A Conservative MP has become the first politician to suggest senior figures at the BBC may have to resign over the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.
Sir Roger Gale said BBC director-general George Entwistle and Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, may have to “fall on their swords” over the scandal, adding that the latter was also guilty of “corporate arrogance.”
And in a thinly veiled warning to Culture Secretary Maria Miller, the MP for North Thanet warned the Government not to wade into the row.
Sir Roger said: “Chris Patten is an old friend and a former parliamentary colleague for whom I have had a high regard. But in his comment he has made it clear that he is out of touch, not only with the strength of feeling and concern in Parliament about the 'Savile affair' and related matters but, more importantly, with the strength of public revulsion at what has happened at Television Centre and with the corporate culture that, for the best part of 40 years, has apparently covered it up.
“Attack may be the best form of defence but in seeking to criticise a Culture Secretary who has not, ever, sought to challenge the independence of the BBC, he indicates how very little, within that corporate arrogance, has really changed,” he added.
In a stinging attack on the corporation, Sir Roger went on: “BBC management, over far too many years, has sought to maintain an imperious disdain for criticism and it has become clear that successive directors general have, while happy to criticise others for not answering difficult questions, either turned a blind eye to criminal activities or have not known what has been going on on their own doorstep, which is also culpable.”
Yesterday it emerged that Liz Mackean, one of two BBC journalists working on a Newsnight investigation into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, believed the story was quashed after Peter Rippon, the editor of Newsnight, questioned whether the witnesses were really victims.
She claimed in an email leaked to Channel 4 News that he told her “the girls were teenagers, not too young … they weren't the worst kind of sexual offences”.
And at a House of Commons hearing earlier in the day, the head of the BBC was mocked by MPs over his lack of knowledge of the scandal, as the organisation admitted that current employees and contributors are being investigated over nine fresh claims of sexual harassment, assault and inappropriate conduct.
George Entwistle, the current BBC Director-General, admitted the Newsnight investigation should never have been dropped.
At a House of Commons hearing, he was accused by MPs of displaying “an extraordinary lack of curiosity” in the Savile case as he claimed he only learnt of the Newsnight story while eating at an event in a London hotel.
“It was a busy lunch – I didn't want to show undue interest,” he told the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.