Lord Sugar’s







10 January 2014


On the 2nd January 2014, my company Amshold Trading Ltd sold its investment in Viglen Ltd to Westcoast Holdings, who own XMA Limited. Viglen will now be merged with XMA to form one of the largest IT companies in the UK.

As part of this change, I will no longer be associated with Viglen, but both Bordan Tkachuk the CEO, and Mike Ray the FD, will stay on and continue with Viglen to help ensure its future and continued success.

I believe that this merger is good for Viglen’s future, both for its customers and its employees as part of this larger UK group of companies. The scale and size of the combined business will ensure that the opportunity to grow is in place and enable the company to compete on a more equal basis with the major international IT suppliers selling to the public, education and corporate sectors here in the UK.






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The Broadcast Media

28 November 2013


Today I spoke in the House of Lords in the Broadcast Media & Economy Debate. Here’s my speech…







My Lords,


British broadcasting, film making and media has a lot to offer the culture of this country as well as our economy. Advancement in technology and innovation should not stop. We must ensure British broadcasting remains the main game changer for the next big thing in television.


In order to talk about the future of broadcasting, I wish to visit what occurred in the past 30 years.


In May 1987 I took a call from Rupert Murdoch. That phone call resulted in the biggest shake up ever in the history of British TV broadcasting. In February 1988 between my then company and News Corporation, SKY Satellite TV service was launched.


Prior to that, my company was invited to join a satellite consortium known as BSB, I decided against that as I personally felt their technical solution on the Squaerial was doomed.


After the millions injected by its shareholders, BSB had to concede defeat. They reluctantly amalgamated with SKY winning only one concession: that the new company going forward was named BSkyB.


From then on, decisions by Murdoch and me continued to upset the industry apple cart by not conforming to established business models - matters quite alien to what appeared then to be the cosy status of the 3 main broadcasters. Not to mention the purchase of the Premier League rights in 1992, another matter where I played a significant role as the catalyst to BSkyB’s successful bid.


Since those days we have witnessed the transition of terrestrial broadcasting to digital. We have also seen the failure of On Digital, an initiative of ITV. We have seen the introduction of digital video reorders, another BSkyB and Amstrad initiative which allowed consumers to effectively make up their own TV channels and view programmes when they want to.


I apologise to noble lords if my speech is starting to sound like a potted history of my past involvement in the TV industry, but knowing the background will help noble lords understand why in 2010 the then director general of the BBC contacted me to draw down on my experience to salvage the renamed project Canvas - YouView a system to deliver live TV by the internet. This company is made up of 7 shareholders: the BBC, ITV, Ch4, Ch5, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva.


To make a long story short this very important and futuristic venture was a rudderless ship both technically and commercially. After banging a few heads together and managing the expectations of the high profile shareholders YouView was launched in May 2012.


The point being - had commercial rational and realistic technical thought not been applied to YouView, it would have joined the scrap heap of BSB and On Digital and other failed initiatives.


My Lords I am sure you are all aware that I host a programme for the BBC, not that I understand why but I guess it best that I declare an interest before continuing in this debate, as the rest of my speech will focus on the concerns I have about the BBC.


The BBC of course has the technical capability to keep up with technology, but I fear it is unable to compete with the ruthlessness of the commercial market and its competitors, particularly those in the general pay TV market.


They seem hamstrung by external critics constantly referring to the licence fee payers’ funds being spent correctly so consumers get fair value for money. The management and the BBC trust are fixated with cost cutting to try to appease the critics. In adopting this posture they will fall behind by taking their eye of the ball and forgetting what their remit is: to provide (high quality) innovative content and entertainment for the British public.


They need to be there at the forefront competing for content instead of being complacent in accepting that their hands are financially tied. BT a newcomer to the TV market just demonstrated what consumers need by outbidding ITV and BSkyB for Champions League football. The BBC didn’t even bother; they just stood there like an envious kid in the sweet shop watching the big boys buy the sweets.


We currently all pay approximately £12 per month for our TV licence. (It will be news to the Deputy Prime Minister that I too pay for a TV licence.) Compare that to up £55 per month you can pay BSkyB or Virgin for a TV subscription, or the £25 per month for a mobile phone and £20 per month for an internet service. Look what we get: 4 brilliant channels of TV, quality news coverage all over the country, the brilliant iPlayer service, a magnificent array of radio stations and what I considerer a best-in-class informative web site. Exceptional value for money.


Interestingly enough Mr Murdoch once complained during his wooing of the coalition government that the BBC website was, can you believe, “too good” and how it was unfairly affecting his business using public funds. In other words the BBC was doing a much better job than his organisation. This resulted in the Rt Honourable Jeremy Hunt, who was the then secretary of state for Culture Media and Sport, foolishly making noises that the BBC must consider making its website less informative, and not spending too much licence fee payers’ money on it.


This is one example of the oppression coming from outside influences that has created an organisation of management that is constantly looking over its shoulder and defending in some cases ridiculous criticisms, for example from the Daily Mail, that licence fee payers paid towards a bottle of champagne or a cake to celebrate Sir Bruce Forsyth’s 80th birthday.


Having worked with the BBC for 10 years in my capacity as host of one of their shows, I have seen another side of them apart from the aforementioned technical side. They are without a doubt the best broadcaster in the world and very well respected, and we should be proud of them. But I say this very respectfully - they are heavily over-staffed. There are too many jobsworths and the organisation is not run in a manner that a commercial organisation would be. The BBC Trust in my opinion is a complete and utter waste of time and should be disbanded.


There is need for a more commercial approach with an experienced board of directors who are ready to stand up and be counted, of course with some independent non-executives. And yes senior management should get bonuses if they perform, or they should get fired if they don’t. More importantly government must not be allowed to interfere or try to influence the management.


Layers of jobsworths need removing and the money saved must be thrown into R&D and programming, allowing production of new programmes and the ability to bid in a competitive market for entertainment content and talent. Not reducing the annual fee – that, as I already said, is great value.


All viewing devices in homes are digital. It is now possible for the BBC to encrypt pay per view programmes so that consumers can choose to buy for example football or latest movies. Consider the basic cost of £12. There would lot of consumers prepared to pay for extra stuff as demonstrated by the commercial pay broadcasters.


My Lords you hear how passionate or frustrated I am about this great institution of ours. My dream mission in life would be to sort them out. One thing I would promise: there would not be an army of personnel whose sole purpose in life is to appease the BBC Trust, the Daily Mail or the government.








Cutting our carbon would help UK business

5 June 2013


Here is my article from last Sunday’s FT on our need to decarbonise…






It isn’t just good for ruffling the perfectly coiffed feathers of the likes of Donald Trump - the renewable sector is good for UK industry, consumers and our economy. Donald might not like the idea of wind farms making his ranges more crazy golf than luxury golf, but this country needs jobs and the renewable industry could help unlock our crippled manufacturing sector.


Back in 2010 when I first raised the importance of the renewable sector to the UK economy in the House of Lords, we were one of the biggest investors in this £3.3 trillion global market, so it is regrettable that Britain is continuing to fall behind in terms of technology, investment and attracting business.


The renewables industry is currently worth £122bn a year to the UK economy and in 2010/11 it was a growing sector, employing just under a million people. As someone who has spent over 45 years developing technology, it is disappointing to see that the government has not seized the opportunities offered by this innovative sector.


We have empty steel works across this country and skilled workers looking for employment. In these days of cheap mass manufacturing of consumer products, we cannot compete in a global market with places like China or India, but in the case of heavy engineering we can. We could be making the most out of the highly skilled manufacturing jobs which are found in green industries.


Worse than missing opportunities, this government is causing so much uncertainty in the market that investors are either putting their plans on hold or scrapping them altogether - as was seen last summer when Vestas abandoned its plans to create a new manufacturing plant in Kent, which would have created 2,000 jobs. Renewable companies like Vestas have shown they are ready to invest in Britain, but they need to see a commitment from this Government that they are serious. To create new jobs here, they need to see a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill.


Whilst places like Germany, India, China and the USA continue to offer real incentives to boost green technology through tax credits and serious targets, we have an underfunded Green Deal and chaotic cuts like those to solar tariffs, which left both customers and businesses out in the cold. Recent reports confirm that we have now slipped to 6th in global attractiveness to green investors, with mixed messages from government on renewable energy undermining confidence.


And who has to pay the price for these failures? The customer. Household electricity and gas bills have sky rocketed, going up by an average of £250, and they show no signs of slowing. There has been a slight drop in the number of households considered to be in fuel poverty, but that still leaves 2.6 million households in England spending over 10% of their income on heating. The recent report from the Committee on Climate Change highlights that long-term savings for consumers could be as much as £1600 per household if we go down the low-carbon path rather than gas. For many, this won’t come soon enough and the extra £10-20 added to bills put forward to subsidise the renewable sector will be too much and of little comfort. However, the longer we wait to decarbonise our energy supply, the longer it will take for consumers to benefit from savings, and the longer people will have to endure inflated energy bills.


But is not just the price of fuels like gas which is the problem - it is also the supply. The reliance of imported gas and the pipelines which span several countries is a serious threat to our own energy reliance. As an island we have both wind and tidal power in abundance. We should be looking at decarbonisation targets as a definitive move to a more self-reliant energy supply, which in the long term could provide greater stability to the supply chain, cheaper prices for the consumer and much needed jobs to the country. Onshore and offshore wind farms continue to be controversial, but there are ways of making them less so. Developed in the right places, with local consent, wind has a key role to play. No one bats an eyelid when it comes to the thousands of pylons we have dotted around the countryside - because we have become accustomed to them. A change in attitude to wind won’t come overnight, but it needs strong leadership and a commitment from government.  Instead, what we have is continued uncertainty which isn’t just bad for customers and green businesses, but for our economy as a whole. The CBI has said that if we continue to see a green business slow down, the country could lose almost £400 million in net exports by 2014/15. Without a 2030 decarbonisation target the Energy Bill will be aimless, leaving businesses and potential investors with prolonged uncertainty and no real commitment from the politicians who were supposed to be the ‘greenest government’ ever.








EastEnders on Children In Need

19 November 2012


I was in Albert Square last week filming a special ‘EastEnders does the Apprentice’ for this year’s Children In Need. Here I am on the set with Masood Ahmed, Alfie Moon, Ian Beale and Billy Mitchell.


To watch the video, click here






















Curbing the media

26 October 2012


Yesterday I spoke in the House of Lords about licensing the media in order to curb its worst excesses. Here’s my speech…







My lords,


There is a great need to crank up the regulations controlling the media. They have, for far too long, run wild with very little control. A few weeks ago we discussed the Defamation Bill, and this debate today touches on some of the same ground.


Regrettably, in the case of defamation, your lordships are considering easing up and, some may argue, actually making life easier for the media to continue to run wild. But moving from that point, what we have seen over recent years is a complete decay in decency and morals in the media. It doesn’t seem to exist at all in the printed media, and sometimes, I regret to say, in television.


The desperation to get a story has led editors to stray from honesty and truthfulness to using unfair means; finding or creating devious angles on a story, or even tricking the subject of the story by illegal means. This, of course your lordships are fully aware of in the light of the recent enquiry carried out by Lord Leveson.


My lords, it is my opinion that journalists should be licensed. Moreover, editors should be made responsible for what is printed in their newspapers or broadcast on their TV channels, and they too should be licensed.


There should be an authority which dishes out, for want of a better word, yellow cards and ultimately red cards for those that continually abuse the system. To use our American cousins’ terminology, “three strikes and you’re out.” In other words, “Your newspaper, your television channel, has been guilty of publishing lies or indulging in irresponsible journalism under your watch, and therefore you are banned from operating as a newspaper or television editor” – the same way that company directors are disqualified from running companies when they act irresponsibly or illegally.


The Press Complaints Commission, I regret to say, is weak. Quite frankly it is considered to be a joke in the industry. I don’t care what anyone might say to argue with that statement, I can assure you that there are very few forms of media that take the PCC seriously.


There was a day when great newspapers such as The Sunday Times would spend months working on a story, breaking news of some revelation. The journalism was carried out very diligently and carefully so that the content of the finished article was accurate. These stories would take weeks if not months to develop, and were kept under wraps until they broke, bringing massive revelations. These days, however, newspaper editors are demanding a story a day. They are forcing their staff to fabricate stories, to make up stories to provide compelling headlines for their front pages. It is this pressure which is inducing the staff to act illegally in the manner which the Leveson Enquiry has covered in full.


It is impossible for journalism to be treated in the same way as a production line. You can not fabricate stories in matters of public interest simply because events are not occurring as regularly as newspapers would like them to.


And because of this, my lords, you get this low-class journalism where journalists are trained to trick the contributors of their articles or programmes; where the content is edited in such a manner that is misleading; where headlines are created from a throwaway remark or taken completely out of context, or where a camera and sound crew assist the journalists by leaving the subject’s microphone switched on.


This of course happened to former prime minister Gordon Brown. It was quite natural that he may have had some comments to make privately in the car, but unbeknown to him his microphone was still on. This is not proper journalism, and is the sort of thing that needs to be controlled.


I do hope that the Leveson Enquiry not only concludes that things have to be done, but also results in some practical recommendations on regulating the media with provisions which can result in prosecution for people who act illegally and, more to the point, the suspension of high-profile editorial staff; if necessary banning them from practising their profession in the same way a lawyer or doctor would be struck off if they had acted improperly.











9 October 2012


Today I spoke in the House of Lords on the Defamation Bill. Here’s my speech…







My lords,


I have some concern that the changes being made in the defamation laws are too lenient, to the advantage of the printed media – the national press.


I speak as a past claimant, who has taken the media to court on numerous occasions. While I will not go into detail at this moment, what I can say is that being a details-person myself, I became deeply involved in the legal procedures and feel that I am somewhat of an expert, albeit not a lawyer, on the laws of defamation and, more to the point, on the tricks of the trade played by the media in interpreting and using the law to their benefit.


At this juncture, may I remind your lordships that there is one thing, and one thing alone that is of prime importance to the media, and that is money – how much it will affect their pocket. The days of the Elton John million‑pound awards have long gone. Nowadays judges advise juries on libel damages by making comparison with damages receivable for say a broken ankle, a broken leg, or the loss of sight in one eye. This is flawed – those comparable damages are most probably the result of an accident, whereas there is no accident in printing lies.


We now see the top end of the damages people receive for libel being in the region of £100‑150,000. I understand the current proposal is that damages for personal injuries actions (and therefore libel damages) are to be increased by 10%. I will go on to explain why that is still inadequate. Most people – particularly some minor celebrities, or more to the point politicians – cannot afford to fund a fully-fledged defamation case.


Up until recently it has been possible for lawyers to take on those cases completely free of charge to the claimant. And if they succeed, the lawyer is entitled to charge the claimant up to double his normal fee – and the claimant would then be able to claim this double-fee from the defendant, together with the cost of procuring an insurance policy to cover the case in the event the claimant lost.


I am advised this is being discarded and will no longer be possible. Instead, from 2013 we will have a situation whereby lawyers will able to take on cases on a contingency basis. My lords, I think you have to look at the ramifications of this. Why would a lawyer take a case on a contingency basis when the ultimate goal might be no more than £150,000?


The lawyer’s share of that would not make up for the fact that the lawyers were doing the case on a contingency and therefore risking not being paid at all if their client lost. So this, my lords, is a non-starter. From the claimant’s perspective any damages they do receive would be eaten up by the contingency fee and the shortfall in cost between what the actual costs were and what they could recover from the defendant newspaper. What we have arrived at is a situation whereby only the rich, such as I, can afford to take on the media, while others just have to be beaten up and can do nothing about it.


I would also like to advise your lordships of another commercial aspect of the media printing untrue stories: if a newspaper decides to deliberately print a pack of lies on its front page to attract more readers at the point-of-sale, your lordships should understand that this is a much cheaper way of boosting a paper’s circulation than by engaging in an expensive television advertising campaign.


And why is it much cheaper? Because the media can immediately agree in communication that what they wrote was wrong, as well of making a part 36 offer of say, £50,000 – thus throwing the gauntlet down to the claimant as to whether they wish to risk going to court. A very cheap way of dealing with things, I’m sure you'll agree, with little or no apology required. Apologies in any case, as my lordships know, are usually postage-stamp-sized and not on the same page as the offending article. In most cases they are buried towards the middle of the newspaper without so much as a picture of the offended claimant.


This apology matter has to be addressed. I think newspapers must be forced by the courts to print a retraction or apology on the same page the offending item appeared and with the same prominence. This together with higher damages will make them wake up and act far more responsibly.


On the technical front, whereas in the past the claim of fair comment in an article had to be supported by facts within that article, I am advised that this has changed and that this change is to be embodied in the Bill so that facts supporting allegations made in an article don't have to appear in the article itself but just have to be facts that existed at the time the article was written. The writer doesn't even have to show that the readers of the article in question would have had to know of those facts. As an extreme example, a journalist might write an article saying that in his opinion a particular person was a thief and a thoroughly untrustworthy individual without referring to any fact to support this in the article.


If challenged in court, he might say that the person he wrote about, say a middle-aged man, once stole a Mars bar from a sweet shop when he was 7 years old and that was why he held that view. The statement doesn't have to be a reasonable one or even one that a reasonable man could have held – it just has to be that person's honestly-held opinion, however bigoted.


I am further advised that the Responsible Journalism defence, also known as the Reynolds defence, is now also being modified.


These days, when a journalist phones me up with an allegation of some wrongdoing, I say, ‘You are wrong, and I am not prepared to comment any further.’ I don’t see why I should become the editor of some article they wish to produce.


Why should the onus be on the claimant to go into detail as to why an article should not be published or why the article is inaccurate; presenting all the facts to the journalist in order to be able to rely upon that statement at a later stage should the matter ever go to court? But as I understand it, if I don't do that I am risk of the journalist subsequently relying on the responsible journalism defence saying, ’I did seek his comments but he didn't tell me why what I was writing was wrong and what the true position was.’ I don’t think that is fair, my lords. I think that my method is very fair: ‘I’m not your editor; I have told you that what you’re about to print is wrong, so it is at your risk that you go ahead and publish it. In the meantime I reserve my rights.’ That’s how it should be.


I would conclude, however, that it is not all doom and gloom. I do applaud the fact that cases may be heard without a jury. I would support this completely because in the past, I’m afraid to say that claimants who are not used to being in a witness box have been badgered by smart lawyers to make them look stupid or to make them look like liars in front of a jury.



Another important aspect is that jurors often cannot follow the finer legal points being raised by both parties, and can sometimes come to verdicts based upon their opinions of the individual who is bringing the action. In other words, their personal thoughts on whether they like the claimant as a person or what they stand for in public life. That clearly is not fair, and I welcome the fact that a judge, who can see through the badgering of a witness, will ultimately decide on the verdict on the facts and the law.


You can see a video of the speech here.









A bike ride with Mark Cavendish

31st May 2012


I took a ride around the Essex lanes with cyclist Mark Cavendish MBE, the 2011 Road World Champion and winner of last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.


He’s a very nice fellow who cycled at our pace. We had a long chat about the bikes and how the cycling teams work. Afterwards, I took him up for a flight in my Cirrus. He took the controls and was exceptionally good – in fact he took to it like a duck to water.




























London Mayoral Elections

29 April 2012


My advice to voters for this Thursday’s London mayoral elections, published in The Sun.








I’m at a total loss as to why the Labour Party has decided to back Ken Livingstone in the mayoral election. He’s made some undesirable statements before now that surely make him an ineligible candidate to be taken seriously by most Londoners. In my opinion he is a driven, power-crazed egomaniac who will do anything to regain the power he once had. It seems myself and my noble friend Lord Winston (who last week branded him a ‘tricky customer with extremely unhealthy views’) are the only ones with the guts to say what many others may be thinking.


One cannot ignore his litany of unfortunate comments about Jews. One has to ask why he is so consistently vociferous on this subject. Whilst he denies being an anti-Semite, it would be reasonable for anyone to assume he has an issue with Jews by the number of comments he’s made. He compared a Jewish Evening Standard journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard. He called Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon a war criminal, accusing him of ethnic cleansing. He told 2012 Olympic developers the Reuben Brothers (of Iraqi Jewish descent) to go back to their own country. Finally, this March, he allegedly said he does not expect the Jewish community to vote for him as they have too much money – a most ridiculous statement.


If one takes all those nasty comments and puts them together, one could be forgiven, despite people thinking I’m just a ranting over-sensitive Jew, that Mr Livingstone has big hang-ups with Jewish things and Jewish people.


This strange man also seems to have a fixation with Hitler and the Jews. When leader of the GLC, you’ll remember how he cosied up to the leaders of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin. Back then, Livingstone said Britain’s treatment of the Irish had been worse than Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. In this mayoral election he can’t resist wheeling Hitler out again, only this time he’s compared another mayoral candidate to Hitler while comparing himself to Winston Churchill.


Well, perhaps he’s not an anti-Semite; maybe his fixation with Jews is a cunning agenda. Personally, I believe he is simply playing the Muslim community. I’m quite concerned for London’s large Muslim population, whose resourcefulness, business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and, indeed, their achievements in academia I’ve always greatly admired. Among the Muslim community we have brilliant academics and some very clever and savvy people. It’s them I reach out to and ask to speak to their communities and explain it’s possible Mr Livingstone is using them; playing them so to speak. Perhaps they should not be fooled by his promise to make London the beacon of Islam which he spoke of recently at a North London mosque. Of course, if any member of any community believes in Mr Livingstone’s policies, then they should vote for him. But if, on deeper analysis, you find he has no real policies and his only interest is to get elected, then people should be mindful that he may be using them (playing them) for their ethnic beliefs.


Look at ex-Labour MP George Galloway. Does he care about his communities? He represented Glasgow Hillhead, then, after Labour expelled him in 2003, he went to Bethnal Green and Bow in London in 2005. Now it’s Bradford West. What does that tell you? Is he a community man that cares about his territory? No, he goes where he can be elected. Galloway, who was once presented with a Palestinian passport, pledged his allegiance to the Muslim community of Bradford West, declaring ‘all praise to Allah’ as he won. Galloway, who in Celebrity Big Brother pretended to be a cat licking milk from the floor, recently said he’d help his friend Ken in this mayoral election because he has certain connections in certain communities.


Putting all this aside, one has to focus on what the mayor will actually do for Londoners; focus on the policies and reasons why you would vote for any candidate. Imagine if we went back 50 years to when parts of London were inhabited by the Jewish community with an intensity similar to that of today’s Muslim community. Imagine there was a mayoral election back then, I wonder if Mr Livingstone’s comments towards Jews might be completely different in order to drum up votes. This leads me to conclude he is not running this election in a fair manner. I strongly believe those people whom he’s playing need to consider whether he really has any interest in their communities or beliefs.


My view, as outlined above, is that he’s playing a dangerous game. More to the point, his general policies, which suggest he is there ‘for the people’ imply: ‘Look at me – I’m a humble man just like you. I’m going to look after the financial interests of the poor population of London to make sure you are not oppressed by the rich’. However, this seems to fly in the face of his own financial dealings, which have been the centre of media comment regarding his own company.


Contrary to what he might try to say, he is not an ordinary Londoner – trust me. No ordinary Londoner has a company that had past billings of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Fair enough, he might want to funnel his income through a company in order to pay the least amount of tax possible – lot of business people do that. But please don’t sign on to this squeaky-clean person who wants to play Robin Hood, take from the rich and give to the poor, because by most Londoners’ standards he’s rich and he likes money!


My advice to Londoners is to think carefully about where you put your cross on Thursday. I encourage people not to vote for Ken Livingstone but a candidate who cares about the community and will work in the interests of all Londoners and not just their own.


Copyright ©Lord Sugar 2012. Not to be reproduced or edited in any form without the prior consent of Lord Sugar










The Economy

22 March 2012


Following yesterday’s budget, I took part in today’s House of Lords debate on the Economy. Here’s my speech…







My Lords,


It’s common knowledge that governments across the world tend to spend far more money than they collect by way of taxes, and hence create great piles of debt. And every so often there’s a wake-up call where certain initiatives are put in place to try to reduce that debt. We are no different in this country. I understand that from 2014 we will receive itemised tax bills which amongst other things will show how much each of us is paying by way of debt interest. Indeed one might ask the question whether the current spending budgets of the government are forecast to exceed income. One thing is for sure, the debt is going to rise as we are borrowing £150bn more than was planned.


The fact is, the economy of the country is supported by business, and if one were to run a company in that manner – continually spending more than one’s income – we all know that that company would go bankrupt. If one of my companies did this and I started printing money to ease the situation, no doubt I’d be put in prison for counterfeiting! We won’t get this deficit down unless we have a plan for jobs and growth to get the economy moving. To do that, we need to encourage business small and large to invest and be daring, to kick-start the economy and employ lots of people.


It amazes me that the government’s Business Secretary announces a lot of hollow initiatives under the guise of helping small business, yet he is someone who has never been in business; never been on the coal face; never run a business or understood the needs of a small business.


I’m sure that if the noble Lord Sassoon had a pain in his groin, he wouldn’t want me to remove his appendix, especially since I’m not a surgeon! A stupid analogy perhaps, but I’m sure I make my point.


Yesterday’s budget contained the usual lip service to how government is going to help small business. They have continually made these statements but so far we see no evidence of it. It’s the same as the promise made to put fuel into the tank of the British economy. But instead, the economy has stalled and unemployment has risen, as has the aforementioned debt.


On the subject of lip service, I am concerned, my Lords, about politicians deflecting the real issues and placing blame elsewhere by, for example, jumping on the bandwagon of bank bashing and singing the same old songs about the lack of money being lent to small-to-medium-sized enterprises, or bonuses being paid to bank executives. All of this does nothing other than depress the business environment. It is not encouraging in any way, shape or form. It’s sheer political capital. I would urge all politicians to change the record and start to instil some confidence in the marketplace instead of depressing it.


You never hear outrage expressed at the bonuses payable to, say, Sir Terry Leahy or Sir Stuart Rose or Sir John Rose in their capacities as chief executives of Tesco’s, Marks & Spencer and Rolls-Royce. I say, ‘quite rightly so’, because that’s business, where you employ experienced top executives and set them targets to get things done – in other words, incentivising people.


Yet when banks (some of whom have a large public shareholding) employ top executives whose sole purpose is to take over, clean up the mess and improve the financial position (and in turn the public’s investment), those executives are chastised for accepting bonuses.


Well the reality is, my Lords, carry on doing that and these people will simply go and get a job in a different type of company where the culture of paying bonuses is not frowned upon. Replace them and pay peanuts and you’ll get monkeys – as well as delay recovering the billions invested from the public purse.


There is the alleged issue of banks not lending to small-to-medium-sized enterprises. Well, my Lords, I’ve had first-hand experience of this from when I was the government adviser a couple of years ago. I investigated this particular issue and discovered what I still believe to be the position today. And that is, there are many companies out there that are depressed by the doom and gloom messages over the current economic situation. They are not investing, don’t wish to invest, and in fact are tightening their belts. They don’t want any money and are not asking for any money because they are nervous due the lack of confidence in the marketplace, much of which is created by politicians jockeying for position or applause on BBC Question Time, as well as a very mischievous media.


Then there are some companies that do want to borrow money. However, I regret to inform my Lords that in the case of some of these businesses, none of your Lordships would lend them one brass farthing because they’re simply not worthy and are a bad risk. Yet it is those people who shout the loudest and make a lot of noise which again attracts the newspaper headlines and are regrettably being used by certain politicians to popularise themselves. I do hope that the government’s new £20bn credit-easing scheme, which is designed to underwrite cash lent by banks to SMEs, is not an open invitation to the banks to act in an irresponsible manner – dishing out loans that they would have normally rejected as being high risk – simply because they are no longer at risk.


My Lords, I’ve always stated that the last thing any businessperson wants is government interference. All that businesses require is an environment where enterprise can prosper, and that of course means allowing people to trade freely on a level playing field, work in an environment where taxation is reasonable and where there are no onerous regulations or obstacles.





That, my Lords, is the sole job of the government to provide. It also needs to create more of a positive feeling in the marketplace, to encourage small-to-medium-sized enterprises and indeed give people the confidence to start up their own businesses, become self sufficient and go on to employ other people.


The budget should have had some meaningful offerings to encourage investment and instil confidence, such as a reduction in VAT, a one-year National Insurance holiday for small businesses taking on extra workers, a reduction in business rates and a reduction in duty on diesel. These are just a few things that would have an immediate impact and provide genuine help for small business, rather than the hollow promises we continually hear.












Last year’s Apprentice winner launches his new product

16 March 2012



Yesterday, Apprentice Tom Pellereau launched the product he’s been working on night and day since winning last year’s series – the ‘stylfile’ collection of curved nail files.









To buy your stylfile, click here



Tom launched the stylfile collection in London, travel-ling there in my Rolls-Royce.



At the same time, Tom’s website www.stylfile.com went live and I started tweeting the link. Soon Twitter was buzzing with comments. Even Katie Price tweeted to say how much she liked the product.









You can follow Tom on Twitter @inventor_tom










Value for Money in Government Spending

24 November 2011


Today I hosted a debate in the House of Lords on Government Procurement Policy. Here’s my opening speech…







My Lords,


I’m delighted to see so many of your Lordships joining this debate. Government procurement is an important issue. After all, it is we the taxpayers’ money that is being spent every day, and I think we have the right to ensure we are getting good value.


Before I move on, I would like to state that pursuant to the code of conduct, I have registered with the Table Office any relevant interests that may arise from those listed in my name in the House register of interest.


Government expenditure was in the region of £238bn on procurement. I believe this was spent on a whole range of items and services from, say, paperclips to guided missiles.


By referring to getting ‘good value for money’, I would like to break this down into three categories, the first and most obvious being that best prices should be obtained for any product or service required by government; the second is value for the country, and the third is value for SMEs.


Starting with real value for money, your Lordships will agree with me that the world has moved on a lot as far as internet connectivity is concerned, and for that reason I believe there is simply no longer the need for local purchasing, and centralised purchasing should be implemented immediately.


I regret to say, from my experience in running so many businesses, that when you place the task of procurement in the hands of unqualified people, it’s similar in some cases to letting kids run riot in a sweet shop. The main issue is, of course, it that it’s not their money, and it’s amazing how irresponsible some people can be when spending other people’s money as opposed to their own.


In August 2010, Sir Philip Green was asked by the Prime Minister to carry out an efficiency review and he published his findings in October 2010. The report spoke of the inefficiency and waste in Government spending.


One of the observations was that it was impossible for the civil service to operate efficiently with the current processes in place. It highlighted that basic commodities were bought at significantly different prices across government departments. Multiple contracts were signed with some major suppliers by different departments at different prices!


Expensive IT contracts are contracted for too long with no flexibility. There was no motivation to save money or to treat cash as your own. There was no process for setting and challenging detailed departmental budgets, and, most importantly, there are inconsistent commercial skills across departments.


The report went on to give some factual examples where there were variations of up to 80% across central departments on prices paid for the same product.


For a commercial person like me, these issues are very easy to resolve. What I am about to suggest will be controversial, but very commercial. My assumption is based on the fact that a centralised group of real procurement professionals purchasing the same goods and services (obtained in the past for £238bn) would have been able to procure the exact same amount of goods for say £200bn.


I am, of course, putting to one side the fact that maybe a lot of the stuff should never have been ordered in the first place, but that’s another story.


It is here that a controversial issue arises, I say there is a need to recruit professionals from private industry and not only offer them an exciting challenge, but most importantly, pay them what they could earn in the commercial world, as well as bonus targets. These people in turn would have to employ others who would also earn private-industry salaries and bonuses. This new group should then be responsible for training existing public-sector staff to deal with business effectively to get the best possible value for money for the public purse. Hypothetically, if this group of procurement experts I refer to costs, say, £50m per annum, that would pale into insignificance against a saving of around £38bn, as given in my example.


The reason I say it’s controversial is down to the question: would the government have the guts to do this or would they be frightened off by headlines about the head-honcho in charge of procurement earning £Xm a year?


One can see the Daily Mail article now: ‘Fred Smith earns £Xm per year of taxpayers’ money while Joe Bloggs in the northeast of England struggles’. Of course, in my example, the Daily Mail would not be interested in the £38bn saving as this is not a good headline. So I ask government to consider the implementation of this idea, rise above the inevitable external criticism and do the sensible commercial thing.


Moving on to my second point about value for the country, so many government contracts are awarded to foreign companies or companies that pay little or no tax in this country. Now I know we are all fully aware of the requirements under EU rules and regulations on procurement, but I am sure your Lordships won’t be surprised when I cite our cousins in France who seem to magically manage to be very patriotic when it comes to dishing out orders from the government.


There are examples of ECJ rulings which have allowed for European countries to widen the criteria for what they see as the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (or MEAT) to be more than just about price. Both France and the Netherlands have used it to include environmental and social benefits. In 2000, the French republic was taken to court by the European Commission for failing to comply with European procurement legislation (the case referred to the construction and maintenance of school buildings). The European Commission’s main objection was the use of an award criterion which required contractors to recruit local workers from a project to specifically combat unemployment. The ECJ defended the French practice and ruled that a contracting authority can use the fight against unemployment as award criterion. Perhaps this could have been used in the Bombardier case – and saved 1400 jobs in Derby. Instead, the decision was made to build train carriages in Germany rather than at home.


This is where I think this government could learn some serious lessons from our European counterparts. Sorry, but if I were in charge of procurement, I would have fought tooth and nail to keep that Bombardier deal in the UK.


I declared a conflict of interests at the start of this debate – simply because it is much easier for me to convey my frustration by using an example of which I’ve had first-hand experience. When it comes to government procurement of information-technology products, many of us will have noticed – in the government offices, hospitals and other government-run establishments – that the desks are littered, in many cases, with computer equipment made by a Japanese and German partnership.


There is a funny story here, which is, as some of your Lordships may recall, that a British computer company we all remember – ICL (which was Britain’s equivalent of IBM at the time) – eventually got sold to a Japanese company, who in turn associated themselves with a German company. The government, many years before, had quite rightly awarded a lot of its IT business to the British company ICL – however, your Lordships may be interested to hear that the government is still entrenched in contracts dating back years originating with ICL but enjoyed now by the foreign entity. It’s what I call ‘grandfathered-in’ contracts. There has been a total lack of flexibility in using and assessing other supply chains.


I apologise for raising the conflict of interest issue again, but I do so merely to demonstrate what is going on. I personally have one of the few companies that still produces computers in this country, and we do supply certain government-run organisations: schools and councils, and we employ about 200 people.


I am not touting for business here, but to show the scale of what I am talking about: if we were awarded a tenth of the computer and IT systems and services that are purchased by government throughout the course of a year, I would have to employ another 350 ‑ 400 people to provide them. I have made this point clear to those involved in procurement but it seems the penny still has not dropped. My example is most probably not unique, I am sure the same could be expressed by people in other industries.


I am certainly not advocating that the government should pay more for British-assembled products and services. The process of winning government contracts still has very strict criteria on price, quality and delivery – but the priorities are wrong.


If you took my example of employing another 350 ‑ 400 people – and thus removing the government burden of having to look after some of these people in the unemployment benefits system – it would outweigh some of the minor additional costs that may have to be paid to smaller companies trying to compete with the giant foreign organisations who simply dump products in Britain.


Let me share with your Lordships the fact that my IT company is inundated with enquiries from young school leavers requesting work experience wanting to get into the IT field. We simply can’t take them on; we have no work for them. Even if there are Apprenticeship schemes and/or allowances, there simply comes a point where the company has to face harsh commercial reality.


The government must support British companies and find a way to make the procurement process work for the country like the French and other European countries do. The most economically advantageous deal may not always be about the cheapest price; there are wider social impacts to consider. This is about what government should be doing to support jobs and our UK-based businesses.


The third element of value for money really relates to SMEs, the small-to-medium-sized enterprises of whom I heard the government say, when they were elected, ‘We are going to ensure that at least 25% of contracts are awarded to SMEs.’


To date, I understand that figure is about 7%, but there seems to be another 25% rule and that is: an SME can’t bid for a contract if its value is more than 25% of its turnover. This seems crazy to me as the SME maybe the market leader, yet the contract has to be placed with larger company that does not have the same expertise.


The government says that it is angry with the banks for not lending to small-to-medium-sized enterprises. Well, they can encourage such lending by making sure that orders are given to small-to-medium-sized enterprises so as to impress the banks into lending them money. When government contracts are handed out to large organisations, there should be clauses in that contract which clearly state that they must give a certain percentage of the contract out to British SME subcontractors.


I am sure the minister will advise your Lordships’ House that many of my points are already under control and that I should not despair. Indeed I am aware that quite coincidently, to the date of this debate, the Right Honourable Minister for the Cabinet Office held an event on 21 November titled ‘A new way forward’. The agenda showed that the government had acknowledged many of the things I have raised today, particularly in respect to IT.


As an example, it says, ‘For businesses to understand the government’s intention to move away from large projects that are slow to implement or pose a greater risk of failure and to end the oligopoly of large suppliers that monopolise its service provision.’


Well, that is fighting talk and exactly what we want to hear. I have had the good fortune to meet some senior civil servants from the Cabinet Office who have politely debated these issues with me, and I will say that I am impressed with the approach they have taken to date, but they may also be the first to acknowledge that, with the greatest of respect, these plans will not be achieved with those currently in place who are responsible for procurement.



This government needs to engage serious professionals, centralise its procurement processes and get a genuinely better deal for SMEs in the UK.


My Lords, I have opened up a whole host of topics upon which I’m sure your Lordships participating in this debate will add to, and I await with interest the comments of the speakers following. I beg to move.


You can see a video of the speech here.








More Than 100 Per Cent!

14 November 2011


Whenever I ask The Apprentice candidates why I should take them on, they almost always promise they’ll give me ‘more than 100 per cent’. What does that mean?



Well, here's a little mathematical formula that might help answer this question…


If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


is represented as: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26


then: H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K is 8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%


and: K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E is 11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%


However: A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E is 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%


But: B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T is 2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%


And look how far arse kissing will take you:

A-R-S-E-K-I-S-S-I-N-G is 1+18+19+5+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 131%


So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while HARD WORK and KNOWLEDGE will get you close, and ATTITUDE will get you there, it’s the BULLSHIT and ARSE KISSING that will put you over the top.


Now you know why some people are where they are!






Strictly Not For Me!

11 November 2011


Here’s an email I received via my PR company.


Can you believe those plonkers at the BBC thought that I might be up for Strictly Come Dancing?!







From: nnnnnnnnnnn@bbc.co.uk

Sent: 08 November 2011 16:38

To: David Fraser

Subject: Lord Alan Sugar


Dear David,


I'm writing to enquire about Lord Alan Sugar for Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special - a shorter commitment than the main show yet all of the fun for a Christmas day show?


Filming on 28th November, to be aired on Christmas Day, the show will see five brand new names taking to the dance floor.


We would only need our new cast to undertake a minimum of 12 hours of training before 27th November for their 90 second dance.


Fitting rehearsals in around their current diaries, training can be undertaken whenever and for however long suits (an hour a day or two days of 6 hours training…etc). 


As with the main show, our professional dancers are on call for their new partner and would relocate during this time to make sure that they can be on hand to rehearse as and when our they were needed.


Outside of training, Lord Sugar's commitment would be a total of one and a half days - half a day of press and prep (profile shoot etc) and then the record on 28th November.


Our Christmas show is a great opportunity for those great personalities who are Strictly... fans but would not normally be available to take on the whole series. The Special allows them to take on the challenge, learn a skill and dip their toe into the whole Strictly... world for a one off Christmas Day show (which was the highest rating Christmas Day show on the BBC in 2010).


There is a favoured nations fee on an all rights basis of £nnnnn


I look forward to hearing your thoughts


Best wishes




nnnnnnnnnnn, Celebrity Producer, Strictly Come Dancing, BBC One

BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ

(020 nnnn nnnn nnnnnnnnnnn@bbc.co.uk)










Prison Population Reaches Record High

4 November 2011


Ministry of Justice: The prison population in England & Wales has reached a record high of 87,749.


I wonder if the prisoners are treated any better than OAPs? Here’s an extract from my book ‘The Way I See It’, which contains a funny letter to the Prime Minister. Many a true word is spoken in jest…



Dear Prime Minister,


Let’s put the seniors in jail and the criminals in a nursing home. This way, the seniors would have access to showers, hobbies and walks. They’d receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheelchairs, etc., and they’d receive money instead of paying it out. They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly if they fell or needed assistance.


Bedding would be washed twice a week, and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them. A guard would check on them every twenty minutes and bring their meals and snacks to their cell.


They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose. They would have access to a library, weight room, a pool, spiritual counselling and education. Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, PJs and legal aid would be free, on request. Private (secure!) rooms for all, with an outdoor exercise yard and gardens.


Each senior could have a PC, a TV, radio and daily phone calls. There would be a board of directors to hear complaints, and the guards would have a code of conduct that would be strictly adhered to.


The ‘criminals’ would get cold food, be left all alone and unsupervised. Lights off at 8 p.m., and showers once a week. They would live in a tiny room and pay £800 per week, with no hope of ever getting out.


Justice for all, I say.





Daily Mail ‘Apologies’

28 October 2011


I had to laugh when I happened to look in the Daily Mail this week. They’ve started to feature a column on page 2 called ‘Clarifications & Corrections’. Have a look at Wednesday’s edition, below.


This is the Mail’s miserable excuse for correcting the lies they tell. Yes, of course it is possible to make some typos in a document which has 80k words, for sure, but the one about Carole Caplin is not a question of typos – it’s a pack of lies! To bundle this with Wales’ six points instead of five is a total, derisory joke.


What are the sneaky scum up to? Is this a cheap way of getting out of all the lies they tell, so they can simply reply to the solicitors of any offended party: ‘oh sorry, we will slip in a correction on our page 2 Clarifications & Corrections section’?


Or, are they trying to avoid problems when arguing with solicitors over where the apology is to be placed, by saying ‘we have a specific place for corrections and that is it’?


Or, is there an even deeper, devious plot for use in the courts or indeed in any new government enquiries into the conduct of the media, just so they can say that they have such a section in their paper now?






Clarifications & Corrections


The average issue of the Daily Mail contains around 80,000 words - the equivalent of a paperback book – most of which are written on the day under tremendous pressure of deadlines.


Huge efforts are made to ensure our journalism meets the highest possible standards of accuracy but it is inevitable that mistakes do occur.


This new column provides an opportunity to correct those errors quickly and prominently.


An article about Carole Caplin on 18 September 2010 ‘Carole’s £1m question: Will she tell all about Blairs’ sex secrets?’ suggested that Ms Caplin might reveal intimate details about Tony and Cherie Blair in a book for a substantial sum, which might lift the lid on their marriage and finish the Blairs. We accept that Ms Caplin would not disclose such matters and that there was nothing improper about massages she gave Mr Blair. We apologise to Ms Caplin.




The Hollywood classic ‘High Noon’, which starred Gary Cooper, was released in 1952, not 1929 as stated in yesterday’s review of Philip Mason’s book ‘One in the eye for Harold: Why everything you thought you knew about history is wrong.’ It was another iconic Western, The Virginian, also starring Cooper, that came out in 1929.




Wales’ total deficit from their three defeats in the World Cup was only FIVE points not six as our rugby correspondent reported on Monday and they beat Samoa by a margin of seven points


If you wish to report an inaccuracy, please write to the Readers’ Editor, Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email corrections@dailymail.co.uk




Mind you, the Daily Mail does occasionally get things right…




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