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UK PM Rejects Call To Probe Culture Minister's Conduct

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- U.K. culture minister Jeremy Hunt will not face a separate investigation into whether he breached ministerial rules, Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said Friday after the main opposition party accused the government of a cover-up. Opposition lawmakers have called for the minister for culture media and sport to resign over allegations he was too close to media giant News Corp. (NWS, NWS.AU, NWSA) during a regulatory review of the company's bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN, BSYBY) last year. Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith resigned Wednesday after admitting that evidence which surfaced during an inquiry by Brian Leveson, a government-appointed judge who is examining media practices, suggested News Corp. had too close a relationship with his department during the regulatory process. Hunt has said he acted with "scrupulous fairness throughout" the handling of the BSkyB deal and Cameron has said he has full confidence in him. The culture minister has said he will give his side of events at the Leveson inquiry. Friday, he also pledged to hand over all private correspondence with his special adviser to the inquiry and was confident it would show he handled the BSkyB merger process with "total integrity." Nevertheless, the Labour party has called for Hunt to also face a separate investigation into whether he broke ministerial rules, including for failing to take responsibility for the actions of his special adviser. In a sign the issue could cause friction within the government, Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of Liberal Democrats, the smaller partner in Cameron's coalition, also said Thursday that he didn't understand why Hunt was not being investigated for breaching the ministerial code. But Friday, Cameron's spokesman rejected calls for a separate investigation, saying the Leveson inquiry should be allowed to run its course. News Corp.'s bid to take full control of BSkyB collapsed last July after revelations of phone hacking at News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid, News of the World. News Corp. owns a 39.1% stake in BSkyB. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal. -By Nicholas Winning, Dow Jones Newswires, +44 207 842 9498; nick.winningdowjones.com -0-

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