The BBC is facing questions over whether Martin Bashir was rehired "to keep his mouth shut".
The chair of an influential select committee said on Monday that his sources had told him Bashir was not even interviewed when he rejoined the BBC in 2016 - raising concern about why he was ushered back into the corporation.
The BBC’s director-general has ordered a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the decision to employ Bashir as its religious affairs correspondent, 20 years after he had faked bank statements to secure his interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for Panorama.
On another bruising day for the corporation, the BBC’s board launched its own inquiry into the "culture" of the broadcaster in the wake of the scandal, while John Whittingdale, the culture minister, said the deceit and its cover-up had brought "shame" on the BBC.
In the Commons, Julian Knight, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told MPs: "My sources suggest Mr Bashir was not interviewed, [but] simply appointed. Hardly a highly competitive process... Was Bashir rehired in essence so he would keep his mouth shut?"
He said the approach used by Bashir to secure the interview had "more than a whiff of criminality about it".
The BBC insisted on Monday that Bashir had been interviewed before being re-employed and it would be writing to Mr Knight to point that out. A BBC spokesman said: "We are investigating the circumstances around the hiring of Martin Bashir in 2016. We have written to Julian Knight to say the information he was given and referred to in his comments in the House this afternoon is not correct, and we can confirm there was an interview process for this position, and that Martin Bashir was interviewed as part of that."
The decision to rehire Bashir is coming under intense scrutiny, prompting Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, to request all documents surrounding the appointment. Lord Hall, director-general five years ago, had presided over an internal inquiry in 1996 in which he concluded Bashir was an "honest and honourable man".
In a statement released on Monday, the BBC board admitted Bashir’s deceit in securing his interview with Princess Diana and the ensuing cover-up had been a "profoundly sobering period for us all".
Richard Sharp, the BBC’s chairman, broke his silence yesterday to announce the review, voicing his own concern about Bashir’s conduct and the "clear failures" of senior executives at the time to properly investigate complaints by whistleblowers. Mr Sharp said he trusted Mr Davie to investigate Bashir’s rehiring.
The number of inquiries continue to pile up in the wake of Lord Dyson’s report last week, which found Bashir guilty of deception in faking bank statements to arrange a meeting with the princess through her brother, Earl Spencer. That led to the interview, which was broadcast in November 1995, in which the princess told Bashir "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded", in reference to Prince Charles’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Ministers may look into whether there are governance issues that need reviewing, which is outside of the remit of Lord Dyson's inquiry. Scotland Yard has said it will study Lord Dyson's findings to assess whether the report contains any "significant new evidence".
The BBC board, which sets the broadcaster’s policies and strategies, said a review was now needed to ensure "mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today". The review will be led by Sir Nicholas Serota, the BBC’s senior independent director. He will be aided by Sir Robbie Gibb and Ian Hargreaves, two other board members who are both independent members of the BBC’s editorial guidelines and standards committee.
In the statement the board, he said: "We accepted Lord Dyson’s findings in full and reiterate the apology we have offered to all those affected by the failings identified. We recognise the impact that the events it describes has had on so many people, not least those whose lives were personally affected by what happened. We also acknowledge that audiences had a right to expect better from the BBC."
The board said governance is now stronger at the BBC than it was 25 years ago, but added: "Lord Dyson’s report speaks to historic failings of oversight and these should be reflected upon. We must not just assume that mistakes of the past cannot be repeated today – we must make sure that this is the case."
It said it was "right" to review current editorial policies and governance "to prevent such an incident happening again".
The Telegraph reported last week that ministers are considering a shake up of the BBC’s governance to include a separate editorial board to investigate allegations of malpractice.
Bashir, 58, resigned from the BBC last month as its religion editor on grounds of ill health. In doing so he pre-empted his sacking in the wake of the Dyson inquiry.