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Jeremy Hunt adviser Adam Smith resigns over BSkyB emails

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

*Adam Smith, the special adviser to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, has resigned after admitting he 'went too far' in his contact with News Corporation during its bid for BSkyB.*

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has faced calls from Labour to resign (Picture: PA)

In a statement Mr Smith admitted the correspondence with a News Corporation lobbyist suggested 'too close a relationship' and insisted he had acted without the culture secretary's approval.

Labour is demanding Mr Hunt's resignation after a string of emails released yesterday by James Murdoch at the Leveson Inquiry called into doubt his impartiality.

No 10 has said the prime minister has 'full confidence' in the culture secretary, who is due to make a statement to the House of Commons at 12:30pm.

Mr Hunt assumed responsibility for ruling on the bid in December 2010 after Cabinet colleague Vince Cable was stripped of the powers for saying he had 'declared war' on News Corporation chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch.

James Murdoch before the Leveson Inquiry yesterday (Picture: Reuters)

The culture secretary eventually ruled in favour of the £8billion takeover but Mr Murdoch Snr abandoned it amid public anger over the phone hacking affair.

Labour said Mr Hunt's conduct had 'fallen very far short' of the 'quasi-judicial' role he assumed during the bid process.

The emails released yesterday suggested a steady flow of information between Mr Smith and News Corporation lobbyist Frederic Michel since June 2010.

In his resignation statement Mr Smith said: '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.'

Rupert Murdoch is making his first appearance at the Leveson Inquiry (Picture: Getty)

He continued: '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.'

Mr Smith added: '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.'

Mr Hunt, who said he acted with 'total integrity and conducted this process scrupulously fairly', has asked for his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry to be brought forward so he can respond to the claims.

VIDEO: Jeremy Hunt responds to James Murdoch's claims
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Source: Press Association UK - on April 25, 2012

News video: Hunt accused of backing Murdoch bid

Hunt accused of backing Murdoch bid

Labour accuse under-fire Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt of backing News Corp's bid to take over BSkyB rather than judging the move

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