Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

RBS pension row a 'distraction'

Sir Fred Goodwin
The storm over Sir Fred Goodwin's pension has shown no sign of abating

A senior figure at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has defended its embattled former chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin.

RBS deputy chief executive Gordon Pell said history would recognise his many skills and huge contribution.

He told MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee the row over Sir Fred's 16m pension fund had become a distraction.

He also confirmed that total UK job losses at RBS would reach 2,700, with 260 posts being shed in Scotland.

The bank announced in February that 2,300 posts would go, representing 2% of its UK workforce of 106,000 employees.

I don't want them to have to spend the first three pages of every newspaper reading about Fred's pension
Gordon Pell
RBS deputy chief executive

The latest figure for UK job losses includes 380 posts at RBS Wealth and RBS International.

Mr Pell said attempting to defend Sir Fred's reputation in the current climate was "like Mission Impossible".

"If you actually go into Google at the moment and google Sir Fred Goodwin, you'll find well over 40 pages," he said

"I would say at least 25 of them recognise his many skills, his many strengths, and the huge contribution he actually brought to Scotland during this period."

He told the MPs the continuing furore over Sir Fred's pension made it harder to raise morale among staff.

"I don't want them to have to spend the first three pages of every newspaper reading about Fred's pension - and then what we're actually doing positively comes in on page four," he said.

'Collective responsibility'

He said his organisation understood its "privileged position" with taxpayers as a result of the multi-billion pound government bailout.

Mr Pell said that as a member of the board of RBS during the takeover of ABM Amro, he took ''collective responsibility'' for the bank's financial problems.

He said he was not involved in any of the meetings to decide the terms or level of Sir Fred's pension.

He was accused by Conservative MP Charles Walker of "failing to grasp the gravity of the situation" or the public anger about RBS's situation.

After the hearing, Liberal Democract MP Alasdair Carmichale said Mr Pell's comments showed that bankers had failed to appreciate the "sea change in public opinion".

"His view that history will be kinder to Fred Goodwin than contemporary analysis shows just how out of touch our senior bank executives are," he said.

The Scottish Affairs Committee also questioned Archie Kane, from Lloyds Banking Group.

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