Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 16:20 UK

Sir Alan to keep Apprentice role

Sir Alan Sugar
Sir Alan Sugar has fronted The Apprentice since 2005

Sir Alan Sugar will continue to front BBC One's The Apprentice, despite concerns over his new role working for the government as an "enterprise tsar".

"Following detailed discussions, the BBC is satisfied that I will not be doing anything to affect its commitment to impartiality," said Sir Alan.

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had called Sir Alan's role "totally incompatible" with BBC rules.

But the BBC said Sir Alan would not be making or endorsing government policy.

The corporation also stressed that the Sir Alan would refrain from all public activity in his governmental role while promoting and presenting The Apprentice.

But Mr Hunt called today's statement "an outrageous piece of media management by the BBC".

"Slipping this letter out when the media is focused on MPs' expenses is simply staggering," said Mr Hunt, adding that the BBC director-general's justifications for retaining Sir Alan were "riddled with inconsistencies".

'Unpaid post'

A full statement issued by the corporation read: "The BBC is satisfied that [Sir Alan's] new role as an Enterprise Champion to the government will not compromise the BBC's impartiality or his ability to present The Apprentice."

"Sir Alan is not going to be making policy for the government, nor does he have a duty to endorse government policy.

Jeremy Hunt
The BBC has simply ignored our complaint and hopes we'll let the matter drop
Jeremy Hunt

"Moreover, Sir Alan has agreed that he will suspend all public facing activity relating to this unpaid post in the lead up to and during any shows that he is presenting on the BBC."

A peerage is widely expected to follow Sir Alan's appointment to Enterprise Champion, which was announced as part of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

The BBC statement continued: "Should he be offered a peerage Sir Alan will also be free to join other peers who do work for the BBC including Lord Lloyd Webber, Lord Bragg, and Lord Winston in the House of Lords."

But Mr Hunt responded: "Sir Alan won't be able to formulate Government policy, yet is allowed to go to Cabinet meetings to inform debate.

"He won't be put up for interviews by a Government department, yet on the day of the Apprentice final he did two broadcast interviews talking about his new role.

"Far from addressing my concerns this letter shows that the BBC has simply ignored our complaint and hopes we'll let the matter drop."

The sixth series of The Apprentice is expected to be broadcast in Spring 2010.

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