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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron again rejected opposition demands Monday for his culture minister to face an investigation into whether he broke conduct rules while handling News Corp.'s (NWS, NWS.AU, NWSA) bid for control of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN).
"I have seen no evidence that in handling this issue the secretary of state acted at any stage in a way that was contrary to the ministerial code," Cameron told lawmakers.
The opposition Labour party has called for an independent investigation of media minister Jeremy Hunt over allegations he was too close to News Corp. while handling the BSkyB bid last year.
Hunt's special adviser resigned Wednesday after admitting that evidence that surfaced during an inquiry by Brian Leveson, a government-appointed judge who is examining media practices, suggested News Corp.'s relations with his department during the regulatory process were too close.
News Corp. owns a 39.1% stake in BSkyB. News Corp also owns Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.
The Labour party has also called on Hunt to resign. The minister said last week that he acted with "scrupulous fairness" throughout the BSkyB deal, and the prime minister has repeatedly said he has full confidence in him.
Appearing before parliament Monday, Cameron again said it was neither necessary nor right to have a parallel investigation into Hunt that could duplicate or possibly preempt the Leveson inquiry but that he would launch a probe should new evidence arise.
"I will not wait until the end of the Leveson inquiry to take action if action is needed," the prime minister said.
As for his own conduct, Cameron acknowledged that he had tried to convince media outlets that his policies were right for the country, but said there had never been a "grand bargain" between his Conservative party and the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
"The idea that there was some agreement that in return for their support we would somehow allow this [BSkyB] merger to go through is simply not true," Cameron said.
News Corp.'s bid to take full control of BSkyB collapsed in July after revelations of phone hacking at News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid, News of the World.
-By Nicholas Winning, Dow Jones Newswires, +44 207 842 9498; firstname.lastname@example.org