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Murdoch man 'bombarded' Hunt's aide
A lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation "bombarded" Jeremy Hunt's special adviser with information about the media giant's bid to take over BSkyB, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.
Adam Smith said the Culture Secretary and his department knew he was in contact with Fred Michel, News Corp's former director of public affairs in Europe. But Mr Smith, who quit as Mr Hunt's special adviser last month after admitting he got too close to Mr Michel, said he ignored much of the correspondence sent to him by the lobbyist.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, asked him: "You felt you were being bombarded by information from Mr Michel?"
Mr Smith replied: "Yes. He sent me quite a substantial amount of correspondence that was going on between News Corp and Ofcom (the broadcasting regulator) and the OFT (Office of Fair Trading), and obviously he was in touch a lot."
The former special adviser agreed he felt that he was more the recipient of information from the lobbyist than the provider of it. He told the hearing: "A lot of the information he sent me, I did nothing with."
Mr Smith said Mr Michel was the only person he was in contact with at News Corp, and he would report his conversations with him back to Mr Hunt and Department of Culture, Media and Sport officials.
"I would have thought on the odd occasion that I did mention to Mr Hunt one of the issues that I thought was worthy of his attention, I would, I think, almost certainly have said 'Fred's told me X, Y or Z'," he said. "They generally knew I was in touch. On some certain issues they certainly knew. But I don't think they knew the volume or extent."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron defended giving Mr Hunt responsibility for the decision on News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB. The Culture Secretary sent a memo to the Prime Minister arguing the case for the bid just weeks before being given the role but Mr Cameron insisted he acted "impartially" once he was responsible for the decision.
Mr Cameron told ITV's This Morning: "I don't regret giving the job to Jeremy Hunt, it was the right thing to do in the circumstances, which were not of my making."
Mr Hunt was given the role after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of the responsibility over comments made to undercover reporters. The Prime Minster told ITV's This Morning: "The crucial point, the really crucial point, is did Jeremy Hunt carry out his role properly with respect to BSkyB and I believe that he did."