MP Bell attacks top-tier pay rises at BBC

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The Independent Online
Martin Bell, MP, the former BBC foreign correspondent, compared his old boss John Birt to the director of a biscuit factory last night when he made a blistering attack on the BBC boss's pay rise.

The MP for Tatton said the pay rise for BBC chiefs announced last week would damage staff morale.

"For all BBC employees whose morale is not as great as it should be, it would do a great service if those who run the BBC at the very top, would show their dedication in a way that I know would revive morale immediately," he said.

Mr Bell thumped the table as he went on: "It is one thing to be offered an 18 per cent pay rise, and I don't think they should have been, it is another thing to accept it, and I don't think they should have done.

"To be director general of the BBC or one of its senior managers is honour enough," Mr Bell added. "You don't have to be paid like the executives of a biscuit factory, a merchant bank or even a water company."

Last week it was revealed that John Birt had received a pay rise of 18 per cent or pounds 55,000 to take his salary package up to pounds 354,000 a year. Other BBC executives received pay rises of up to 40 per cent while the BBC's staff had the week before accepted a rise of just 2.8 per cent across the board.

Mr Bell, who had been at the BBC for 35 years before he resigned to fight as an anti-sleaze candidate at the general election, denied that he was now being disloyal to the BBC.

He was speaking at a meeting of BBC lobbying group Voice of the Listener and Viewer, convened to defend the BBC World Service which is merging with the rest of the organisation in April.

He told the meeting they needed to be eternally vigilant to make sure that the BBC World Service does not become a "rip it off the wire and read it out" service.

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