Hunt asked News Corp to guide phone-hacking ‘positioning’

Jeremy Hunt asked News Corporation's public affairs chief to "advise him privately" about phone-hacking, it has emerged.

An email released by Rebekah Brooks at the Leveson inquiry suggests that Frederic Michel claimed the culture secretary had asked him to "guide his and No 10's positioning" on phone-hacking.

The email intensifies the pressure on Mr Hunt to resign over his inappropriate links with News Corporation.

Mr Michel's email was dated June 27th 2011, at a time when Mr Hunt was still responsible for a quasi-judicial decision on News Corp's takeover bid for BSkyB. Rupert Murdoch only abandoned the bid on July 13th last year.

The email states: "JH is now starting to look into phone hacking/practices more thoroughly and has asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No 10's positioning."

Mr Michel also reported that Mr Hunt would make references to phone-hacking in an upcoming statement to parliament which would be "extremely helpful" to News Corp's commercial interests.

Mrs Brooks, chief executive of News International at the time, admitted under questioning today that she viewed Mr Michel's level of access as unusual.

"The truth is at the time of the BSkyB bid, I suppose like most journalists I viewed public affairs and lobbyists with slight scepticism," she said.

"I often thought Mr Michel overegged his position. However, he was doing his job."

Mrs Brooks added: "I always thought it was slightly strange… the level of access that seemed to come out was pretty good, really."

It has been suggested that 'JH' could refer to Jeremy Hunt's special adviser, Adam Smith, who has already resigned over his inappropriate contacts with Mr Michel.

The claim that Mr Hunt sought private advice from News Corporation is being denied by his office, but has resulted in renewed calls on the culture secretary to quit his post.

"People will be disgusted at the prospect of Jeremy Hunt and No 10 colluding with News Corporation to avoid a public inquiry into phone hacking," Labour's deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said.

"Jeremy Hunt was not on the side of victims and their families. Instead, he wanted it swept under the carpet because he was straining every sinew to support News Corporation's bid for BSkyB."