British minister escapes probe over BSkyB bid
British lawmakers vote against investigating the culture minister over his handling of BSkyB bid.
LONDON - British lawmakers voted on Wednesday against investigating the culture minister over his handling of a bid by News Corp for control of BSkyB, but the vote exposed divisions in the coalition government.
Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told his lawmakers they should abstain on a motion introduced by the opposition Labour party calling for a probe into the behaviour of Conservative minister Jeremy Hunt.
The Conservatives won the non-binding vote on whether to refer Hunt to Prime Minister David Cameron's independent advisor on ministerial standards by 290 to 252, a majority of 38.
Cameron has refused to launch an inquiry.
During a debate in the House of Commons ahead of the vote, Hunt defended himself against the "disgraceful allegation" that he deliberately misled parliament.
"I have made huge efforts to be transparent and you know that perfectly well," he told opposition lawmakers.
But the move by the Liberal Democrats undermines Cameron before his crucial appearance at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics on Thursday.
Hunt faced the inquiry last month and insisted he had acted impartially when deciding whether the bid by News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, for pay-TV giant BSkyB would threaten plurality in the media.
Hunt's advisor Adam Smith was forced to resign after a series of text messages and emails exposed his close relationship with senior members of the Murdoch media empire.
Labour believes the culture minister breached the ministerial code by failing to give "accurate and truthful information to parliament" over his relationship with News Corp.
Cameron backed Hunt immediately after the under-fire minister gave evidence to the inquiry, which was set up by the prime minister following the phone-hacking scandal that brought down Murdoch tabloid the News of the World in 2011.