City minister Lord Myners yesterday said there was “no discrepancy” over accounts he had given Parliament about his knowledge of ex-RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension.
The minister, forced to come to the Lords to make a statement about his knowledge of the £703,000-a-year deal, said he was not told the full details of the deal during discussions with ex-RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop in October last year.
In a letter to the Commons Treasury Select Committee (TSC), Sir Tom said evidence given by Lord Myners needed “clarification” and that the minister had been told the pension would be “the sensitive issue and that it would be ‘enormous”’.
Answering a private notice question tabled by the Tories, Lord Myners said: “There is no discrepancy on matters of substance between Sir Tom McKillop’s letter to the TSC and the account I gave to the TSC on March 17.”
He said he met with Sir Tom and RBS director Robert Scott on Saturday, October 11 and was informed that it had been decided Sir Fred would have to stand down.
The following day Mr Scott told him the “estimated transfer value” of the pension.
“But at no stage prior to February of this year was I, or anyone else in Government so far as I know, made aware a decision had been taken to treat Sir Fred Goodwin for pension purposes as if he had left at the request of the employer.
“This treatment allowed Sir Fred to claim his full, undiscounted pension from the age of 50 and thereby nearly doubled the value of his pension.”
Lord Myners said he would be writing to TSC chairman, Labour’s John McFall, about the matter.
Lord Myners has faced calls for his resignation from senior Conservatives over his handling of Sir Fred’s pension.
For the Tories, Baroness Noakes said: “The fact remains that there is a serious disagreement” over the pension, including Sir Fred’s terms of departure and whether the deal was discretionary. “I am sure you will agree that the Government needs to find a way of proving which version is correct.”
A lawyer’s note existed of the meeting but Lady Noakes called for an assurance that “if there are any other contemporaneous, independent records of what took place they will be put in the public domain”.
Lord Myners said there was a “material difference” with Sir Tom’s account about a telephone conversation he had with Mr Scott.
A Treasury official’s note of the call accorded with Lord Myners’ evidence, he said, and was “very clear that no explanation was given of the basis on which Sir Fred’s pension was souped up”.
Lord Newby, for the Liberal Democrats, accepted Lord Myners’ account and attacked the “arrogance and greed” of Sir Fred. He added: “It was Sir Tom McKillop who, among many disastrous decisions as chairman of RBS, approved the pension in the first place and still shows no shame in having done so.”
He said the pension should be withheld leaving Sir Fred to sue to get it.
Lord Myners said: “The only people who made the decision about Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension were the board of RBS. They were the only people with power to do so. Their own board minutes, their own board papers are evidence that they made that decision. In my view, they fired Sir Fred Goodwin. That is not their interpretation but we have asked the new board of RBS to look into that.”
He appealed to Sir Fred to waive the pension or donate some of the money to charity.
“There is an opportunity for him to make an important and significant gesture by waiving a very large part of his pension or giving that to charity,” he said. “He has still not given a response on that, I think this House would join with me in encouraging him to make the right decision and cleanse his reputation.
“But he will never be able to make amends for the huge damage done to that bank by his mismanagement, endorsed and condoned by a board of directors that certainly wasn’t completely up to mark in a number of respects.”