The prime minister has said he was shocked and concerned by allegations that a BBC presenter paid a young person for explicit pictures, and said the government had been reassured by the BBC that the matter would be investigated “swiftly and rigorously”.
Speaking to journalists on his way to the NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, Rishi Sunak said he did not know the identity of the accused presenter but wanted the situation dealt with as quickly as possible.
“They were shocking, concerning allegations, of course they were,” he said.
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“The culture secretary spoke to the BBC director general on Sunday and is reassured that the process they are undertaking is rigorous and will be swift. So we had those reassurances and that is the right thing to do, given the concerning nature of the allegations.”
However, the PM did not want to be drawn into the discussion around BBC presenters being wrongly named and the questions around the effectiveness of privacy laws on social media, saying his priority when it came to social media was driving through the Online Safety Bill to strengthen protections for children.
Today, one of Mr Sunak’s cabinet colleagues urged MPs not to use parliamentary privilege to name the presenter involved.
The prime minister added: “The laws we have should be enforced, but when it comes to how social media has come about, there is clearly an impact on children and that is why we need to make sure that online environment is safe for our children…as a dad of two young girls, I think that is the right focus for government.”
His remarks come after the investigation into the presenter took a dramatic turn on Monday night after a lawyer acting for the young person who was allegedly paid for photos told the BBC in a statement that the claims were “rubbish”.
The Sun newspaper, which printed the original story, responded by saying the individual’s parents were standing by the accusations and said it has seen evidence to corroborate their claims.
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On NATO and what he hopes to achieve, the prime minister said he wanted to use this summit to both reiterate Ukraine’s “rightful place in NATO” and show real progress towards that goal.
“I think what’s important at this summit is that commitment is reaffirmed but also there is demonstrable progress towards that goal. And I think that’s what you’ll see.”
He also has strong words for Vladimir Putin, reiterating the importance of putting in place multilateral security assurances for Ukraine and also long-term support.
“It’s the right thing to do, but also because it will send a strong deterrent message to the Russians.
“What Putin needs to understand is that there’s no point in just waiting out the West,” he said.
“Everyone is in it for the long haul… we need to make sure he knows support is here to stay. The quicker he realises that, hopefully that helps change his calculation about continuing with what is illegal and unprovoked aggression.”