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BBC chairman Richard Sharp made a “grave error of judgment” by not disclosing his involvement in Boris Johnson’s loan arrangement, the MPs report concludes.
Mr Sharp’s position is in even greater jeopardy after a bipartisan committee criticized him for not declaring a role when he applied for the BBC’s presidency.
The committee should “consider the impact” of his omission on confidence in the station and his actions “constitute a violation of the standards expected of individuals” to apply for a prominent public appointment. .
Mr Sharp, a former Goldman Sachs banker, insisted he did not arrange the loan, but introduced Mr Johnson’s cousin and friend Sam Bryce to Chief Cabinet Secretary Simon Case. A former prime minister has admitted to securing £800,000 in loans. .
The former banker also admitted that he separately “went to Mr Johnson and told him that he wanted to apply for the position of chairman of the BBC,” which was appointed on the advice of the government.
He has now apologized for his actions, but appeared to dismiss calls to review his position, replying: “He takes pride in his work.” [BBC] The Board has been driving positive change at the BBC over the past two years and we are very much looking forward to continuing that work. ”
Sharp was nominated as the BBC’s frontrunner in January 2021, and Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee supported his appointment, although members of the committee now have no control over Johnson’s finances. He said he was unaware of his role. time.
In a strongly worded report released on Sunday, MPs said: Failure to disclose this material relationship would be a serious error of judgment and could undermine confidence in the civil service appointment process and could discourage qualified individuals from applying for such positions. ”
The Commission concluded that:
MPs also used the committee’s support for Sharp in 2021 to defend his appointment as the dispute over the loan broke down, despite the fact that he was unaware of the situation at the time.・He was critical of Sunak and other senior ministers.
“The fact that the ministers cited this committee’s first report on the appointment of Mr. Sharpe as a defense of the process .. fully all the facts that we should have had before us to make a judgment. When I hadn’t figured it out… I’m very unsatisfied,” said the member of parliament.
Lawmakers said there was an “unresolved question” as to why Chief Cabinet Secretary Simon Case believed that Sharp himself was giving Johnson financial advice, telling the Cabinet Office to “clear the confusion.” ‘ asked.
“Mr Sharp denied ever giving financial advice to the then prime minister, but the Cabinet Office issued a notice to the prime minister advising him not to seek further financial advice. The nomination as chairman of the BBC is imminent,” said a member of parliament.
Mr Sharp was recalled to the committee next Monday Sunday TimesRevelation about his links to Mr. Johnson’s finances.
At the hearing, he said his relationship with Mr Johnson was “largely professional” and denied giving financial advice to the former prime minister.
“I have never and never provided personal financial advice to the ex-Prime Minister. I know nothing about his (financial) affairs. .
He added that Mr Bryce’s offer of support to the then prime minister was made in September 2020 and emphasized the need to do things “by the rules”.
Following the start of the recruitment process for the BBC Presidency, Mr Bryce contacted Mr Sharpe and asked for an introduction to the Cabinet Secretary to ensure the proper process was followed.
Sharp told MPs that he had met Johnson before going to see Case, and that he planned to speak to the Chief Cabinet Secretary about Bryce’s offer of financial assistance.
Sharp reported that he met with Case in December 2020, at which point he “agreed not to participate further” in connection with the financial assistance to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest or conflict with his application. the book says.
Mr Sharp told lawmakers that as far as he was concerned, it meant “the problem is solved”.
In a separate meeting with Mr Johnson that preceded that discussion, Mr Sharp had expressed interest in applying for a position at the BBC.
A timeline of what happened:
- September 2020: Richard Sharpe, a former Goldman Sachs banker who advises the government on its economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, was contacted by an old friend, Sam Bryce, a distant cousin of then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Bryce says he wants to help Johnson through his financial troubles.
- October 2020: The recruitment process for the BBC’s next Chair begins.
- November 2020: Mr. Sharp applies for a job at the BBC. He has already spoken with Mr. Johnson.
- Late November 2020: Mr. Bryce contacted Mr. Sharp again and asked him to arrange a meeting with Whitehall’s top civil servant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
- December 2020: Mr. Sharp meets with Mr. Case to discuss Mr. Bryce’s visitation request and offer of assistance to Mr. Johnson. They agreed that Mr. Sharp should not be involved in the matter any further.
- January 6, 2021: Mr Sharp has been nominated as the Government’s preferred candidate for the BBC’s chairmanship.
- January 14, 2021: Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Commission will hold a pre-hearing with Mr. Sharpe. They were not informed of his role in helping facilitate the £800,000 loan guarantee from Mr Bryce to Mr Johnson.
- January 15, 2021: The Commission has concluded that it is pleased to confirm Mr Sharp’s appointment.
- February 16, 2021: Mr. Sharp has officially been appointed Chairman of the BBC for a four-year term.
- January 21, 2023: The Sunday Times reports that Sharp is involved in facilitating loan guarantees.
- January 23, 2023: Mr Sharpe wrote a letter to BBC staff saying he was “extremely sorry” for the station’s distraction and that the BBC Board’s nominations committee would not be able to benefit from his appointment. He said he would investigate whether there was a conflict.
- twenty three January 2023: Civil servant William Shawcross said he would consider the competition that led to Mr Sharpe taking the BBC job. He had met Mr. Sharp many times, and Adam Heppinstall KC was appointed to lead the investigation, so he subsequently rejected himself.
- February 7, 2023: Sharp appeared before Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Commission to defend his actions, claiming he “acted in good faith to ensure the rules were followed.”
- 12 February 2023: The Commission issues a report showing Mr. Sharp made a “serious error of judgment.”
In their new report, MPs said:
“However, he failed to apply the same standards of openness and candor in his decision not to divulge this information to this committee during the interview process or at the pre-appointment hearing.”
Damien Green, Acting Chair of the DCMS Committee, said: Boris Johnson.
“Such a grave error of judgment means that when it was necessary to judge his suitability as chairman of the BBC, the facts were not fully grasped.”
The report by the DCMS Commission is separate from the two ongoing investigations. A civil service watchdog is investigating the appointment of the former Goldman Sachs banker, and Mr Sharp also said his actions were brought before the BBC Board of Governors, following allegations of a possible conflict of interest. Referred to the nominating committee.
However, Sharp refused to tell the committee whether he would resign if an investigation by the watchdog agency of public officials criticized him for withholding information.
A Sharp spokesperson said: I: “Mr Sharp appreciates that there was information in the pre-appointment hearing that the committee felt the committee should have been made aware of. He regrets this and apologizes.
“Mr Sharp acted in good faith as, at the time, he sought to ensure that the rules were being followed, and believed that this had been accomplished.
“Beyond linking Bryce and Case, Mr Sharp believed he had addressed the issue by proactively explaining to the Chief Cabinet Secretary that he was applying for the role of BBC Chairman. I withdrew from the problem.
“At that meeting, and afterward, the Cabinet Office did not suggest that any act linking Mr Bryce and Mr Case should be proclaimed. Should be excluded from any dispute.”
Shadow Culture secretary Lucy Powell said:
“Conservative cronyism is dragging the BBC down at a time when it should be the cornerstone of the creative economy.”
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said Mr Johnson “must face music and answer questions from an independent survey”.
“[Johnson] Elephant in the room and has so far evaded it, but an accomplice in a dangerous deal brings it to the fore.
“Rishi Sunak can no longer let go of his former boss. The Minister’s Ethics Advisor must launch an investigation. It looks like it doesn’t.”
Additional report from Press Association.