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Hunt refers News Corp/BSkyB bid to Competition Commish

Corpse of NotW fails to stop vast controversy snowball

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News Corp's planned bid to merge with BSkyB will be referred to the Competition Commission, the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed in the House of Commons this afternoon.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government had been slow to respond to the public mood following the unfolding phone-tapping scandal that has engulfed News of the World publisher News International, the sister company of Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp.

He also complained about the absence of the Prime Minister from the Commons' debate.

David Cameron separately told reporters earlier this afternoon that News Corp needed to concentrate on getting its house in order, rather than looking to expand Murdoch's empire.

"If I was running that company right now, and with all of the problems and difficulties and the mess, frankly, that there is, they should be focused on clearing that up, rather than the next corporate move," reports the BBC.

Hunt reiterated that two inquires would get underway, one that would be "judge-led... with witnesses questioned under oath".

The minister said "no stone [would be] be left unturned," and added that the inquiry would also consider why the first police probe into phone-hacking allegations against News International failed.

Hunt described the NotW saga as "irresponsible, callous and illegal behaviour".

In the past hour, News Corp formally withdrew its offer to spin off Sky News as a separate firm, which had formed part of its proposed merger of BSkyB. The Beeb's Robert Peston noted that this means Murdoch's company had kicked its plans into the long grass by effectively delaying the bidding process now that it will be referred to the Competition Commission.

Meanwhile, ex-PM Gordon Brown is set to make a statement in the Commons shortly, in which he is reportedly expected to confirm allegations that his bank account and phone had been repeatedly hacked over the course of a decade by journalists from across News International's titles: Not just by hacks on the now dead News of the World. ®

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