Lord Justice Leveson uncovered “far more detail” about the role of Jeremy Hunt in the BSkyB takeover furore than a ministerial code investigation could ever have done, David Cameron said.
The Prime Minister issued a staunch defence of his decision not to refer the Culture Secretary’s behaviour to the independent adviser on the code Sir Alex Allan.
And he signalled that he was determined to fight attempts by MPs – including senior Tories – to hand the watchdog powers to launch his own probes into alleged misconduct.
Labour believes Hunt is guilty of several breaches of the code – partly related to his then special adviser Adam Smith’s over-close contacts with a News Corp lobbyist.
But Cameron resisted pressure to ask Sir Alex to investigate, insisting the affair should be dealt with by the politician and his adviser giving evidence to the inquiry into media standards.
“There was a huge public inquiry taking place that was going to get all the findings of fact in a way that Alex Allan probably wouldn’t be able to,” he told the Liaison Committee of the House of Commons.
“The Leveson process uncovered far more detail about the Jeremy Hunt case that actually an Alex Allan-style process ever would. As I understand it, that was Alex Allan’s view too.
“Then you have to make a judgment on the facts. And I have made my judgment and defended my judgment to Parliament.”
MPs were due to debate taking the power to order an investigation out of the premier’s hands on Thursday – but that has now been postponed for a vote on the Libor scandal inquiry instead.
Cameron said he was sure it would be rescheduled but restated his opposition to the move.
“Alex Allan’s role is to advise the Prime Minister and I think it is important that the relationship works in that way,” he told the panel of senior MPs.
“Inevitably that means you are going to get criticised sometimes because you have referred someone or you haven’t referred someone.
“But that is a prime ministerial decision, accountable to the House of Commons, and I think it should stay that way.
“The House of Commons should call the Prime Minister to account for his or her decisions as I have been, thoroughly, recently.
“And also, if you don’t agree with a recommendation about a particular minister, the House of Commons has perfect ability to put down motions, cut their pay.”