Page last updated at 13:01 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 14:01 UK

Tories take Sir Alan to BBC Trust

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

The Conservative Party has formally complained to the BBC Trust over the decision to let Sir Alan Sugar continue in his role on The Apprentice.

The BBC said yesterday Sir Alan's post as the government's "enterprise tsar" would not compromise its impartiality.

But shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the new role breaches the corporation's editorial guidelines.

A BBC Trust spokesman said it had received the letter of complaint adding it would "respond in due course".

In the letter to Sir Michael Lyons, who is chairman of the BBC's governing body, Mr Hunt said: "Rather than set my mind at ease, the justifications for allowing Sir Alan to take up his government role given by the director general actually makes things worse.

"Having therefore now exhausted the complaints procedure with the BBC, I would now like to make a number of official complaints to the BBC Trust about a breach of editorial guidelines."

He added: "I honestly believe that having a prominent member of the government fronting a programme about the same set of issues his position relates to, is a direct breach of the much needed political independence of the BBC."

'Unpaid post'

On Thursday, Mr Hunt called Sir Alan's role "totally incompatible" with BBC rules and "an outrageous piece of media management".

"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".

Jeremy Hunt
Having a prominent member of the government fronting a programme about the same set of issues his position relates to, is a direct breach of the much needed political independence of the BBC
Jeremy Hunt

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

It also stressed that the 62-year-old would refrain from all public activity in his governmental role while promoting and presenting The Apprentice.

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.

"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."

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

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