Sep 9 2013
Former director-general Mark Thompson told MPs the BBC had not "lost the plot" when it agreed a pay-off of almost £1 million to his former deputy.
Mr Thompson is one of seven senior BBC staff - past and present - appearing before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to answer MPs' questions about who knew what about the excessive golden goodbyes which saw senior executives walk off with thousands of pounds more than their contracts demanded.
He said the move, which saw Mark Byford leave the BBC with a total payout of £949,000, was part of a move to axe senior executives which would give the BBC "£19 million of savings for every year into the future" and he believed he "had the full support of the BBC Trust" to order it.
The committee's chair, Margaret Hodge, said people were looking at BBC management in "dismay" and asked Mr Thompson if the BBC had, under his management, lost the plot.
He said: "I do not think we lost the plot."
Ms Hodge asked Mr Thompson why Mr Byford needed an extra payment when he was contractually due around half-a-million pounds, saying: "Why was £500,000, which is for most people mega bucks, not enough?"
Mr Thompson, who said he did not believe there was any "favouritism" in deciding pay-offs, said the pay-off to Mr Byford was needed so he would remain "focused" on his job and not be distracted. He said he had inherited a way of doing things at the broadcaster, telling MPs: "I did not loosen the financial controls in this area."
Stephen Barclay MP told Mr Thompson he had been "lax" in delegating authority and asked why more pay-offs had not been recommended to the Executive Board Remuneration Committee.
The former director-general said the term "lax" was "too strong" and added a "rapid aggressive change" which saw large numbers of senior managers leave presented the BBC with the "prize" of extra funding for programming.
He said: "The price you would have in 2009-10 for trying to do it was a delay which would have ended up costing more." And he added: "The savings were so large a single month's delay cost over £1 million."