Ministers consider decriminalising TV licence non-payment
More than one in ten criminal prosecutions relate to non-payment of television licence fees
Ministers are considering plans to scrap rules that make non-payment of the television licence fee a criminal office.
More than one in ten criminal prosecutions relate to non-payment of television licence fees and the government believes the proposals would ease the burden on the court system.
Instead of being treated as a criminal offence, resulting in fines of up to £1,000 or even jail, non-payment could be treated as a civil offence.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has tabled an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, which is going through Parliament, intended to change the rules.
More than 100 MPs support the amendment, which Mr Bridgen argues would benefit families struggling to afford the licence fee because the law as it stands is "criminalising them for being poor". He wants non-payment to be treated in the same way as parking tickets.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is among the ministers said to be taking the proposal seriously and civil servants have already been instructed to investigate its merits.
“The Culture Secretary and I both agree that this is a really interesting idea - particularly given the pressure on our courts system,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “Our departments will be doing some serious work on the proposal.”
Culture Secretary Maria Miller reportedly wants to wait until 2017 when the BBC’s Charter is renewed and its funding reassessed but is supportive of the idea “in principle”.
The BBC has come out against the idea, with a spokesman quoted as saying: "Legislation is a matter for the Government, however changing the law could lead to higher evasion. Just a one per cent increase in evasion would lead to the loss of around £35 million, the equivalent of around 10 BBC Local Radio stations."
In 2013 more than 180,000 people, of whom 155,000 were convicted, went before magistrates after being accused of non-payment of the television licence. A colour television licence costs £145.50 compared to £49 for a black and white licence.
Mrs Miller said: "This is an interesting idea but timing is crucial and decriminalisation of the licence fee should be on the table during charter review, not separate to the process."
A spokesman added: "We know that the Justice Secretary shares her view. Maria will put decriminalisation of the licence fee on the table during Charter Review discussions, but to do it before makes no sense .
"She has made clear that the BBC needs to get its house in order, particularly when it comes to governance and transparency, having decriminalisation on the table during the negotiations will focus the BBC's minds."
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Three-year-old boy accidentally shoots dead his mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as she changes her younger daughter's nappy
Michael Brown shooting: Driver smashes into crowd as protests erupt across the US during a second night of unrest
Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...
£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...