DUP MP Sammy Wilson has hit out at the BBC for refusing to reveal how much it has spent on face masks.
r Wilson claimed the broadcaster had been spending extensively on measures to combat Covid-19, including bleepers to alert staff if they come within 2m of each other.
The DUP MP said that he had contacted BBC Director General Tim Davie over the issue but that he had received a response in which the BBC “refused to reveal the cost of the equipment which was purchased” for reasons of commercial confidentiality, though it “has admitted that it has purchased proximity devices”.
A BBC spokesperson said last night it made “no apology for protecting hard working staff against the virus”.
The East Antrim MP accused the BBC of making “derogatory comments on the cost of face masks purchased by MPs for people coming into their public offices”.
It emerged in December that Mr Wilson made a £48.56 expenses claim for face masks.
The official register of MPs’ expenses showed Mr Wilson submitted a claim last May for Covid-19 face masks for face-to-face meetings and for “MP travel to Westminster” to attend the Commons. A DUP spokesperson said the masks were bought for the use of constituents and staff.
Mr Wilson has been photographed on a number of occasions either not wearing a face covering or not wearing one correctly.
Before the wearing of face masks became mandatory in enclosed public spaces and on public transport Mr Wilson said there was no proof they protected against the virus, comparing them to “muzzles”.
The DUP MP said that he understood the cost of face masks and other equipment bought by the BBC to protect against Covid-19 had been “extremely high”, and accused the corporation of a lack of transparency.
The East Antrim MP accused the publicly-funded broadcaster of hiding “behind a veil of secrecy while expecting every other private and public body to be totally transparent”.
“I can only conclude from the unwillingness of the BBC to reveal the information, which it would expect others to reveal if it were carrying out an investigation, that it is embarrassed by the expenditure which it has engaged.”
It was revealed earlier this week that the BBC has sent almost a million letters to homes in Northern Ireland since the first lockdown threatening people with heavy fines for not having a licence, which costs £157.50 annually.
More than 1,000 people have been taken to court since last March.
The DUP MP said it was “always easy to spend money when it can be extracted from the public under the threat of criminal prosecution”.
He added that “since the BBC is now responsible for 10% of criminal court cases in its pursuit of people who do not pay TV licences, we know how far the organisation will go in extracting money”.
A BBC spokesperson said that the “overwhelming majority of our staff are working from home, but for those needed in a BBC building to keep our services on air through the pandemic we have measures in place to help them stay safe”.
“They are doing a difficult job and it is the right and responsible thing to do.”