Senior Tory MP Lee Anderson claims BBC is 'safe haven for perverts'

Downing Street has urged caution against speculation following Lee Anderson's latest attack on the BBC.

Lee Anderson, Member of Parliament for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. 19th January 2023.
Lee Anderson, MP Ashfield, has been criticised over his latest swipe at the BBC. (PA)

Downing Street has urged caution over commentary on the BBC scandal after Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson branded the broadcaster a "safe haven for perverts".

The controversial MP made the comment in response to allegations published in The Sun that a well-known BBC presenter paid more than £35,000 to a young person they had been in contact with from the age of 17 for sexual pictures.

A lawyer for the young person has since described the claims, made to The Sun newspaper, as "rubbish" and that "nothing inappropriate or unlawful has taken place".

However, The Sun reports that the young person's family are standing by their account, with their stepfather claiming the BBC was "not telling the truth".

The BBC has announced it has paused its investigations into the allegations while the police "scope future work".

There are many facts that are yet to be established, which is why Anderson's bombastic claim that the BBC is a "safe haven for perverts" has sparked concern.

Read more: Who is Lee Anderson and why do some people dislike him?

The MP for Ashfield told the Daily Express: "When bad things happen once in a lifetime within an organisation then it can be considered a scandal.

"The BBC have given us a whole raft of perverts including Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall. Why is anyone shocked?

"Express readers will know my thoughts on the BBC. It's time this taxpayer-funded safe haven for perverts was made a subscription service."

Read more: Tory Lee Anderson under investigation for using parliamentary roof to film promo

Asked about the Tory deputy chairman's comments, a Downing Street spokesman said: “Obviously the BBC is a vital institution, much cherished by the British public and continues to do vital important work.

"And that’s why, as ministers have made clear, it’s important that they establish the facts and act appropriately in this case.”

The spokesman added: “Obviously we support freedom of speech, but this is a sensitive issue which is being looked at carefully, and the relevant authorities need to be given the appropriate time to carry out that work.”

Anderson's comment received scathing criticism from former BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel, who left the broadcaster in February.

Read more: BBC presenter scandal: Corporation made just two attempts to contact family

He tweeted: "No longer bound by BBC rules on impartiality, let me just say what a moronic and offensive comment."

Referring to the Chris Pincher scandal that ultimately forced Boris Johnson to resign, Sopel added: "If I’m not mistaken didn’t you have a deputy chief whip appointed even though his past form as a sex pest was well known and documented?"

Watch: Prime minister Rishi Sunak insists BBC sex scandal investigation must be quick and rigorous

Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion Caroline Lucas told BBC Politics Live: "I just think it's so depressing to see once again how this has become an opportunity for many on the right to have a go at the BBC.

"It's become a political football once again. The bottom line is, we simply don't know. The initial question was, how much damage has this done to the BBC?

"We don't know, and I would just love us to end this feeding frenzy... there are people's real lives at stake. Can we just park that?

"Let the police do their investigation if that's what they're going to do, let the BBC do theirs, and then come back to it when we know the facts."

What has Lee Anderson said about the BBC previously?

Anderson has form for attacking the BBC, announcing in October 2020 that he had cancelled his TV licence, accusing the broadcaster of trying to "alienate" leave voters from the Brexit referendum.

He told the Defund the BBC Campaign: "I don't know what they're playing at because let me tell you, people are switching off in their droves. They're ripping their TV licences up."

Read more: Rishi Sunak Slaps Down Lee Anderson By Backing 'Much-Cherished' BBC

London, England, UK. 17th May, 2023. Conservative Party Deputy Chairman LEE ANDERSON arrives National Conservatism Conference ahead of making closing keynote speech. (Credit Image: © Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!
This isn't the first time Lee Anderson has taken aim at the BBC. (ZUMA Press Wire)

In May 2021 Anderson told the House of Commons he'd "ripped up" his licence, this time referring to Lord Dyson's report on the BBC.

The report found BBC journalist Martin Bashir had falsified bank statements intended to suggest Princess Diana was under surveillance, in a bid to secure an exclusive interview with the royal in 1995.

Anderson told the Commons: "The findings of the Dyson Report come as no surprise to the residents in Ashfield, who have lost all confidence in the BBC.

Read more: Carol Vorderman branded 'horrible little snob' by Tory MP

"I personally have ripped up my TV licence and they will not be getting another penny from me, ever."

MPs urged to think twice about naming BBC presenter

Earlier on Tuesday Work and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said it would be "ill advised" for his colleagues in the House of Commons to name the presenter at the heart of the allegations.

There is a very real possibility that MPs could do this due to a special legal protection known as parliamentary privilege, but still Stride advised against exercising that power.

Read more: Furious BBC stars demand action as they are falsely identified in presenter scandal

“We don’t know those facts, and until we do, I think under those circumstances, it will be ill-advised to do that,” he told Times Radio.

He also told LBC Radio: “I think everybody has to take their own decision on this one. I can only tell you what I would do, which is that I would not be naming anybody in the House of Commons.

“Parliamentary privilege is a very special and privileged thing and it should be used very, very sparingly.”