U.K. Parliament Votes Against Probe of Culture Secretary's Handling of BSkyB Bid Review
LONDON - Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt survived a chaotic and at times aggressive questioning in the British House of Commons Wednesday over his handling of the review of News Corp.'s bid to acquire full control of U.K. pay TV player BSkyB.
Calls for Hunt to face a ministerial investigation into his conduct were voted on with 290 rejecting the call and 252 voting in favor of him facing the Parliamentary investigation.
The opposition Labour Party argued he had committed a breach of the so-called ministerial code and misled parliament about the review process and his stance.
Hunt has been criticized as being too friendly towards News Corp. and letting that color his judgment.
Labour had called for a formal investigation into his handling of the deal, which was later scrapped amid the phone hacking scandal.
At the end of the day though, the chamber voted against the call for an independent civil servant review of his actions into whether or not he breached Parliamentary rules.
The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, have defended Hunt and tried to avoid a formal probe.
Their coalition partner party, the Liberal Democrats, abstained from the vote even though their leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg earlier in the day told the Leveson Inquiry that he was satisfied with Hunt's explanations of his conduct.
Amid repeated calls to order, the discussion in the chamber of parliament saw members of the opposition, led by deputy Labour Party leader Harriet Harman, accuse Hunt of misleading parliament and using dubious tactics.
A shouting match broke out when Labour's Chris Bryant accused Hunt of "deliberate obfuscations and lies."
Hunt shot back, calling the suggestion that he misled parliament on purpose "a disgraceful allegation."
He also said that he had "made huge efforts to be transparent" and that he corrected an "inadvertent" error in previous comments at the earliest possible time. "Lying is something that implies deliberate intent," he said.
Hunt also defended his former advisor Adam Smith who resigned from his post amid the turmoil.
He was not a back channel connection to News Corp. as some have suggested, Hunt argued.
But the underfire minister did acknowledge that Smith had engaged in "some inappropriate behavior" and resigned as a result.
"I didn't know or authorized" any inappropriate contact, Hunt said.
A Labour speaker questioned though how he couldn't have known what his advisor was up to.
The debate raged for almost three and a half hours before the MPs voted.