Ex-HBOS chief asks to give back knighthood: full statement

"It is with great personal sadness that I have decided to stand down."

Ex-HBOS chief Sir James Crosby has asked for his knighthood to be removed after he was criticised by the Banking Standards Commission over HBOS's downfall during the financial crisis. He will also forgo 30 per cent of his pension and has resigned as a non-executive director of Compass Group. Here is his statement in full:

A personal statement from James Crosby

Friday's report from The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards made for very chastening reading. Although I stood down as CEO of HBOS in 2006, some three years before it was taken over by Lloyds, I have never sought to disassociate myself from what has happened.

I would therefore like to repeat today what I said when I appeared in public before the Commission in December; namely that I am deeply sorry for what happened at HBOS and the ensuing consequences for former colleagues, shareholders, taxpayers and society in general.

Shortly after I left HBOS, I received the enormous honour of a Knighthood in recognition of my own – and many other people's – contribution to the creation of a company which was then widely regarded as a great success. In view of what has happened subsequently to HBOS, I believe that it is right that I should now ask the appropriate authorities to take the necessary steps for its removal.

During the course of my 30-year career, including 12 years at Halifax and HBOS, I both contributed to and built up a substantial pension entitlement. This pension entitlement is entirely contractual in nature. However I have decided to forego 30% of my gross pension entitlement payable to me during the rest of my lifetime.* I will be discussing how this reduction is implemented, and whether the amount waived should go to support good causes, or benefit shareholders, with the pension scheme's employer and trustees.

It is with great personal sadness that I have decided to stand down from my voluntary position as a Trustee of Cancer Research UK. They do remarkable work and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to have played my part. However I want to put their interests firmly before mine and would wish them every success in the future.

Throughout my business career I have always tried to act with integrity and to the best of my abilities. I have had the enormous privilege of working with people and organisations about whom I cared deeply. I would like to express my sincere regret for events and my appreciation for the personal support I have been shown. * The current annual pension payment amounts to c.£580,000 per annum.
 

HBOs head quarters. Photograph: Getty Images
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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war