Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, has asked for his appearance before the inquiry to be brought forward
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's special advisor Adam Smith has resigned, claiming "the content and extent" of his contact with News Corporation during the BSkyB bid "was done without authorisation from the secretary of state" and admitting his activities "at times went too far".
The Leveson inquiry heard yesterday, during evidence from former News International chairman James Murdoch, that News Corporation was "receiving feedback and information" relating to its bid for BSkyB from the culture secretary's office, including via Adam Smith.
James Murdoch said there was "nothing inappropriate" about the interactions between News Corporation's head of public affairs Fréderic Michel and Hunt's office, adding that comments received were taken "with a grain of salt" and in a statement today Smith insisted that "the process was in fact conducted scrupulously fairly".
Counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay QC yesterday questioned James Murdoch on whether some of the emails submitted to the inquiry, which came from Michel, suggest News Corporation was "getting insight into Hunt's current thinking" and the "current state of affairs".
James Murdoch responded that he took "all of it with a grain of salt".
"I'd seen in earlier emails they will spin one way and then the next. Mr Michel's job is to have that conversation, listen and come back."
In his own written statement to the inquiry Michel said that emails after 24 December 2010 do not refer to direct contact with Hunt, but instead phrases such as "spoke to Hunt" or "Jeremy said" were "no more than shorthand for what I was told by someone within Jeremy Hunt’s office, almost invariably his special adviser Adam Smith".
"For the purposes of these emails, I did not distinguish between Jeremy Hunt’s advisors and him personally. His advisors were there to assist and advise Jeremy Hunt and it was my understanding that when they told me something, it was always on behalf of the minister and after having conferred with him. It was on that basis that I relayed the information to my colleagues in the emails, using this form of shorthand."
Today the department for culture, media and sport issued a statement on behalf of Smith in which he said "while it was part of my role to keep News Corporation informed throughout the BSkyB bid process, the content and extent of my contact was done without authorisation from the secretary of state".
He added: "I do not recognise all of what Fred Michel said, but nonetheless I appreciate that my activities at times went too far and have, taken together, created the perception that News Corporation had too close a relationship with the department, contrary to the clear requirements set out by Jeremy Hunt and the permanent secretary that this needed to be a fair and scrupulous process.
"Whilst I firmly believe that the process was in fact conducted scrupulously fairly, as a result of my activities it is only right for me to step down as special adviser to Jeremy Hunt."
Hunt has asked for his appearance at the Leveson inquiry to be brought forward in response to the allegations relating to the contact between his office and News Corporation during the BSkyB bid.
In a statement Hunt added that "some of the evidence reported meetings and conversations that simply didn't happen".