Andrew Bridgen condemns the BBC for reneging on their agreement on free TV licences for the over-75s and calls for the decriminalisation of the non-payment of the TV licence.
At charter renewal, the BBC gained various concessions. It got an annual inflation-linked increase in the licence fee and an extension to the charter period, and it is no longer asked to fund the roll-out of superfast broadband. My proposals for the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee were also dropped in return for the BBC agreeing to fund the universal over-75s licence fee concession.
Given that the BBC now seems intent on reneging on that promise to our over-75s, and noting the comments of the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time to revisit decriminalisation as a method of protecting the poor and vulnerable from this most regressive of taxes? When will the Government find time to debate that matter?
It is worth pointing out that the criminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee falls particularly heavily on women, who are the ones most often found guilty of this offence. My hon. Friend’s point is well made, but I think the Prime Minister has heard it, because he has made indications that this matter may be considered. My hon. Friend, in raising it and campaigning for it, is doing a public service.