Leveson Inquiry: Adam Smith - Live coverage - The Independent

Leveson Inquiry: Adam Smith

Adam Smith and Jonathan Stephens give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press.

  • Very important admission by Michel. He has just admitted what's plainly obvious: that Adam Smith was secretly supporting News Corp's £8bn bid for BSkyB.
    5/24/2012 12:02:36 PM
  • Robert Jay QC has had a good morning. One of his opening gambits was to get Michel to say he felt that Adam Smith, Jeremy Hunt's special adviser, was neutral and impartial on the question of NewsCorp's bid for BSkyB.

    But over the course of the past half hour, he has built up a case, using the evidence of extensive text messaging and emails, to suggest that Smith in fact had sympathy NewsCorp's bid. As my colleague Martin Hickman notes below, as we break for lunch Michel has in fact admitted that Smith was a supporter of the bid.

    Superb interrogation from Jay. Back at 14.00.
    5/24/2012 12:03:39 PM
  • Robert Jay QC grills Frederic Michel at Leveson today

    5/24/2012 12:06:44 PM
  • Jeremy Hunt is fast becoming an iconic figure. If Cameron can't see why "Merci, large drink tonight" is a career-ending phrase...
  • The inquiry has broken for lunch and will resume at 2pm.
    5/24/2012 12:13:30 PM
  • The inquiry has resumed, with Frederic Michel continuing to give evidence.
    5/24/2012 1:02:47 PM
  • And they're back, as my colleague John Hall writes. You can watch the hearing Live here: www.levesoninquiry.org.uk
    5/24/2012 1:03:12 PM
  • Michel denies that he was giving a "running commentary" on negotiations to Adam Smith. Leveson is surprised by this. Michel says instead there were "back-and-forth" discussions. Leveson and Jay are now onto the question of whether or not Smith, through his text messages, was conveying a personal view or that of Jeremy Hunt.
    5/24/2012 1:12:19 PM
  • Michel and Smith are clashing over the evidence. For instance, the inquiry has just said that Smith disputes that he told Michel that spinning off Sky News was "almost game over for the opposition" - ie, the bid would go through. But Michel is not willing to play the role of fantasist. He spoke to Smith for 17 minutes the evening before sending the email on 23 January 2011. Referring to the "game over" comment, Michel says: "I'm sure it comes from a discussion with Adam."
    5/24/2012 1:12:49 PM
  • Jay is going further than he has for most of the Inquiry, in saying that from the text messages between Smith and Michel there is clear indication of strong support from Hunt, and that Michel's answer on this is "not satisfactory". Michel says that he wouldn't make the "leap" that Jay is making.
    5/24/2012 1:16:39 PM
  • Michel: DCMS wanting to "get to the same outcome" was merely about detail not bid itself. Jay: "I'm not satisfied with that answer."#Leveson
  • Robert Jay QC asks Frederic Michel about his "absolutely illegal" email assertion.

    5/24/2012 1:21:50 PM
  • Michel says "absolutely illegal" assertion is "a very bad joke that shouldn't have been made". He means: "Damn. Wish I hadn't been caught."
  • Jay says Michel email claim JH "needs some space to prevent any accusation of deal-making" not reflected in texts with Smith. #Leveson
  • At last. The furtive texts. t.co #leveson
  • Amazing. Democracy in Britain, circa 2012: RT @martin_hickman At last. The furtive texts. t.co #Leveson #hackgate #Murdoch
  • Release of texts between Michel and Smith shows that Michel was NOT a fantasist.

    Helpfully, the inquiry has highlighted in bold the similarities between the texts from Smith to Michel and then Michel's emails to his News Corp bosses.

    For instance message from Smith on 15 Feb 11: "Ofcom answer the 10 year issue. Let's chat tomorrow for clarification though."

    Michel's email a few minutes later: "On 10 years term... I asked JH tonight. He confirmed it was not an issue but was happy to clarify in the morning." Just one of the hundreds of messages.

    The chain looks like: Hunt - Smith - Michel - James Murdoch.
    5/24/2012 1:37:35 PM
  • This is bad. RT @arusbridger: Michel claims Hunt's man offered to provide him confidential documents from opponents of Sky bid #Leveson
  • Michel may sometimes have exaggerated speaking to Hunt, but texts show similarity between inside info from DCMS and Michel emails. #Leveson
  • Michel claimed he managed to get Hunt "before he went into see Swan Lake". Jay tells him "our researches" suggest Covent Garden wasn't showing it that night. He asks Michel to explain the discrepancy and is met with a shrug.
    5/24/2012 1:48:33 PM
  • One other point: Hunt told parl 25/04: "I have published all advice.. together with corresp between myself and News Corp". Clearly a lie.
  • An important development this afternoon is that Labour have accused Jeremy Hunt of lying.

    Over at The Guardian, Andrew Sparrow writes:

    ***

    "Labour are saying that evidence that has been heard at the Leveson inquiry today shows that Jeremy Hunt has misled parliament.

    In April Hunt told MPs that he had not had any unofficial contact with Fred Michel while News Corporation was bidding for BSkyB.

    Throughout the bid process, when I got responsibility for it, the contact that I had with Fred Michel was only at official meetings that were minuted with other people present.

    But, as Michel's witness statement makes clear (pdf), Hunt exchanged text messages with Michel at some points during these period. The witness statement contains two replies he received from Hunt.

    Good to see u too. Hope u understand why we have to have the long process. Let's meet up when things are resolved J.

    Merci hopefully when consultation over we can have a coffee like the old days!

    Labour say this is prima facie evidence of Hunt misleading parliament."

    ***
    5/24/2012 1:53:14 PM
  • Michel is standing by his emails. One said: "JH doesn't want this to go to CC [Comp Commission]." Michel said he was told that. #Leveson
  • But FM's written statement to #Leveson detailed 3rd meeting and several text messages between FM + JH
  • Hunt told the Commons in April the only contact he had with Michel were minuted meetings. But released texts would appear to contradict that
  • Hansard, 25/4: Richard Graham (Con): "Fred Michel claimed he had 54 separate conversations with the Sec of State...
  • Poor Robert Jay. is that hay fever or a cold that is causing him to sporadically whip out his kerchief? if the former, i like him even more
  • Jay effectively establishing that Michel emails weren't those of a fantasist, with supporting evidence from call data #leveson
  • Hundreds of texts/calls/emails with Govt. Inside track all the time. Is Fred Michel the best lobbyist in Britain? Vote YES or YES #Leveson
  • Michel accepts that he lobbied the Treasury to see if George Osborne would write a letter supporting the BSkyB bid. Osborne was in China at the time. His special adviser said the matter would be raised with the Chancellor, but the request was never seen through.
    5/24/2012 2:34:15 PM
  • Fred Michel's evidence is now finished. He gave Adam Smith a nod as he retreated to his chair. Smith is now giving his testimony.
    5/24/2012 2:39:10 PM
  • Adam Smith is now giving his evidence to Leveson
    5/24/2012 2:40:48 PM
  • This is Adam Smith's CV:

    2006 - Parliamentary researcher to Jeremy Hunt;

    2007 - Chief of staff to Jeremy Hunt;

    2010 - Special Advisor to Jeremy Hunt.

    Mr Hunt's case is that Mr Smith did things he did not know about.
    5/24/2012 2:42:38 PM
  • Adam Smith looks very young and terribly nervous
  • Adam Smith

    5/24/2012 2:44:58 PM
  • Presume point of Jay asking how old Smith is (30) is to cast doubt on whether he was a veteran schmoozing freelancer as has been portrayed
  • RT @tomjharper Smith: "I knew what (Hunt) wanted to focus on and what he thought about policy." #Leveson > Quite. Worked for him for 6 years
  • Adam Smith articulate, but looking quite nervous. Understandably. Had to resign and not used to being front of house. #Leveson
  • Background: Adam Smith resigned in April after controversy over contact with News Corporation
    5/24/2012 2:50:00 PM
  • Smith on Hunt: "I wouldn't say he was particularly close to News Corp." Yes, you read it right. #Leveson
  • The text/email contact between AS/FM pre-DCMS in charge of decision v interesting. Did Vince Cable know of twin-track?
  • Smith is being pressed on whether Hunt was supportive of the bid. Half an hour ago, Smith was non-committal but Jay says: "Now I think we're reaching a point where you might agree with me..." This goes to the heart of the problem facing Smith: the inquiry has obtained masses of evidence indicating that his boss strongly supported the bid and that, at the very least, the DCMS department secretly helped News Corp.
    5/24/2012 3:11:13 PM
  • So Cameron knew when he appointed Hunt to decide on BSkyB deal that he was in favour of the bid. That's quite damaging.
  • Mr Smith: "My understanding was always that it was Mr Hunt who was acting in a judicial way" (and thus not his advisor, Mr Smith) #Leveson
  • Hunt clearly misled parliament. PM clearly made it worse.
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