The head of a probe into the appointment of the BBC chairman who got the job weeks after it is claimed he helped Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan has stood down.
Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross said he was recusing himself from the inquiry into Richard Sharp’s appointment because he has met Mr Sharp in the past.
Mr Shawcross had planned to conduct an inquiry into whether the rules were properly followed, after reports that Mr Sharp helped then-prime minister Boris Johnson secure a loan facility of up to £800,000 shortly before being appointed to the post.
But in a letter to the chair of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee on Monday, Mr Shawcross wrote: “As I have met Mr Sharp on previous occasions, I have decided to recuse myself from this particular investigation.
“I will be delegating my powers as commissioner under the 2019 Order in Council to an independent person who will be appointed by my office for this one investigation.
“They will have sole responsibility and will be supported by my officials.”
He added that he will continue with all his other regulatory functions as commissioner.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell shared Mr Shawcross’s letter on Twitter, adding: “It’s taken him a week to realise a conflict of interest, sharing these cosy relationships.
“The truth must come out about this appointment.”
Mr Sharp is due to be grilled by MPs on the DCMS Committee next month over evidence he gave at a pre-appointment hearing.
The former banker had already been facing calls to stand down after it emerged that, in late 2020, he had introduced Sam Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to discuss whether Mr Blyth, a distant cousin of Mr Johnson whom Mr Sharp has known for more than 40 years, could act as a guarantor for a loan facility for the prime minister.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Johnson was warned by officials in December 2020 to stop asking Mr Sharp for advice on his personal financial matters, just days before the latter was announced as the new BBC chairman in January 2021.