Sep 6 2013
BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said he is "looking forward" to his appearance in front of a committee of MPs after former director-general Mark Thompson accused him of misleading Parliament over pay-offs to senior staff at the corporation.
Mr Thompson, who left the BBC last year to take over at the New York Times, claimed Lord Patten and BBC trustee Anthony Fry told "specific untruths and inaccuracies" in earlier evidence to MPs investigating the controversial golden goodbyes.
He will appear before the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday alongside Lord Patten and other senior staff. In a written submission to the MPs, he insisted that Lord Patten had been "fully briefed" about the details of severance packages to former deputy director-general Mark Byford and former marketing chief Sharon Baylay.
Speaking to the BBC, Lord Patten said he had "no concerns at all about the remarks", adding: "I'm obviously going to save my remarks principally until I appear in front of the committee on Monday, which I'm looking forward to."
Mr Thompson's written evidence to the committee, extracts of which were published in several newspapers, said: "The picture painted for the PAC by the BBC Trust witnesses on 10 July 2013 was - in addition to specific untruths and inaccuracies - fundamentally misleading about the extent of Trust knowledge and involvement. The insinuation that they were kept in the dark by me or anyone else is false and is not supported by the evidence."
In evidence in July, Mr Fry told the PAC that members of the Trust were not always included in decision-making. And he said there was ''some disconnect'' between what Mr Thompson had written in a letter to the Trust about Mr Byford's pay-off in which he had apparently declared it was within contractual arrangements, when the National Audit Office (NAO) had found it was not.
Mr Byford departed with a total payout of £949,000 and Ms Baylay's settlement was worth £394,638. It was reported that Mr Thompson claimed Lord Patten knew in 2011 that both had received settlements of more than they were contractually entitled to and their formal notice of departure was delayed.
"In fact, Lord Patten was himself fully briefed, in writing as well as orally, about the Mark Byford and Sharon Baylay settlements soon after his arrival as chairman in 2011," Mr Thompson said. He concludes that the evidence given to the NAO and PAC was "inadequate, and in some important instances, very misleading testimony".
A BBC Trust spokesman said: "This is a bizarre document. We reject the suggestion that Lord Patten and Anthony Fry misled the PAC."
Reading East Conservative MP Rob Wilson said: "It is not altogether surprising that Mark Thompson and Chris Patten are fighting like ferrets in a sack. As the light has been shone into the dark corners of the BBC, people with questions to answer have began to mount campaigns to save their own skin."