Saturday 10 July 2021 / 10:30 PM The Latest from Labour

Labour writes to BBC Chair and Director General to call for Sir Robbie Gibb resignation

Labour’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, has today written to BBC Chair Richard Sharp and Director General Tim Davie, to call for the resignation of Sir Robbie Gibb from the BBC Board, following reports that he tried to block a senior editorial appointment on political grounds.

The letter calls on the BBC Chair and Director General to ask Sir Robbie Gibb to resign his position, as well as opening an investigation on how this happened, setting out a series of questions that need to be answered in relation to his appointment and actions in the role.

In the letter, Angela Rayner says: “I cannot believe that a BBC Board Chair could ever allow a Director to act in this way and stay in post. I hope, therefore, that Robbie Gibb’s actions were news to you. I expect that you will now ask him to resign his position and investigate how this happened.”

 

Full text of the letter:

Dear Richard and Tim,

I am writing to you today following worrying media reports suggesting that a Non-Executive Director on the BBC Board, Sir Robbie Gibb, is using his influence to block a senior editorial appointment on political grounds. I am writing to you both because this goes to the core of both operational and governance matters for the BBC. We have seen detailed in the media a gross abuse of power by someone seeking to wield influence on behalf of Government interests in a totally unacceptable way.

The Board of the BBC, as stated on your own website, “must uphold and protect the independence of the BBC and make its decisions in the public interest”. Putting pressure on the recruitment process of staff is entirely outside of the remit of the Board and a total abuse of position. The Code of Practice for Directors is absolutely clear that “Directors must not use their position… to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else”. The BBC is one of the great public institutions of Britain and all Board members must conduct themselves with integrity and commitment to its values of honesty and impartiality.

I cannot believe that a BBC Board Chair could ever allow a Director to act in this way and stay in post. I hope, therefore, that Robbie Gibb’s actions were news to you. I expect that you will now ask him to resign his position and investigate how this happened. His appointment earlier this year now raises some important questions:

  • There are currently no minutes from the Nominations Committee meeting which agreed the appointment of Sir Robbie Gibb. Will you publish these and, noting the serious questioning of his position and judgement, all other correspondence relating to his appointment?
  • Can you outline the selection criteria for a Non-Executive Director at the BBC and explain how Sir Robbie Gibb met this criteria?
  • Was due consideration given to reports of Sir Robbie Gibb putting pressure on BBC journalists as a Special Advisor to the Government when considering him for the role?
  • Can you confirm if Sir Robbie Gibb was required to declare and register his ongoing connections to the Conservative Party and the current Government at any point during his work as a Non-Executive Director?
  • Can you confirm if Sir Robbie Gibb also provides advice to the Government on Public Service Broadcasting in any capacity?
  • Given that I trust you agree that Sir Robbie Gibb is removed from his post, can you outline what steps you are taking to ensure this kind of cronyism is not allowed to infect the BBC any further, and what is being done to ensure a similar mistake is not made in future?

Non-Executive Directors are supposed to be committed to delivering the mission of the BBC, not wielding political influence or lobbying on behalf of the Government on staff appointments.

Surely any BBC Director General has to stand up and say that this sort of political influence in the recruitment process is totally unacceptable. I expect there will be a clear statement from the Director General in support of BBC staff and against this behaviour. No member of BBC staff should be fearful of a Board member bullying them in this way. The BBC must always remain independent from those in power so it can appropriately hold them accountable. I hope the Chair will be making this clear to all Board members.

As this is a matter of interest for all those that use and value the BBC, I will be making this letter public.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster