Hodge tells BBC chief to resign over HSBC links

PAC chair piles pressure on Rona Fairhead over HSBC tax affairs, but HMRC's Ed Trouper to appear at later date

Margaret Hodge has called on the chair of the BBC Trust to resign over her previous role at HSBC, branding Rona Fairhead "either incredibly naive or totally incompetent".

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee said she did not trust Fairhead - who took over as chair of the BBC governing body last year - to be the "guardian" of licence fee money because of her role at HSBC while the bank's Swiss subsidiary allegedly helped clients evade tax.

Fairhead joined the bank's board in 2004, serving on its audit committee until 2010, and on its risk committee following that. The leaked HSBC Swiss client list - obtained by UK tax authorities in 2010 but published in the media only last month - outlined how the bank during the period 2005-07 had aided clients in avoiding tax.

Hodge told Fairhead at today's PAC session that her evidence on the period had failed to inspire "confidence" in her new role.

"I want to come to you, Ms Fairhead, and I’m going to say something," the PAC chair said. "It’s a bit unpleasant to say, and I’m just saying it as a licence fee payer. Having watched your performance this afternoon I’ve got to say this to you, that either you knew... or you didn’t know."

After Fairhead "categorically" denied any knowledge of tax evasion, the PAC chair hit back: “In that case you are either incredibly naive or totally incompetent. I don’t think that the record that you have shown in your performance here as a guardian of HSBC gives me the confidence that you should be the guardian of the BBC licence fee payers’ money.

"I reallly do think that you should consider your position and you should think about resigning and if not, I think the government should sack you."

But Fairhead insisted she had been among those leading calls for change at HSBC.

The committee had initially been due to call HMRC's second permanent secretary Edward Troup to give evidence on the way tax authorities dealt with the disc containing the leaked list of HSBC's Swiss clients.

But the session was postponed to allow Troup to be questioned along with the former boss of HMRC, Dave Hartnett, at a later date.


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