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BBC boss admits evidence mistake

The BBC's under-fire HR boss has admitted making a mistake in her evidence to a committee of MPs investigating excessive pay-offs to senior staff.

Lucy Adams, who announced last month she was quitting the BBC, initially told a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that she had not seen a note detailing plans for pay-offs to deputy director general Mark Byford and marketing boss Sharon Baylay - but she has now admitted she helped write it.

In written evidence published on Friday, she said: "During the July 10 hearing, the chair referred to a memo of October 7 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 October 7 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."

It also emerged the BBC has written to four former staff, whose pay-offs were investigated by the National Audit Office, to tell them they could be named to the committee. In his written evidence, head of corporate affairs Andrew Scadding said the four had "resigned at the time of well publicised operational incidents at the BBC".

They are believed to include former BBC1 boss Peter Fincham who reportedly got a £500,000 pay-off when when he left the corporation in the wake of a scandal sparked by misleading footage of the Queen.

Mr Scadding said the corporation "needed to balance the data protection and privacy rights of the individuals concerned against the interests of transparency and the public interest", but added: "However, we do appreciate that in relation to the four cases I refer to above the balance in these cases is likely to be in favour of disclosure".

Ms Adams is due before the committee again on Monday alongside BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and former director-general Mark Thompson.

At their last appearance before the committee, Lord Patten and BBC trustee Anthony Fry told MPs that members of the Trust were not always included in decision-making. Mr Fry 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 apparently declared it was within contractual arrangements, when the National Audit Office (NAO) found it was not. Mr Byford departed with a total payout of £949,000 and Ms Baylay's settlement was worth £394,638.

Mr Thompson's written evidence describes Lord Patten and Mr Fry's committee appearance as containing "important inaccuracies" and being "fundamentally misleading". He said: "The insinuation that they were kept in the dark by me or anyone else is false."

Speaking on Friday, Lord Patten said he is "looking forward" to coming back before the committee and has "no concerns" about what Mr Thompson has said. A BBC Trust spokesman described Mr Thompson's evidence as "a bizarre document".


From Belfast Telegraph