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The Prime Minister has waded into the row over the BBC’s gaping gender pay gap for its top stars and said the organisation must continue publishing its highest salaries.
Theresa May criticised the Beeb and said it was important that bosses “look at the whole question of how they pay women and how they pay men for doing the same job”.
Documents setting out the pay for staff on more than £150,000 showed a shocking gap in the earnings of the corporation’s most well-known male and female presenters and actors, with Radio 2’s Chris Evans topping the list on more than £2 million while the highest paid woman was Claudia Winkleman on between £450,000-£499,999.
The PM told LBC: “I think what has happened today is we have seen the way the BBC is paying women less for doing the same job as the men.
“I want to see women paid equally with men. The only reason we know about this though is because the Government required the BBC to publish these figures.
“The Director-General, Lord Hall, has said that he wants to change this, he wants to make progress, he wants to abolish this gender pay gap.
“We want to see him doing that too. I think it is important the BBC carries on publishing figures in the future so we can see the progress they are making.”
Labour indicated BBC stars such as Gary Lineker could face significant pay cuts if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister.
A party source confirmed that Labour’s promise of a maximum 20 to one ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff in public sector organisations would apply to those directly employed by the BBC.
Mr Corbyn made no comment on BBC salaries during the final session of Prime Minister’s Questions before the summer recess, when he concentrated his attack on the Government’s record on low pay.
But a source later told reporters that policies in Labour’s manifesto designed to tackle income inequality – including the maximum pay ratio in the public sector, a higher income tax rate for the top 5 per cent of earners and an excess pay levy on organisations with staff on more than £330,000 – would apply to the BBC.
Stars employed indirectly through independent production companies would not be caught by the pay ratio, he said.
The source also said that the gender pay gap exposed by the BBC figures was “obviously wrong”, adding that Labour was “committed to gender equality audits enforced through law”.
Conservative former minister Anna Soubry said it was “a disgrace” that the BBC was required to disclose salaries and she could not defend Tory policy on the issue.
The Broxtowe MP told BBC Radio 5 Live Daily’s Adrian Chiles: “This story is a disgrace, not because of figures but the fact that it’s ever been published.
“I take objection on behalf of these people who have had their names and their salaries exposed in this completely undignified way.
“What this will do is that it will stoke up the politics of envy… People will say, well, why is a nurse worth less than Gary Lineker or Chris Evans, and that’s a completely meaningless debate.
“So the BBC should be ashamed of themselves, they should never have agreed to this, it shouldn’t have been done.”
Additional reporting by Press Association.
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