David Cameron Denies 'Inappropriate Conversations' With News International Execs About BSkyB Bid
LONDON – British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament’s emergency session Wednesday he had “never had one inappropriate conversation” about the BSkyB bid with senior executives at News International, News Corp.’s newspaper division since his election.
Cameron had called for Parliament’s term to be extended by an extra day before the summer recess to allow him to make a further statement and face down questions on the phone hacking scandal swirling around News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit News International.
A day after the testimony of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and son and deputy COO James Murdoch in the phone hacking scandal to a Parliamentary Committee, Cameron and followed a report from a separate Committee that accused News Corp.’s News International unit in the U.K. of "deliberate attempts" to thwart its probe into phone-hacking, police involvement and the company.
Cameron was first asked whether the bid was raised in any of his meetings with News Corp. figures – and whether he discussed it with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt – by Labour leader Ed Miliband in a flurry of questions in response to Cameron’s opening statement on the phone hacking scandal.
Cameron said there had been no "inappropriate conversation" – pointing to the fact that in giving evidence yesterday to the DCMS committee Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, had said the same thing.
Cameron also said that of the 26 listed meetings he had with senior figures at News International in the timeframce, all conversations had been “appropriate.”
The PM added that his cabinet secretary had ruled "very clearly" that no ministerial code was broken in relation to the BSkyB merger and meetings with News International executives.
"The cabinet secretary has ruled very clearly that the code was not broken – not least because I had asked to be entirely excluded from the decision."
He added: "I had no responsibility for the BSkyB takeover. I specifically asked to be taken out of any of the decision making and any of the information because I didn't want to put myself in any sort of compromising position.”
He said he had been very clear on that position, “so much so that I didn't even know when many of the key announcements were being made."
Cameron expressed regret at hiring former The News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his own director of communications in the wake of the phone-hacking “furore.”
He also added that he would be ready to issue a "profound apology" if it turned out he had been misled by Coulson, whom he has described as a friend.
He said he believed everyone to be innocent until provien guilty. He added that with "20:20 hindsight" he would not have hired Coulson. Senior members of the Royal Family are being reported as saying they expressed doubts about Coulson's hire to No. 10 Downing Street.
Cameron said there was no breach of regulations when the British government reviewed the $12 billion bid by News Corp., which it has since withdrawn, to take full control of satellite giant BSkyB.
Georg Szalai contributed to this report.