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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Sugar defends interview technique
Sir Alan Sugar with The Apprentice contenders
Sir Alan Sugar robustly defended his questioning of Katie Hopkins

Sir Alan Sugar has answered criticisms of his treatment of former Apprentice candidate Katie Hopkins ahead of the final instalment of the BBC One show.

Last week's programme saw Hopkins, 31, stand down after she was questioned about her child care arrangements.

But the entrepreneur said it would have been "condescending" not to ask her how she would manage in practical terms.

Choosing this year's winner was "the toughest decision" he had ever had to make, the businessman continued.

"This particular year I've got the biggest dilemma going," he told BBC One's Breakfast, saying shortlisted contestants Simon Ambrose and Kristina Grimes were "genuinely employable".

Katie Hopkins
Katie's got one face in the boardroom, but clearly she's got another side to her
Sir Alan Sugar
"We've got two great finalists here," he added before confirming The Apprentice would return for a fourth series.

Speaking earlier on GMTV, Sir Alan said it would be wrong not to take a potential employee's family commitments into account when considering them for a position.

"I've got a lady in front of me who's got real potential but has got two kids and lives in Birmingham," he said from his home in Chigwell, Essex.

"I can sit there and be condescending, or I can say, 'I think you've got potential, how's it going to work?'

"You go and ask 100 women in the street whether they would like me to deal with it that way, or whether they would like me to be condescending.

"They'd all say, 'You're right Sir Alan, I appreciate you asking me the question.'"

'Complete surprise'

Sir Alan went on to accuse Hopkins of being disingenuous in her claims that she had been deterred by the logistical demands of being a finalist.

"All the contestants had the schedule laid out for them at the very beginning," he said.

Simon Ambrose and Kristina Grimes
Ambrose and Grimes go head to head in the Apprentice final
"It didn't come as some kind of shock to her. To turn round and say she didn't know - with the greatest respect, Katie darling, that is not correct.

"Katie's got one face in the boardroom, but clearly she's got another side to her."

Hopkins also appeared on GMTV on Wednesday morning to discuss her role in the show and her recent sacking from the Met Office.

"I am going to appeal," she told presenter Lorraine Kelly, saying her firing had come as "a complete surprise".

Sugar wins The Apprentice hands down every time
Michael Allison, Preston

Viewers of Wednesday's final will see Ambrose, 27, and Grimes, 36, produce designs for a landmark building on London's South Bank and present their plans to a room full of 100 property professionals.

Sir Alan told Breakfast the "conceptual" task was "one of the best we've ever done".

Who should win The Apprentice?
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