PHILIP Pullman has quit his position as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival.

Writing on the social network Twitter, Mr Pullman wrote: "Because of the Oxford Literary Festival's attitude to paying speakers (they don't) I can't remain as a patron any longer.

"I've resigned."

A statement from festival organisers said they were "very sad" to see him go and thanked him for his support in the past.

It has been running since 1997 and Mr Pullman has been a patron for more than 10 years.

Organisers said paying speakers would mean they would be forced to substantially reduce the number and variety of people who appeared at the event.

But speaking to the Oxford Mail this morning, the Cumnor-based author said the decision "was a matter of principle", because of his current role of president of the Society of Authors – which is campaigning for writers to be paid for all festival events.

Mr Pullman added: "Writers are not on salaries. When they step away from their desks and stop putting words to paper, they are not earning money.

"Everyone else at a festival is paid – the electricians, the people who put up marquees and the people who sell food – except the writers, which seems ridiculus.

"The best and most sensible festivals do pay the authors who come to speak and they always have.

"It is not a question of sums of money, it is one of principle. I would be happy for all speakers to be paid the same.

"But the Oxford Literary Festival does not do this and I have raised the issue a number of times.

"It was time to reconcile the contradiction."

Sally Dunsmore, festival director, said: "We are very sad that Philip Pullman has decided to resign as patron of the festival.

"We are grateful for the support he has given over the years, and for his many appearances at the festival.

"The Oxford Literary Festival is a registered charity that does not receive any government or public funding.

"Each year, substantial sponsorship and donations have to be raised for the festival to take place. 

"We are proud that for the past 20 years we have been able to put on a festival featuring a broad range of fascinating authors from the UK and overseas at various stages in their careers.

"We have over 500 speakers each year. If we were to change our policy, we could not put on a festival as large and diverse as Oxford’s which supports and promotes the work of both bestselling authors and of those at the outset of their writing careers or with a smaller following.”

According to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, the literary festival made a net loss of £18,535 in the 2013/14 financial year.

This came after a net gain of £34,319 the previous year.