TV licence penalties to be reviewed

The Government will launch a review of the penalties for non-payment of the TV licence under plans set to be voted on by MPs next week.

Penalties for not having a TV licence are to be reviewed
Penalties for not having a TV licence are to be reviewed

The move follows a campaign led by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen for civil penalties to replace the threat of a criminal record and the potential of a jail term for not paying the £1,000 fine.

The BBC Trust said any potential change should be considered as part of the corporation's charter renewal process.

A joint amendment to the Deregulation Bill, tabled by Mr Bridgen and Solicitor General Oliver Heald, will commit the Government to a review of the sanctions for non-payment, including examining proposals for decriminalising it.

A BBC Trust spokesman said: "As the Trust has said before, this is an issue that should be discussed in the round, including the potential impact on licence fee income and BBC output, with any decisions made as part of the Charter review process. This amendment appears to be in line with that."

Mr Bridgen had originally tabled an amendment calling for non-payment to be made a civil offence, which had attracted the support of 150 MPs from across the Commons.

The new Government-backed proposals will require Culture Secretary Maria Miller to carry out a review of the sanctions, lasting up to a year, within three months of the Deregulation Bill being passed.

The findings of the review will be presented to the BBC Trust as well as both Houses of Parliament.

Cases of people accused of evading the £145.50 fee accounted for in excess of one in 10 of all criminal prosecutions last year - with 155,000 convicted and fined.

The future funding of the corporation is in the spotlight, with its charter up for renewal in 2017.

Prime Minister David Cameron believes decriminalisation is an "interesting idea", but Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned against taking any steps that could "lessen the signal that people should pay their licence fee".

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: "Decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee is an interesting idea. We will therefore carry out a review of whether or not non-payment should remain a criminal offence through an amendment to the Deregulation Bill."

A spokesman for the corporation said: "The BBC is content that this proposal balances a timely examination of this issue with a proper review of the options, while not taking any decisions prior to charter review."