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Written Statements

Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 5 February 2020

Written Statements

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

TV Licences

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.

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Home Department

Police Powers: Pre-charge Bail

This Government are committed to ensuring the police have the powers they need to protect the public, and that our criminal justice system has at its heart the welfare and best interests of victims.

That is why on 5 November we launched a review of pre-charge bail to ensure we have a system which prioritises safeguarding and supports effective investigations, while also respecting the rights of suspects.

We have listened to people’s concerns, including important issues raised by those who provide frontline support to victims of crime and survivors, the police and parliamentarians.

Today I am therefore pleased to announce the launch of our consultation on proposed changes to pre-charge bail. Specifically, the consultation seeks views on the following proposals:

Removing the presumption against pre-charge bail;

Placing a duty on officers to use pre-charge bail where necessary and proportionate, which would apply in cases where there were safeguarding risks to victims, witnesses and the public; where necessary to prevent further offending; or where the offence in question has significant real or intended impacts;

Lowering the rank of officer needed to authorise and extend pre-charge bail, while also extending the initial period pre-charge bail can be applied from 28 to either 60 or 90 days and delaying the point at which magistrates’ approval for the extension of bail is required from 3 months to 6, 9 or 12 months; and

Introducing review points in codes of practice for investigations where pre-charge bail is not used, including where individuals are interviewed voluntarily or released under investigation. Importantly, this consultation will also look to gather views from victims of crime and those individuals who have been released under investigation about how the current system can be improved, as well seeking views on the current effectiveness of bail conditions

This is a Government that both listens and acts, and I look forward to hearing views on this important issue.

The consultation will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/ government/consultations/police-powers-pre-charge-bail

A copy of the consultation will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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