Lord Justice Leveson has rebuffed the government by making clear it was not his inquiry's role to rule if the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has breached the ministerial code by his handling of the News Corp bid for BSkyB.
The firm refusal from the Leveson inquiry is embarrassing to David Cameron, who claimed on Wednesday that the inquiry was the best forum to determine whether Hunt, as well as his special adviser Adam Smith, had handled the bid in a partisan manner. Instead, Hunt may now have to face a separate, and potentially more painful, investigation by an independent watchdog set up to police the behaviour of ministers.
Leveson's spokesman also denied claims by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, that he was going to bring forward the date of Hunt's appearance at the inquiry so his case could be fast-tracked. Clegg said: "I think we've already got an agreement Jeremy Hunt will go the Leveson pretty quick." Leveson's spokesman said this was inaccurate.