Labour sought to put fresh pressure on David Cameron over the phone-hacking scandal last night by demanding new laws to ban Rupert Murdoch from buying BSkyB.
Labour leader Ed Miliband challenged Mr Cameron to prevent Mr Murdoch’s News Corp from reviving its bid to take over the satellite broadcaster before 2015 at the earliest.
Mr Miliband called on Mr Cameron to close a legal ‘loophole’ which potentially allows the company to resurrect its bid before the Leveson inquiry into phone-hacking reports.
When the Commons returns next week from its summer break, Labour MPs will table ‘emergency’ proposals to change the law to give Ministers power to block the takeover, or any other major changes in media ownership.
They have accused Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt of waving through the News Corp bid this year before the phone-hacking scandal forced Mr Murdoch to shelve the plan.
Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis said Labour would amend the Enterprise Act 2002 to give Ministers powers to ask media regulators to apply new ‘public interest’ rules from the start of a takeover.
Ministers would also have the power to intervene at any stage of a bid if new information came to light. Mr Lewis said: ‘We must act to address the legal ambiguities which allowed Jeremy Hunt to disregard growing public concern and damaged public trust in the credibility of the decision-making process.’
Last night Mr Hunt insisted the necessary safeguards were already in place. ‘This is complete politicking by Labour,’ he said.
Labour’s move comes after Mr Cameron faced fresh embarrassment over hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Tory communications director in July 2007.
Reports claimed Mr Coulson, who resigned from the News of the World after its royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for intercepting voicemail messages, was still being paid by News International for months after he was hired by the Tories.
The company allegedly agreed to honour the remainder of Mr Coul-son’s two-year contract and paid the money in instalments until the end of 2007.
Mr Coulson, who quit his Downing Street job in January, was arrested this summer by police investigating alleged phone-hacking.
Mail Online, by Brendan Carlin, Mail on Sunday Political Reporter