Friday 27 April 2012

Permanent Secretary 'stonewalls' MPs over Jeremy Hunt

A senior civil servant has refused at least 10 times to answer questions about his role in the row over Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and News Corp. Permanent Secretary Jonathan Stephens was asked by the Public Accounts Committee about guidance he gave to Mr Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith. But while he referred repeatedly to statements by Mr Hunt and Mr Smith, he insisted he "must rest on that". Labour MP Nick Smith accused him of "stonewalling" on the issue. Mr Hunt is facing calls to quit after details emerged about contact between his office and News Corp during its takeover bid for BSkyB. He told the Commons on Wednesday that contact was made by Mr Smith after he was given the role of liaising with the firm by Mr Stephens. Following his statement to the House, Mr Hunt was asked by five different MPs who had authorised that appointment, and in his replies, he said repeatedly it had been Mr Stephens. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote You don't need to stonewall on this” Nick Smith Labour MP Answering Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe, he said: "His role was agreed by the permanent secretary, but he was not the only person [to have contact with News Corp]; we had contacts on all sorts of levels." Replying to Labour's Diana Johnson later, Mr Hunt said: "I do not think there was any process of me asking for certain people to play certain roles. "As I said, I think it was a more fluid process than that, but the permanent secretary approved the processes that were happening." Mr Smith resigned on Wednesday saying his contact with News Corp "went too far".