It has not been a good month for Jeremy Hunt. The Culture Secretary managed to hang onto his job despite revelations about the cosy relationship between his office and News Corporation during the company’s attempted takeover of BSkyB. However, it was announced today that he will be investigated by the parliamentary standards commissioner over claims that he failed to register donations from media companies while in opposition.
The inquiry is being launched in response to a complaint earlier this month from Labour MP Stephen McCabe. He raised concerns about a series of “networking events” involving eight media organisations, attended by Hunt and culture minister Ed Vaizey.
The BBC summarises the query:
Mr Vaizey stated in his entry in the register of interests that he and Mr Hunt attended had attended eight sponsored events between July 2009 and March 2010.
Mr Vaizey registered the events as donations worth £27,000. These are not cash donations, but estimates from Mr Vaizey of the cost to the companies concerned of hosting the events.
However, Mr Hunt did not declare the meetings against his name in the register. He has subsequently claimed that he attended only three of the eight meetings.
His spokeswoman said he had amended his register entry since the complaint was raised and the discrepancy had arisen because of "miscommunication".
The office of the parliamentary standards commissioner, John Lyons, confirmed that an inquiry would be launched but declined to comment further. Hunt’s office also declined to comment.
Labour has already called for Hunt to resign over the News Corp revelations. His special adviser, Adam Smith, fell on his sword after emails were published showing his close relationship with a News Corp official during the bid. Hunt has maintained that he acted correctly and in a quasi-judicial manner.
In and of itself, the accusation that Hunt failed to declare the donations might not sound that monumental, particularly coming after the News Corp emails. What it shows is that Labour are not relinquishing the political pressure on Hunt. They know that if he goes, it will shift the pressure higher up the political chain.