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Hunt faces Leveson Inquiry grilling
Beleaguered Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry this week in one of its most high-profile hearings so far.
Mr Hunt will face a grilling on Thursday over his office's links with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation during its bid to take over the satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
He will be challenged over whether his public expressions of support for the bid were compatible with the quasi-judicial role he was given by Prime Minister David Cameron.
There was unconfirmed speculation this weekend that Mr Cameron himself is due to appear two weeks later, on Thursday June 14.
Also giving evidence in the next few days will be Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was stripped of the role of deciding whether the bid could proceed last December after he was secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on Mr Murdoch.
Former prime minister Tony Blair will face questions on Monday, when he is likely to be asked about the extent and nature of the government's links with the Murdoch press during Labour's 13 years in power. Meanwhile, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May will appear on Tuesday and Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke on Wednesday.
Mr Hunt had asked for his appearance before the inquiry to be brought forward so he could give his side of the story as soon as possible, but was rebuffed by Lord Justice Leveson.
The inquiry has been presented with a cache of emails showing that News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel received inside information about the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's handling of the bid from Mr Hunt's former special adviser Adam Smith, who quit last month after admitting he went too far in acting as a point of contact with the company.
Last week, the inquiry published a memo sent by the Culture Secretary to Mr Cameron in November 2010, weeks before he took on the quasi-judicial role, in which he appeared to be making the case for News Corp's bid to go ahead.
Mr Hunt insists that he oversaw the process "with scrupulous fairness throughout" and has received strong backing from the Prime Minister. But Mr Cameron has also said that if anything arises from the inquiry that suggests the ministerial code might have been breached, he will call in his independent ethics adviser Sir Alex Allan or take immediate action himself.
A decision on whether Sir Alex should investigate the Culture Secretary's behaviour is expected shortly after Mr Hunt gives evidence.