This is the transcript of Philip Davies’ questioning of Lord Patten at the Commons Select Committee on 27 November 2012. Davies’ questions about what Mark Thompson knew when begin at 11.28am, or at 40.20 minutes on this video.
Davies: For now can I ask you about Mark Thompson, whose praises you were singing when he left the BBC. What do you think of Mark Thompson’s explanation of what he knew about Jimmy Savile and Newsnight and all that kind of stuff, what do you think about his explanation of what he knew and when he knew it?
Patten: I’ll be better able to comment on that after Pollard has replied.
Davies: As the Chairman of the BBC trust you have no opinion?
Patten: The reason why we set up the Pollard inquiry is so that it could ask those questions.
Davies: Have you not asked those questions?
Patten: I’m waiting for the Pollard inquiry to report before I comment on the position of those he is interviewing himself.
Davies: When did you last speak to Mark Thompson about all this?
Patten: I last spoke to him about a month ago. I went to a lecture that he gave in Oxford on rhetoric. It was before he took his job at the New York Times and we had a brief conversation about the issues surrounding Savile and the enquiries.
Davies: How many times have you spoken to him about the Savile and Newsnight situation?
Patten: How many times since when?
Davies: Well, since you found out about it, you couldn’t talk to him before you found out about it so how many times have you spoken to him since you found out about it?
Patten: Um, since that occasion I’d only seen him about –
Davies: (interrupts Patten) There are telephones
Patten: Yes, but you don’t set up an inquiry, and an expensive inquiry and then bark yourself.
Davies: Did you not speak to him before you set up the inquiry?
Patten : (Long pause.) No.
Davies: Why not?
Patten: Because he was no longer Director General of the BBC.
Davies: But he was at the time of something that’s a big crisis for the BBC. Did you not think it was worthwhile to speak to someone who was director general at the time?
Patten: I thought that was probably something that Pollard should do rather than myself
Davies: What do you get paid to do Lord Patten?
Patten: What I get paid to do is to chair the BBC Trust.
Patten: And you are probably aware of the responsibilities of the BBC Trust.
Davies: On the um, Mark Thompson for the records, seems to say, as far as I recall, from what I’ve heard, that he’d never heard any allegation about Jimmy Savile whilst he was director general. He left the BBC on the 16th September. On the 6th September, ten days before he left, Mark Thompson got BBC lawyers to write to the Sunday Times to tell them to stop a story alleging that he did know about what had happened and threatened to sue them if they ran the story so what do you make of that?
Patten: You know perfectly well that I’m not going to reply to questions which are being looked at by nick pollard’s inquiry, you know that perfectly well, so you can go on asking those questions but you’re going to get the same answer.
Davies: But the point is Lord Patten that it doesn’t relate to you because you said that you didn’t know anything about this until the 28th September I think it was.
Patten: Yeah the weekend of the –when the Standard broke the story.
Davies: So this isn’t just about, you can’t just sort of, you know, let the ball go through to the wicket keeper, you actually have to play at some of these, because it affects your role as chairman of the Trust. Were you not aware that – of this letter that Mark Thompson sent to the Sunday times threatening to sue them if they ran a story implicating him in the…
Patten: (interrupts Davies) No.
Davies: You didn’t know about that?
Davies: So on the 17th September ITV sent a letter to the BBC to say that they are going to run a programme about Jimmy Savile. Did you not know- are you happy that Mark ThompsonT did not know anything – he didn’t know anything about the legal letter that was sent of his behalf apparently. You are also happy he didn’t know anything about that…
Patten: (interrupts Davies) No, I didn’t know about the letter on the 7th September. And I just wonder, as this questioning proceeds, whether you’ve ever read the charter
Davies: The 8th September…
Patten: Sorry but what was the answer to that question?
Davies: I’m not going to give an answer, I’ve got the charter here, we’ll come back to your role late. As I said I want to know, I’m asking about Mark Thompson at the moment. The 8th September, you, both of you, actually, and Mark Thompson, hosted a party on the last night of the proms. So the day before the BBC had received a letter from ITV to say they were going to run a programme about Jimmy Savile. The day before that, Mark Thompson, the Director General, got lawyers to write to the Sunday Times to tell them to stop a story or else he would sue them. And on the 8th September this was never even, never even mentioned: the Director General didn’t even say to you, ‘By the way we’ve got, you know, there is something that’s happened, I need to have a chat with you about this.’ Nothing at all was mentioned about it?
Davies: So he never said, ‘I want to speak to you about anything important’?
Davies: So what do you think it says about you as the chairman of the Trust, I mean are you seen as some kind of, seen as some kind of patsy for the executive at the BBC, that they think there’s very serious issues coming up and you don’t even need to know about them, as the Chairman of the Trust?
Patten: If I were you I would renew your acquaintance yourself with the charter
Davies: I’m trying to get some answers from you Lord Patten
Patten: I’ve given you answers
Davies: You didn’t know what was going on…
Patten: I was not told about that letter
Davies: What do you think about Mark Thompson and his role in all this? Do you not have an opinion?
Patten: I’ll have a more informed opinion after pollard has produced his reportDavies: So is your opinion only going to be the same as Pollard’s?
Pollard: No, my opinion will be coloured by Mr Pollard’s and if it wasn’t going to be what would point of having the Pollard inquiry?
Davies: Apart from to save you from having to answer any difficult questions.