By Jonathan Davies

Two of HSBC's top bosses have apologised for the tax avoidance scandal, but insisted they won't resign over it.

Chair Douglas Flint and chief executive Stuart Gulliver described the bank's practices in helping hundreds of customers to avoid tax using its arm in Switzerland as "unacceptable", as they faced questioning by a committee of MPs.

When asked if he or Mr Gulliver would resign over the scandal, Mr Flint said he would not quit and believed there was no reason to fire Mr Gulliver, praising his 35 years of work with the company, four of which have been as chief executive.

Mr Flint said he felt shame and would "take his share of responsibility" for the scandal. But he also blamed management in Switzerland for the majority of the wrongdoing.

Mr Flint said: "The individuals most accountable for the data theft and the behaviour that was unacceptable to our standards, was the management in Switzerland.

"Most culpable were the relationship managers [in the Swiss private bank]."

The chair of the Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, asked how likely "another rotten bit of HSBC popping out of the woodwork" was.

Mr Flint replied: "In relation to not having line of sight to what's happening at lower levels in the organisation, I think the control environment because of the progressive implementation of a single set of standards is very much stronger than it was in the past."

Gulliver's travels

MPs also quizzed HSBC chief executive Stuart Gullvier over his Swiss bank accounts, which is controlled through a company based in Panama.

HSBC last week confirmed that Mr Gulliver held an account in Switzerland through the Panamanian company. And the HSBC boss said it was for "no tax purpose".

He said: "It was purely about privacy from colleagues in Hong Kong and Switzerland. We had a computer system back in the day that allowed everybody to inquire into staff accounts ... I was amongst the highest paid people and I wished to preserve my privacy from colleagues. Nothing more than that."

Mr Gulliver told the committee he had "followed the letter of the law" of the UK non-domicile rules,

He said: "The important point is I've paid UK tax on my HSBC earnings during that entire period [since being based in the UK], so the amount of tax I have paid is the fair and appropriate amount."