BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten defends decision to pay Entwistle 12 months' notice

BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten has written to Commons media committee chairman John Whittingdale defending BBC director general George Entwistle’s £450,000 pay-off.

Patten revealed that Entwistle met with the BBC trust on Saturday afternoon to discuss developments linked to the 2 November Newsnight report which wrongly said an un-named senior Conservative politician was involved in child abuse.

He said: “The trustees expressed serious concerns about the way in which this issue was being handled. Later in the day George approached me to ask if suitable terms could be agreed for his resignation.

He said Entwistle’s contract stipulates a six-month notice period if he is resigning. The notice period for termination by the BBC Trust is 12 months."

He said that the negotiated settlement followed discussions “with George and his advisors” on Saturday night. Entwistle announced his resignation at 9.15pm on Saturday.

He said that the 12, rather than six months, notice payment was agreed due to the following:

“In the absence of George’s honourable offer to resign, I would have had to to speak to the trustees about the option of termination by us (which fortunately, was not necessary).

“In these circumstances, George would have been entitled to 12 months’ notice.

“In circumstances where we needed to conclude matters quickly and required George’s ongoing co-operation in a number of very difficult and sensitive matters, including the inquiries into issues associated with Savile, I concluded that a consensual resignation on these terms was clearly the better route.

“I consulted my colleagues on the Trust’s Remuneration Committee and took legal advice. Our conclusion was that a settlement on these terms was justified and necessary. The alternative was long drawn-out discussions and continuing uncertainty at a time when the BBC needs all of its focus to be on resolving fundamental issues of trust in BBC journalism.”

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