Summary of Jeremy Hunt's evidence

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Jeremy Hunt states that contrary to reports he was not “supportive” of the bid but was “sympathetic” to News Corp not getting a fair hearing, and that he set aside his sympathies when he was given responsiblity for the bid.

Hunt's main concern was the financial viability in light of technological changes of the press and says he sees the Inquiry as a chance to rethink the business model of the printed press.

Hunt said that the revelation over the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was significant for him as it raised concerns about a corporate governance issue.

JH said he rejected advice from News Corp to not refer the bid to the Competition Commission and said he would refer it to the OFT and Ofcom, who produced a report on the bid raising concerns over plurality.

Hunt praised Smith throughout the Inquiry calling and admitted to being shocked with how regularly Frederic Michel contacted him.

Hunt was reluctant to be given repsonsibility for the bid having made positive comments in the past in relation to the bid.

Hunt stressed the involvement of Ofcom and OFT in the bid process

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JH believes the inquiry has an opportunity to establish a regulator that "works across all technology platforms" and says the government could simplify the structures the press operates under, to turn it into a news industry rather than a newspaper industry.

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JH: Everyone is in favour of Freedom of Expression, been encouraged by degree of consensus aroundneed for press regulator that is independent from politicians and serving editors and it needs to have credible sanction making power

A lot of problems that concern the public are a matter of law. Law against all of these things. As law takes it’s course there will be an element to which probs are self corrected as practices evolve

JH says we need to ask how it 'How did it happen?' and says that a fundamental problem is that business model of press is slowly dying on its feet.

JH says: "We need to solve what, in loose parlance, is called 'the Desmond problem'" in reference to the Daily Express who are not part of the PCC

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JH asked Ofcom to look at specific options for measuring media pluarilty and are due to report in June 2012. He said measuring media pluralirty is a very complicated thing to do and thought it would be helpful if the Inquiry could see Ofcom’s thinking

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Guardian's Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) tweets: Drawn out nature of Hunt evidence has worked in the minister's favour. Will this now come back to the commons now the facts are on table?

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JH: I still believe it's possible for politicians to set aside their views and take decisions in a  quasi-judicial way

He adds that you have to try very hard because the decisions you make can have an impact on future relations and adds to difficulty of situation.

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JH: I did think about my own position but I had conducted the bid scrupulously and fairly throughout and believed it was possible to demonstrate that and that it wasn’t approprite for me to go.

JH says he took full responsiblity for AS and adds that AS's resignation was accepted with a heavy heart.

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JH: "The deal may have failed because the whole thing took so long and by that time phone-hacking allegations had emerged in much greater number."

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In response to a message by FM who said: "The closure of NoW does not affect JH decision and if anything helps the media plurality issue by weakening our voice", JH said the closure of the NotW was "just wrong". He said: "the closure directly influenced my thinking because it made me consider if there was a problem with corporate governance and then write to Ofcom if they still stood by their decision."

JH said he met the prime minister on or near the day the NotW closed to discuss a possible public inquiry.

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JH says there was no political reason to want the BSkyB deal to go ahead because each of Conservative-supporting papers opposed the bid apart from News International titles.

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JH said that he felt FM believed we might have had a political motive which we didn;t have. Surprised if AS implied a political motive because that's not the type of language he would use and it's not true.

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JH: Concerned that public should reassured that it (the bid) should be approached in an impartial way

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JH: News Corp had massive suspicions about Ofcom and that be believed Ofcom was a highly professional and independent regulator.

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JH to Leveson: Unlike you, I had to adjudicate on a decision where I had pre-existing relationships with people before and was expected to afterwards.

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JH: I wish we (AS) had spelt out to him that he needed to be careful about appropriate language and I wish he told us about the pressure he was under.

JH adds: "I just think the barrage he was subjected to.. ended up pushing him into language that was inappropriate."

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JH: When I took charge of bid, my job was to ensure our democracy was safe

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Leveson on redacted parts of JH's evidence:may not be as much concern as originally though, still very keen to ensure that I do fulfill the undertaking I gave to be able to publish today.

Leveson says he is keen to ensure the documents submitted by JH will be published today

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Break

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Chris Bryant MP, who called for Cameron to fire JH on BBC Radio 4's World at One, tweeted: Cameron must, surely, either sack Hunt or refer him to Alex Allen?

Sir Alex Allen is the independent advisor on ministerial interests. A decision on whether the adivosr should investigate JH is expected from Downing St after JH finishes giving his evidence to the Inquiry.

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JH: to me the exchange (between AS and FM) is trying to say things to get FM off his back using phrases such “no legal wiggle room”

JH said that AS was not giving substantive help that will affect impartiality of decision making process and that what AS didn’t do is "go back and agitate for the thing Mr Michel is putting him under pressure to achieve" and that AS just "bats it back.

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FM: I think we're in a good place tonight ("we" is assumed to be referring to News Corp)

AS: I agree

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JH: "I didn't know about these discussions between AS and FM it appears that News Corp were putting AS under pressure that these UILs were brilliant.

"I was trying to find a reason why we weren't prepared to change that language and he probably didn't choose his words particularly carefully."

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JH: My objective was to see whether a version of this bid would satisfy media pluality concerns

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JH: I'm sorry for him (AS) because he was getting this incredible volume of cotnacts from news corp and this was the last thing he wanted to be doing

JH added "I was shocked when I discovered that level at contact and that explains why he sometimes slipped into inappropriate language"

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In reference to correspondence between FM and AS, JH said: "Quite a lot of these conversations might have been built on Michel offering something and Smith just acknowledging it."

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BBC Political correspondent Ross Hawkins (@rosschawkins) tweets: (will anyone in Westminster ever text anyone again?)

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"James Murdoch" is trending on Twitter. JH referenced JM as being hostile to Ofcom and the BBC.

Hunt texted Murdoch at the end of March 2011 congratulating JM on the promotion after hearing about the promotion on BBC's Today Programme. The text message read: "Many congratulaions on the promotion although I am sure you will really miss Ofcom in NY!"

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Journalist and authour Toby Young (@toadmeister) tweets: Stupid question, but how come all these text messages were preserved? Why didn't Hunt & co simply delete them after reading?

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JH didn't know Andy Coulson socially, only professionally throughout work whilst he was Director of Communications at no. 10. JH offered to meet up for drink in February 2011 and spad Sue Beeby warned JH against meeting up for a drink after AC resigned.

In June SB said in a message that VC was being sneaky over the bid. JH said he think SB heard a rumour that somehow he is planning to distance himself from his quasi-judicial decision. The message said: "Warning! Please don't take any calls from vince over next few days..he is trying to be very sneaky over news corp."

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AS texted to JH "About bloody time!" in relation to Rebekah Brooks' resignation. JH said it was nothing personal and said he didn't believe RB could lead an inquiry over a time period during which she was editor.

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Guardian's Alan Ruisbridger (@aruisbridger) tweets: Scenes no screenwriter wd dare invent: wives of Hunt and News Corp lobbyist have babies in same ward on same night

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Adam Smith is trending on Twitter whilst JH praises AS as a key trusted aid.

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JH disputes Jay’s assertion that once FM managed to push the door slightly open “he was in”, saying that the text messages he received from FM did not lead to any “substantive discussion about the bid.”

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JH said that FM was pushy and looking for every opportunity he could to establish contact. He then added "I think we can see that flattery is a weapon that Mr Michel tries to deploy quite frequently"

JH said he responded briefly (to FM's text messages) courteously in a friendly way and said: "what I didn’t deduce from this was the effect of this kind of contact multiplied many times over to AS and that was the crucial thing right at the beginning of the process that we didn’t forsee."

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JH says he makes a point of replying to text messages people send me and gave a courteous brief to close down the conversation

JH said that FM's text messages was a tactic of flattery that he regularly used following a text in which FM congratulates JH on his commons appearance.

With regards to having both FM and JH having their families meet up JH said that it was to wait until the bid process was over.

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Jan 2011, FM text says "great to see you today" in reference to JH and FM at the hospital following the births of their children. Jay asks if JH's response of "let's meet up for coffee" was not positive and simply a text along the lines of "I hope you understand"

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JH had a conference call with No 10 in July after the Milly Dowler revelation and it was decided that the culture sec would write to Ofcom and OFT on whether or not they still stodd by their previous stance over News Corp being a fit and proper owner.

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JH: "if wrongdoing was so endemic in a company then it does potentially become a question of management construction"

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JH said that No. 10 did start talking to DCMS after Milly Dowler revelations because this was such a huge national issue and that they needed to understand time scales, a sense of what was coming down the tracks with BSkyB

JH said "my actual decision to write to Ofcom was prompted by closure of NotW" and he added that it was important not to link the issues between bsb and phone hacking.

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White being grilled by Leveson over redacted documents as part of JH's evidence given the commercially sensitive nature.

The Inquiry has resumed and News International have raised concerns over the redaction of documents as part of JH's evidence.

LJ Leveson says he wants the documents to be published today and says that given the bid was dropped it could no longer be considered commercially sensitive.

He will see to White's concerns after JH's evidence.

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Louise Mensch MP and Chris Bryant MP were interviewed on BBC Radio 4 earlier this afternoon about JH's evidence.

CB said that JH should be sacked and that he was so wedded to the bid that he did everything possible to support it.

LM says that there is no question whatsoever that JH lied to parliament, saying "it's absolute complete and total rubbish" and added that JH "ran a propert quasi-judicial process at all times" and he should be exonerated.

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Lunchtime round up

Jeremy Hunt states that contrary to reports he was not “supportive” of the bid but was “sympathetic” to News Corp not getting a fair hearing, and that he set aside his sympathies when he was given responsiblity for the bid.

Vince Cable gave in his evidence yesterday that when he was given responsibility of the bid he would not have face-to-face meetings with representatives of News Corp or lobbyists.

Hunt on the other hand, before being given responsibility for the bid, did have contact with media proprietors and was aware that the DCMS shouldn’t have contact with  anyone as part of the process as it would affect the robustness of Cable’s quasi-judicial role. He says: “I didn't interpret this to mean I couldn't be in touch with people in the industry I was responsible for."

Hunt said: "My perspective on media industry is I'm passionate supporter in a free and vibrant press." Hunt said that he was concerned that model of newspaper industry is not financially viable in the long term because of technology changes and saw potential in the bid to modernise the industry.

Hunt said that the revelation over the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was significant for him as it raised concerns about a corporate governance issue.

JH said he rejected advice from News Corp to not refer the bid to the Competition Commission and said he would refer it to the OFT and Ofcom, who produced a report on the bid raising concerns over plurality.

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JH: Concern expressed that if Sky News spun off a Murdoch family member might purchase some of the other shares in order to help the Murdochs gain control of Sky News through the back door and wanted to be sure that wasn’t going to be possible in terms of the the way UILs were set up.

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JH didn't know that phone hacking "was a volcano about to erupt"

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AS very uncomplaining, decent hard working preson. Job was to absorb that pressure as a buffer, and I was determined as Secretary of State that this would not derail this bid

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JH: "News Corp is a very determined company and everyone was under pressure to do things quickly and I wanted to do things briskly but properly."

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JH: Looking at Michel’s emails it is clear that phone hacking was a growing concern to News Corp and they were worried it might derail bid which eventually it did

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Sky News Political Correspondent Gleno Glaza (@GlenoGlazaSky) tweets: "So far, Hunt's defence not terribly robust: Is he safer or less safe than he was at 10.00 this morning?"

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Those Tweeting under the Leveson hashtag have noted that Sky News is not broadcasting JH's evidence and are choosing to focus on government U-turns

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"Our favourite two journalists" - JH questioned about asking a spad, Sue Beeby, to give exclusive stories to which JH responds:"When you're managing your media you have a choice, you can sometimes put a story out to everyone or give to one journalist to give it a good show."

The two journalists mentioned were the Telegraph's Andrew Porter and former Times journalist Patrick Foster.

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JH: Bit we haven't touched on is the way the phone hacking issue was developing in parallel to dec about this bid.

1st stage was the announcement of Operation Weeting,

2nd stage was after it emerged that phone hacking spread beyond Clive Goodwin and that more had been affected. JH at this point was advised the way phone hacking could impinge on his decision over the bid was if it was thought there was an issue of trust related to News Corp.

3rd was the Milly Dowler revelation, which made him question if there were wider management issues within News Corp: "if they found it necessary to close down a newspaper is there a corporate governance issue here?"

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JH: "Sky News spin off wd have made it massively more independent of James Murdoch than it is now"

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JH said that his main concerns were financial viability and plurality.

NC in their submission objecting to Ofcom report said that JH did have option not to refer the bid to the competition Commissionand would have to challenge certain assumptions in the report. JH rejected their advice.

JH said he decided to do something else which JM was "cross about" in a very "difficult meeting" given that JM was averse to Ofcom.

JH told JM that he will "consider undertaking but will get independent advice from 2 regulatrros - enterprise act allows to get advice from Office of Fair Trading." He adds that the act also says nothing about going to ofcom and would ask for their advice as well.

The decision was not welcomed by JM but JH felt it was important to do so given the Ofcom report. listed in detail a thorough report what their concerns were.

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Jay asks JH why he didn't refer the takeover bid to the Competition Commission. Ofcom told JH in December 2010 that there was a plurality problem with the bid and should be referred to the Competition Commission.

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JH: Decision about plurality is a public interest decision, even as important as the commercial viability of the UK media industry and that was my focus

JH: My private view was the same as my public view: I needed to make a decision about plurality

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JH: "FM looked like he was trying to contact AS 5 times every working day"

JH says that he didn't mark FM as a highly effective lobbyist and said "he was certainly a character" and "I didn't mark him out as being more effective or less effective" than other lobbyists. He adds that there was a bit of pushiness on FM's part

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JH asked why did he involve a spad in the quasi-judicial process. JH says AS was key and trusted aid and believed he had a very positive role to contriubte to ensure the process was run robustly.

JH then quizzed on why to put this "extra layer of contact" with a spad and a lobbyist, to which he responds that he wanted to process to be open and transparent.

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Break

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JH's spad AS played an active role in relation to the BSkyB bid unlike VC's spad G Wilkes who turned down requests for face-to-face meetings in relation to the bid on VC's behalf.

Jay turns his attention to AS and the functions of spads. JH says that he think sometimes spads have a role which is about speaking for their boss, but in this situation AS' role was a different one.

JH says that AS was fairly politically neutral and that AS knew what JH wanted to do and would go to meetings with officials on JH's . AS would know JH's thinking and knew JH's role well.

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BSkyB, James Murdoch, #Hunt and Just Ofcom are all trending on Twitter.

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JH said he was aware that in a quasi-judicial role he had to be “fair to both sides” and careful in treating each side equally but didn’t mean having equal amounts of meetings with each side.

JH: "You don't appoint a quasi-judicial role with your brain wiped clean" but rather "set aside" your personal view."

Stark contrast to VC who made a point yesterday of not having meetings with individuals and lobbyists in the event that he would seem biased to one side of the bid.

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@stevelrose tweets: George Osborne surely now needs summoning to the Leveson inquiry?

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JH: Point about quasi-judicial role is that you set aside any views you have

JH: I believed I did totally set aside all those sympathies and set up a process to make sure I couldn’t express or use any of these sympathies to inform my decision

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In response to George Osborne's "I hope you like the solution!" text message to Jeremy Hunt, Independent Voices (@IndyVoices) tweets: "Mr. Jay - YOU were the solution."

The text was in response to VC losing responsibility of the bid as a result of comments made in a Telegraph sting ("we've declared war on Murdoch").

JH says he knew this meant he would be put in charge and was wary that he previously made positive comments about the bid and didn't want Cameron to announce him as taking charge.

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JH: "Great and congrats on Brussels. Just Ofcom to go."

Text message sent from JH to JM after News Corp were given European approval of the bid. Jay quizzes JH on whether this reflects support of the bid as opposed to a "sympathetic" view of the bid.

The text was sent on the day VC lost responsibility for the bid.

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A lot of people on Twitter appear to be sighing in disbelief over JH's

@tobyhelm: "Surprised Hunt is hiding behind not knowing what quasi judicial meant. Not difficult.

@jimboeth: "Quasi-judicial." You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think that it means, Mr Hunt...

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JH's other spad sets out VC's comments in an email after hearing of the "furore"

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FM and AS met at the DCMS in the special advisers' room (or "spads' room") on 6 December 2010. JH says he did not know about the meeting at the time.

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Purpose of the call between JM and JH at the end of December was in relation to

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Leveson fashion watch: Robert Jay QC is wearing the same tie he wore when Theresa May and Michael Gove gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. Total Politics' live blog for that can be read here.

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JH wasn't supportive of the bid but "sympathetic, I hesitate on the word supportive."

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JH: "my perspective on media industry is I'm passionate supporter in a free and vibrant press" and is "very good for democracy"

JH was concerned that model of newspaper industry is not financially viable in the long term because of technology changes and saw potential in the bid to modernise the industry so it could carry on free and vibrant role

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JH: "“we’re a party that believes in the free market... felt the approach government was taking was inconsistent with that”

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FM and JH had contact via mobile phone and said he believed it was appropriate. Made clear that it was proper to have contact with state holders where officials were present to minute and officials aren’t present to minute as his disgression

Didn’t want to get involved with quasi-judicial process but felt it was appropriate to hear what a big player was saying. In stark contrast to VC who said the name Frederic Michel didn't register on his radar yesterday.

JH says that having been through the bid and the process he's been through would take a diiferent view about conversations with media proprietors. He said he wanted to be efficient and from now on will always want officials present taking notes in meetings.

The phone call in question was to "hear out" James Murdoch and listen to what he had to say. J Murdoch is said to have voiced some frustrations.

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Concerned with a bid in his sector that could mean thousands of jobs could be created.

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JH said that November 2010 was the first time he heard the term "quasi-judicial".

JH was also given legal advice not to get involved with the BSkyB bid as it would compromise VC's quasi-judicial role.

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Guardian Deputy Editor Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) tweets: "Why was Hunt's private email the only one he used, if not to avoid FOI?"

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JH: "I believed it was my duty to understand the issues around that merger"

JH says that he knew the DCMS shouldn’t intervene and shouldn’t have any contact with anyone as part of the process as it might threaten judicial robustness of VC’s solution.

However he adds: "I didn't interpret this to mean I couldn't be in touch with people in the industry I was responsible for."

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Frederic Michel said that he and JH had children born in the same hospital at roughly the same time. JH says he never socialised with FM but got to know him well afterwards.

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Most of the email contact from AS is sent to JH's personal email account and not his department's.

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Adam Smith present at a meeting between JH and Rebekah Brooks and Frederic Michel where they expressed concern they weren't getting a sympathetic hearing from Vince Cable.

JH's response: "my own view was I didn't think there was a plurality issue and expressed some surprise that VC thought there was more of a problem."

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Was told by officials it was entirely proper to have meetings to have officials to minute meetings and to have meetings without officials present to minute them.

JH also had meetings with chair of BBC trust and head of ITV after becoming Secretary of State.

Had a meeting without an official present to minute it and said he would be surprised if the bid wasn't discussed as it would be top of Rupert Murdoch's mind and had unsuccessfulattempts to excite RM about superfast broadband and local TV.

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May 2010 there was an evening reception and dinner where J and R Murdoch after JH became culture secretary. It was the day he was found hiding behind a tree to avoid be spotted by Wall Street Journalists.

JH he wasn't hiding and insisted that he spotted journalists and moved to another part of the quadrangle.

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JH: "I believe the BBC is a benchmark for quality in broadcasting, and the licence fee is a crucial part of that."

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JH: "J Murdoch thinks the licence fee is wrong full stop"

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JH had 2 meetings with J Murdoch in October 2009 and February 2010. One of the agenda items was Ofcom reform. JH says he couldn't remember what was discussed on that occasion and had some hostility to Ofcom and the BBC.

JH said his priorities was super-fast broadband and local TV and wasn't excited by those areas.

said JM believed the broadcasting market was too heavily regulated.

Turned to Mac Taggart lecture who spoke of the importance of commercially viable media operators. JH said he disagreed with his views on the BBC in particular the view that the BBC is an "arm of the state". JH says the BBC operates from arms length of the government despite receiving funding from the culture department.

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JH became acquainted with the bid when the role was transferred from Business deparment to the Culture department

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According to the Shropshire Star, Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti is also present at Leveson

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According to the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson JH has submitted more than 160 pages of internal memos, emails and texts to the Inquiry

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Jeremy Hunt is sworn in and gives his full name as Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt