'Do you want to know my toilet habits?' Lord Patten clashes with MPs over BBC Trust job

 

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten was forced to defend his role amid scathing criticism by MPs today.

Lord Patten became embroiled in a spat with Conservative MP Philip Davies as he was grilled about his job at his appearance at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Asked by Mr Davies to supply a full itinerary of his daily work for the corporation, the peer refused, saying the question was "impertinent".

Lord Patten had been asked how many days he devoted to his job as chairman of the BBC Trust, saying: "At the moment about eight".

He said he spent three or four days a week on BBC premises, but probably more on BBC work outside that.

Pressed on the point later in the meeting, he was asked for an itinerary of his day by Mr Davies, to which he refused, saying: "I think it's a thoroughly impertinent question".

"I think you're entitled to know how much time I'm spending, I think you're entitled to put down freedom of information requests for how many days I spend in the office, or how many days I spend doing other things.

"But if you think I am going to do a diary for you in order to satisfy some populist pursuit of somebody you didn't want to run an organisation which you don't want to exist, you are kidding yourself.

"Do you want to know my toilet habits? What else do you want to know?"

Mr Davies fought the apparent slapdown, saying: "Given you have been presiding over a shambles at the BBC I think it's perfectly reasonable to say have you been actually putting in the hours, putting in the yard as you should have been as chairman of the BBC Trust."

After declaring other roles that he received remuneration for, Lord Patten said: "I don't have anything else to add."

Mr Davies asked if the peer felt he should take responsibility for the way the BBC's reputation had suffered in the wake of the Jimmy Savile and Newsnight scandal, to which Lord Patten said he thought he should share the responsibility for rebuilding trust in the corporation.

In another apparent put-down, he told the MP: "I am not sure that this Socratic dialogue with you is getting us very far."

But refusing to back down, Mr Davies pressed Lord Patten on the appointment of George Entwistle, saying: "Do you take responsibility for spending a fortune recruiting somebody who was already under your nose then spending a fortune getting rid of him?"

Earlier in the hearing, the men sparred when Lord Patten denied that he had chosen to go on Andrew Marr's show on the weekend of Mr Entwistle's resignation because he wanted an "easier ride" than he would have got with broadcaster Andrew Neil, saying he chose the programme with the "larger audience".

He was accused by Mr Davies of not probing former director-general Mark Thompson enough about the Newsnight decision to drop its programme on Savile.

"Did you not think it was worthwhile to speak to someone who was director-general at the time?" Mr Davies said.

"I'm not going to reply to questions that are being looked at in the Pollard inquiry," Lord Patten said.

"What do you think it says about you? Are you seen as some kind of patsy for the executive of the BBC?... You didn't know what was going on?" said Mr Davies.

PA

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