Ex-Apprentice sidekick Nick Hewer has said he insisted co-star Margaret Mountford was paid the same as him on the BBC show – after it was suggested she would earn less.
Lord Sugar’s former right-hand man, who is fronting a campaign for UK charity Street Child, appeared on the show from its inception in 2005 until he quit in 2014.
Asked about his earnings on the hit series, he told the Press Association that when Mountford’s name was mooted to join him in series one it was suggested her pay would be different.
“At that stage, I said ‘We must get the same because that’s exactly what should happen’. There should never be any discomfort about disparity and pay,” the Countdown star said.
He blasted today’s BBC gender pay gap, saying: “It is extraordinary. I don’t understand it at all. I can’t understand why it would be any different, doing exactly the same job.”
Hewer added: “I’m not being some saint but I remember distinctly saying ‘We must be paid the same’.”
Hewer, who was “instrumental” in the show before Lord Sugar was even appointed, said: “It was just some suggestion – ‘You know, after all you’ve been there, and all the rest of it’.”
He denied The Apprentice was just an entertainment show, saying “if it wasn’t entertaining, people wouldn’t watch it”.
“If all the candidates were (just) truly brilliant, brilliant, brilliant people, it may be that people like you and me would stumble and not quite understand what on Earth is going on.
“You’ve got to make it entertaining but in each of those tasks all the elements of a business proposition are spelt out,” he said.
“It does require a certain type of person because it’s ruthless.”
He added: “I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t have lasted more than three minutes. It’s full-on. Everybody’s so ambitious and they have to be over-confident and show-offs.
“We all say ‘Oh they’re all dopes’ but the reality is the winners are all doing very well.”
Hewer is supporting Street Child’s Right To Learn appeal, which aims to raise a minimum of £1 million to help 10,000 vulnerable children in West Africa go to school.
The charity said the UK Government will match all donations, pound for pound, until February 15.
He said: “It’s a very simple proposition. If a kid runs away from a home, for whatever reason, they can’t go to school, and if a child doesn’t go to school it harms its chance of developing and working.
“I’ve been to Sierra Leone a few times and I’ve talked to the kids who run away. They’re maybe eight years old and they’re living in the market place, lorry parks, they’re scratching around.
“We get them back to their parents and talk to their parents about what the problems are.
“With a £50 grant, we can set that family up in a local business in that community.
“Then they’ve got something which enables them to earn that little bit extra to keep the kid at home and then go to school.
“Children should not be running around foraging for themselves and should be with their families.
“Some of these kids really do have a bad time. Their families are very happy to have them back, desperate to have them back, as long as they can feed them.”
Nick Hewer is supporting Street Child’s Right to Learn Appeal which aims to raise a minimum of £1 million to help 10,000 vulnerable children in West Africa to go to school. To donate visit www.street-child.co.uk/right-to-learn