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.

  • Michel evidence HIGHLIGHTS

    - Jeremy Hunt's department offered to pass opposition documents about bid to News Corp

    - Michel exaggerated certain elements of his contact with DCMS, such as sometimes when he wrote JH he meant Adam Smith and (apparently) invented extra incorrect details

    - But evidence of text messages show that Michel was passing on the thrust of the inside information he was receiving from the Govt.

    - And, critically, Hunt sent secret text messages to News Corp about the bid which he did not declare in Parliament. Labour has accused the Culture Secretary of lying.

    OVERALL - This will increase the pressure on Hunt to resign.
    5/24/2012 3:39:56 PM
  • Again, incredible. Smith says no-one in department raised an eyebrow at his close contacts with News Corp. #Leveson
  • Lovely bit of realworldism from Adam Smith at #leveson: on the BSkyB bid, not bothered either way; couldn't see what all the fuss was about
  • Top line: David Cameron appointed Jeremy Hunt to take the semi-judicial decision on BSkyB bid despite knowing he was strongly in favour.

    - David Cameron appointed Jeremy Hunt to take the semi-judicial decision on the BSkyB bid despite knowing he was strongly in favour of Rupert Murdoch's attempt to own all of the UK's richest TV network.

    - In November 2010, Hunt wrote to Cameron to warn him that media sector would suffer if the bid was not approved.

    - In the memo, the Culture Secretary - handed control of the bid a month later - wrote:

    "In the end I am sure sensible controls can be put into any merger to ensure there is plurality but I think it would be totally wrong to cave into the Mark Thompson/Channel 4/Guardian line that this represents a substantial change of control given that we all know Sky is controlled by News Corp now anyway."

    - In the memo, Hunt said that James Murdoch wanted to emulate his father's triumph at Wapping by creating world's first paper-web-TV etc media platform.

    - News International's newspapers would have become even more dominant because of the deal, yet, despite the growing number of criminal inquiries, Hunt was prepared to wave the bid through... until the disclosure that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing schoolgirl.
    5/25/2012 8:47:40 AM
  • Hunt knew that Smith was in contact with Michel...but to what extent #leveson
  • Smith confirms he was forwarding on News Corp emails to Hunt..."I imagine he would guess that's where I got it from,"he says.
  • In his witness statement, Adam Smith says that "other key members of the department" knew about his dealings with Frederic Michel and "at no point did anyone provide any guidance". This both portrays him as the victim of ignorance, and spreads culpability, which is not the start to this morning that was hoped for in Whitehall.
    5/25/2012 9:01:25 AM
  • Robert Jay QC is now pushing Smith on the question of whether or not Hunt expressed concern that he was not allowed to lobby Vince Cable on behalf of News Corp's argument.
    5/25/2012 9:03:04 AM
  • Smith has confirmed that Hunt was "very frustrated" at not being able to speak to James Murdoch. This is not particularly surprising, in the circumstances. Hunt was eager to please, had already publicly declared his affection for Murdoch, and knew that he had a rare chance to steer government policy and so gain favour.
    5/25/2012 9:07:04 AM
  • Smith is taking now beginning to take the Murdoch approach to answering questions at #Leveson: I can't remember
  • Jeremy Hunt must resign, says Labour
    via @guardian >Quite
  • When #Leveson is over, I shall miss Mr Jay mildly mentioning a paragraph in a witness statement, followed by a killer question.
  • Smith seems more defensive than yesterday. Jay is having a harder time getting him to agree with even his more innocuous suggestions.
    5/25/2012 9:13:14 AM
  • I agree with The Guardian's Dan Sabbagh here. He tweeted earlier this morning: "Hard not to have sympathy with Smith. He was an authorised back channel to a info-hungry company his minister was eager to please."

    Indeed. Adam Smith is a clearly very competent special adviser who was appointed to a particularly ambitious minister and used as a human shield by him, at a time when he was seeking to gain favour from the Murdoch empire. I know a few advisers across Whitehall who are considering themselves very lucky this morning. Some of them might easily have ended up giving evidence to the Inquiry right now - and having more to worry about that Smith does now.
    5/25/2012 9:13:36 AM
  • Smith is trying to downplay his role in communicating information between Hunt, Ofcom and News Corp. He was only "confirming", he insists.
    5/25/2012 9:15:33 AM
  • Adam Smith has just admitted that the Culture Department was briefing News Corp on the discussions between Jeremy Hunt and Ofcom about the BSkyB bid. Mr Hunt made "four substantial points" to Ofcom boss Ed Richards in a meeting with him on 10 January 2011. Essentially, Mr Hunt - who was supposed to be an impartial judge - was giving News Corp the inside track on discussions within government and regulators about its bid.
    5/25/2012 9:17:10 AM
  • Hang on. Smith and Jay wearing basically the same tie at #Leveson. Are they by chance related? Is Smith trying to gain favour? #conspiracy
  • Smith was appointed to his position as probably the most senior adviser to a senior Cabinet Minister because of his skill and competence. After responsibility for the bid fell to Hunt, his importance in government grew. Now he has lost his job and is being forced to defend Hunt's ambition in a very public domain. He acted improperly, certainly; but this is tough on, as well as for, him.
    5/25/2012 9:20:31 AM
  • Smith describes Michel's email phrase "game over for the competition" as a "colourful understanding of the process".
    5/25/2012 9:20:49 AM
  • Leveson has interrupted to contradict Smith's assertion that there would be no "heat" on Hunt after the publication of the Ofcom report.
    5/25/2012 9:23:02 AM
  • I'd be interested to know, from lawyers reading this blog or elsewhere, at what point in Jay's questioning they think he should straightforwardly ask exactly what Smith resigned for. Hunt had previously said it was the volume and tone of interaction between Smith and Michel that was inappropriate. Will Smith repeat that phrase, or use a different formulation? And at what point should Jay ask him? I wouldn't leave it until the end, but that may be why I'm not a lawyer.
    5/25/2012 9:24:52 AM
  • Smith: "I don't remember saying 'it's game over for the opposition' but I can imagine we did have a conversation along those lines" #Leveson
  • Jay is putting it to him straight: Jeremy Hunt also had a wider objective than following the process, did he not? News Corp securing the bid.
    5/25/2012 9:27:44 AM
  • Mr Smith seems to be quite blas√©: civil servants knew about his conversations with News Corp; his boss Jeremy Hunt made no secret that he was briefing News Corp; yes, he probably said the things that News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel so excitedly summarised in emails to James Murdoch.

    Does Mr Smith think he has done nothing wrong? If so, why did he resign?

    One possible explanation for his somewhat flat performance is that he knows - and Mr Hunt knows - that the Culture Secretary knew exactly what he was doing and that he can't really be bothered to mount a stout defence of his behaviour: in his heart, he knew he was just doing what his boss, a Cabinet minister, expected of him.
    5/25/2012 9:28:11 AM
  • Leveson: "Mr Smith, do you understand that reading this email just as an email, it is at least implicit that there is common cause being fought here?"
    5/25/2012 9:29:11 AM
  • Leveson wants to pin Smith down on whose views the email actually represents. His? Hunt's? Or nobody's at all? Smith is going for the latter.
    5/25/2012 9:31:20 AM
  • Smith denies that they wanted to manipulate the timing of the Ofcom report publication for political reasons
    5/25/2012 9:32:12 AM
  • Smith: "I don't remember saying 'it's game over for the opposition' but I can imagine we did have a conversation along those lines" #Leveson
  • Smith agrees that by June his friendly
    relationship with Mr Michel had chilled. "After six months of calls, I was getting quite frustrated."
    5/25/2012 9:33:52 AM
  • Does Mr Smith think he has done nothing wrong? If so, why did he resign? #Leveson
  • The Financial Times' Chris Cook, and a Peter J Forster, have been in touch on Twitter to point out that the worst possible thing for Smith would be for Hunt to go down, and that is why he is being loyal here. It is certainly true that if Hunt went down, Smith would be further tarnished through guilt by association.

    What sparks my (mild) sympathy is simply that Smith is clearly a capable man, appointed to an exceptionally ambitious minister, suddenly caught in a huge and politically toxic merger, who was used as a back-channel by a boss very eager to please the Murdoch empire. Now he's out of a job. There's some misfortune as well as malice in all that.
    5/25/2012 9:38:43 AM
  • I was too flippant and jokey in texts to Michel says Smith #leveson
  • Smith: "Four days earlier Mr Hunt had sat in a room with Mr Murdoch and explained what happened next." #Leveson
  • Smith is portraying Michel as a bit of an irritating text-pest. Smith's responses, he says, were just an attempt to get Michel to "shut-up", not an insight into departmental thinking.
    5/25/2012 9:43:44 AM
  • Jay isn't convinced: "One strategy you could have used was to just turn off your mobile phone, frankly."
    5/25/2012 9:44:45 AM
  • Mr Smith suggesting he was sending overly helpful/friendly messages to News Corp lobbyist, Fred Michel, because Michel was bugging him (not actually bugging him, of course).

    Asked why he told Michel in a text message that Mr Hunt's statement to Parliament could not be too warm about News Corp (to allow Cabinet Minister "legal wriggle-room" against opponents of the bid) Mr Smith said: "This another example of me to get him [Michel] off my back."
    5/25/2012 9:46:14 AM
  • PA: Former prime minister Tony Blair is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards on Monday next week
    5/25/2012 9:48:57 AM
  • PA: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt will give evidence to Leveson on Thursday next week.
    5/25/2012 9:49:33 AM
  • PA: Michael Gove and Theresa May will give evidence to Leveson on Tuesday and Vince Cable and Kenneth Clarke on Wednesday.
    5/25/2012 9:50:07 AM
  • LEVESON INQUIRY next week.

    MON: Tony Blair;

    TUES Theresa May;

    WEDS: Vince Cable;

    THURS: Jeremy Hunt.

    Tony Blair likely to be asked about close relationship with Rupert Murdoch - and whether he granted him any favours in Government. Topics will include Blair's visit to Hayman Island in 1995, when - according to former advisor Lance Price - the Labour leader agreed an outline understanding with Murdoch that Murdoch would give New Labour a fair ride, if New Labour was good for Murdoch's business.

    Vince Cable will be asked about 'declaring war' on Murdoch, and whether News Corp threatened him and other senior LibDems if they blocked the takeover of BSkyB, as reported last year.

    But the biggest day, of course, will be Jeremy Hunt on Thursday. We now know that Mr Hunt's department and News Corp exchanged more than 1,000 text messages over BSkyB; the department gave the UK's biggest media company the inside track on what was happening to consideration within government and regulators of the £8bn deal. Mt Hunt, still clinging to his job, insists he did nothing wrong and will clear his name.
    5/25/2012 9:56:13 AM
  • Richard Graham: FM claimed 54 conversations with SoS; will he confirm how many he did have? Mr Hunt: The answer is zero.
  • Massive week at #Leveson next week: MON: Tony Blair; TUES Theresa May; WEDS: Vince Cable; THURS: Jeremy Hunt.
  • Inquiry stops for a break after and hour and a half of questioning.
    5/25/2012 9:59:21 AM
  • PA: Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV's This Morning "I don't regret'' giving Jeremy Hunt the role in deciding on News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB and said the Culture Secretary had acted "impartially''.
    5/25/2012 10:00:06 AM
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