Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP issued a statement this morning regarding the appointment of Alan Sugar as an entrepreneurial tsar/csar:
"Presenting a programme for the BBC and working for the Government on the same issue is totally incompatible with the BBC's rules on political independence and impartiality. Sir Alan Sugar needs to make a choice between his role in The Apprentice and his role as the Government's business tsar. I have written to Sir Michael Lyons and asked him as a matter of urgency to explain who at the BBC gave guidance to Sir Alan and whether he had informed them that he would be a Labour peer."
John Whittingdale, Tory Chairman of the Culture Select Committee, has already objected in a similar fashion:
"In my view, it is not possible for him to continue to present The Apprentice at the same time as he is so closely identified with the Government. I had assumed that by accepting the role as enterprise tsar, he would stand down from his role in The Apprentice. His show is all about business and enterprise. he will be making recommendations on policy to Government. He is already a political figure – he has made no secret of his admiration for Gordon Brown. Either he is an influential figure in Government or this is just window-dressing."
Both of which miss the bigger point. Sir Alan is the owner (and Chairman of the board) of Viglen Ltd, an IT services provider catering primarily to the education and public sector. Following the sale of Amstrad PLC to BSkyB, Viglen is now Sugar's sole IT business.
Viglen announced on 30 April 2009 that it had been awarded a contract by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to supply a range of computer equipment to the public sector.
The company said that the award of the contract will see Viglen supplying over 45 central and local government councils, including a number of NHS and local education authorities, just under 70,000 computers over the next two years. The contract is a 24-month supply agreement with a 12-month extension period, and has the potential to grow further to include educational establishments, charitable organisations, social enterprises and the voluntary sector.
Viglen expect the total value of the contract to be worth up to 30 milllion pounds.
Now that is a real conflict of interest.