Skip to main content

Ministers from DCMS questioned on the BBC licence fee

6 February 2020


Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Minister, Tracy Brabin, asked ministers about the future of the BBC licence fee in light of yesterday's public consultation annuoncement.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for DCMS, Baroness Morgan, announced an eight-week public consultation on whether to decriminalise the BBC licence fee.

The licence fee is currently £154.50 a year, and will rise to £157.50 on 1 April 2020. If you watch or record live BBC TV or use iPlayer without a licence, then this is a criminal offence and you could go to prison.

However, decriminalisation does not necessarily mean that payment of the fee would become voluntary, but could mean that it becomes a civil offence.

Tracy Brabin MP asked if Ministers from DCMS would make a statement on the consultation.

Nigel Adams MP: "revisit the logic of criminalisation"

Responding on behalf of the Government, the Minister of State (DCMS), Nigel Adams, told the House that he recognised the BBC's global recognition and position as a "beacon of British values".

However, he emphasised that the media environment has changed, with an increasing number of competing digital services.

The Minister said that there were "legitimate concerns" about the criminalisation of licence fee evasion, which he termed "unfair and disproportionate".

The Member told MPs:

"We must revisit the logic of criminalisation and ask whether criminal penalties for consumer choice are consistent with a just and democratic society."

Tracy Brabin MP: "a deliberate strategy"

Responding on behalf of the Opposition, Shadow DCMS Minister, Tracy Brabin, stated that the BBC was "central to the lives" of constituents, with 91% of Britons using the broadcaster each week. She wondered if the BBC could carry out "core programming functions" with the possible cut to its finances.

Ms Brabin told MPs that last year only five people were imprisoned for licence fee evasion and said that decriminalisation was not a Conservative manifesto commitment, so questioned "why now, when there are so many other pressing matters?" 

The Shadow Minister highlighted that making evasion a civil offence could "mean higher fines for vulnerable people and greater evasion". She also stated that the cost of transitioning to this new system would be around £25 million.

She concluded:

"Can he assure me that this announcement is not part of a deliberate strategy by the Government to undermine an organisation with which they have been at loggerheads?"

Image: PA

Follow us!

Follow the @HouseofCommons on Twitter and @UKHouseofCommons on Instagram, for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber and more.

Please fill in our quick feedback survey to help us improve our news content.

What is the Speaker's role?

What is the Speaker's role?

The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates in the Commons chamber. The holder of this office is an MP who has been elected to be Speaker by other Members of Parliament. During debates they keep order and call MPs to speak.

Who is the Speaker?

Sir Lindsay Hoyle was elected House of Commons Speaker on 4 November 2019.

Find out more