(AFP) – May 21, 2012
LONDON — Parliament launched a probe Monday into claims that culture minister Jeremy Hunt, who has faced calls to quit over ties to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., failed to declare a string of donations.
Hunt fought off pressure to resign last month after it emerged that his ministry leaked details to News Corp. about its bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
The parliamentary investigation relates to separate allegations that he failed to declare his attendance at several events paid for by media companies.
"I can confirm that an investigation has been initiated," a spokeswoman for the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards told AFP, declining to give further details.
Hunt's deputy Ed Vaizey stated in parliament's register of interests that he and Hunt had attended eight sponsored events between July 2009 and March 2010, when their Conservative party was in opposition.
Vaizey registered the events as donations worth £27,000 ($42,700, 33,400 euros), his estimate of how much it cost the companies to host the events.
But Hunt did not declare the meetings in his own entry, prompting opposition Labour lawmaker Steve McCabe to call for an investigation.
Hunt has claimed he attended only three of the eight meetings and his spokeswoman said on Monday that he had amended his entry to the register since McCabe's complaint.
The investigation piles pressure on Hunt, who faced calls to quit last month after an inquiry into media ethics released emails showing that his office supplied News Corp. with information about the progress of the BSkyB bid.
The media empire, which owns 39 percent of the highly profitable broadcaster, was forced to drop its bid for full control last July as the phone hacking scandal engulfed its British newspaper wing.
It had been Hunt's job to assess whether the government should approve the BSkyB bid in the face of opposition from other media groups who feared it would give the Murdochs too much influence over the British media.
Hunt's adviser Adam Smith resigned last month after admitting that he had gone beyond his remit in his dealings with News Corp. executives.
But Hunt has insisted he will "vindicate" his position when he appears in front of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
As minister for culture, media and sport, his role includes responsibility for the Olympic Games which open in London on July 27.
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