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TV Licences

Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 5 February 2020

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, has made the following statement.

On 5 February the Government launched a consultation on decriminalising TV licence evasion. The consultation invites views from both members of the public and organisations on whether the Government should proceed with the decriminalisation of TV licence evasion by replacing the criminal sanction with an alternative civil enforcement scheme.

Decriminalisation of TV licence evasion was previously looked at by David Perry QC, and he concluded that the criminal penalty remained appropriate under the current licence fee model. However, it has now been five years since the Perry review. The broadcasting landscape has changed significantly, not least because five years ago a TV licence was not required to watch or download content on BBC iPlayer. As well as this, the BBC’s decision on the future of the over 75 licence fee concession means those aged over 75 and not in receipt of pension credit may become liable to face TV licensing enforcement procedures.

Given such changes, the Government believe that it is right to look again at decriminalising TV licence evasion in order to ensure a proportionate and fair approach to licence fee penalties and payments is in place, which protects the most vulnerable in our society.

Against this background, the consultation will seek responses on whether to decriminalise evasion and give consideration to how this could happen. The determining factors that the Government will consider include:

Would an alternative, non-criminal enforcement scheme be fairer and more proportionate?

What the cost is and how difficult it would be to implement any alternative scheme?

What is the potential impact on licence fee payers, particularly the most vulnerable and those with protected characteristics?

And what is the overall impact on licence fee collection?

The consultation will remain open for a period of eight weeks, after which the Government will carefully consider the responses. A consultation response will be expected to be published by summer 2020. Any changes will not enter into effect until April 2022.

The closing date and time for responses is 5 pm on 1 April 2020. A copy of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.