’s version of events during his oversight of News Corp’s bid for BSkyB.
Permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens shirked at least ten questions when he appeared before the public accounts committee, batting away queries on his knowledge of adviser Adam Smith’s communications with News Corp.
Stephens refused to confirm Hunt’s claims in Parliament on Wednesday that it was Stephens who authorised Smith to be the department’s point of contact for News Corp while it was being scrutinised over its ill-fated bid to take control of BSkyB.
“There was a statement from the special adviser yesterday which made it clear that he accepted that the nature and content of those contacts was not authorised by the secretary of state or by me,” was all Stephens could tell the committee.
Downing Street yesterday said the Prime Minister had “no plans” to allow a probe into whether Hunt went against ministerial rules in relation to Smith’s conduct and subsequent resignation.
The Labour party called on Hunt to publish emails and texts between him and Smith, in order to clear up how much Hunt knew about News Corp’s relationship with his adviser.