BBC severance: Lord Patten accused of 'misleading Parliament' as HR boss admits she 'made mistake' to MPs

War of words continues over fears the BBC Trust has wasted licence fee payers' money by over-compensating departing executives

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The Independent Online

The BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has mislead Parliament with “untruths and inaccuracies” over pay-off deals for top executives leaving the corporation, according to former director general Mark Thompson.

In written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of MPs, Mr Thompson accused Lord Patten and BBC Trustee Anthony Fry of approving payments that cost the licence fee payer £2 million more than was necessary under their contracts.

Mr Thompson said the Trust had “insinuated” to the Commons that they were “kept in the dark” over the excessive payments.

Former deputy director general Mark Byford departed with a total pay-out of £949,000, while former marketing chief Sharon Baylay’s settlement was worth £394,638.

Mr Thompson said: “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.”

He concluded that the evidence given to the NAO and PAC was “inadequate, and in some important instances, very misleading testimony”.

The scathing criticism came as the BBC’s under-fire HR boss Lucy Adams said she had made a mistake in her own evidence to the PAC.

Ms Adams has already announced that she will be leaving the BBC, and told MPs that she had not seen a document which detailed the Byford and Baylay pay-offs.

Yet today she admitted she had actually helped write it.

She submitted new evidence to the Commons committee which said: “During the 10 July hearing, the chair referred to a memo of 7 October 2010.

“At the time, I was not clear which document the chair was referring to and so I could not recollect with absolute certainty whether or not I had seen the memo sent by Mark Thompson to the then chairman on 7 October 2010.

“Since the hearing, I am now clear which document was being referred to and I can confirm that I was involved in drafting that memo, although I had not seen the final note sent to the Trust until recently.”

Ms Adams and Mr Thompson are both due to appear once more before the PAC on Monday, as is Lord Patten.

Speaking to reporters today, the Trust chairman said he had “no concerns” over the allegations made by the former director general, and added that he is “looking forward” to giving his own evidence at the hearing.

The Trust issued its own statement, which said: “We reject the suggestion that Lord Patten and Anthony Fry misled the PAC.

“We completely disagree with Mark Thompson's analysis, much of which is unsubstantiated - in particular the suggestion that Lord Patten was given a full and formal briefing on the exact terms of Mark Byford's departure, which in any event took place before the current chairman's arrival at the Trust.

“We look forward to answering fully and openly further questions at Monday's PAC hearing.”