Clemency for BBC fee dodgers ‘attractive idea’, says Dominic Raab

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Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has said the legal amnesty for those who fail to pay the TV license fee was an “attractive idea”.

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The cabinet minister told a fringe event of the Conservative Party that it could take six to 12 months to bring down the huge backlog of court cases to pre-pandemic levels.

Asked whether there could be a “pardon” for not paying the license fee – still a criminal offence – to help reduce the backlog of court cases, Mr Raab said: “It’s a tempting idea. Is.”


The Justice Secretary said: “I will discuss it with [culture secretary] Nadine Doris.”

The government said earlier this year it would not go ahead with plans for non-payment of the £159-a-year license fee – but said the idea would “remain under active consideration”.

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An advisory on decriminalizing non-payment of license fee found that theft is currently handled “very efficiently in Magistrates’ Court”.

But the government said it was “concerned” that criminal sanctions for license fee evasion create “considerable tension and anxiety”.

Mr Raab’s remarks on the fee follows an attack by newly-appointed Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries at the BBC on “elitist” attitudes and “lack of fairness”.

The minister on Monday claimed she does not want a war with the broadcaster – but suggested the government would have to agree to “changes” before agreeing to the next license fee settlement from April 2022.

Asked whether the license fee would still be mandatory in 10 or 20 years, he said: “Will the BBC still be here in 10 years? I don’t know… There’s a lot of competition right now.”

However, Boris Johnson on Tuesday dismissed Ms. Doris’ comments on the broadcaster’s future – Radio 4’s telling Today program: “[The BBC] A great national institution, I have no doubt that it will be around for a long time to come.”

It comes as a group of charity leaders have written to Ms Doris about government plans after her predecessor, Oliver Dowden, vowed to tackle a “wake up” agenda in the region.

Mr Dowden said he would like to see the charity “entirely focused on its important work” and “the recruitment of a new chairman of the Charity Commission provides an opportunity to focus on this and reset the balance”.

In an open letter, a group of more than 20 charity leaders told the new Culture Secretary: “We believe Mr Dowden’s comments reflect his ambition to direct and control the Charity Commission’s work to achieve political objectives. Shown.”

Mr Dowden intensified his attack on the “wake up” culture with warnings to government-funded organizations that they could lose cash.

Now Tory chairman, he said at a party convention fringe event on Tuesday: “If they wake up too much, they risk breaking down … they just need to tread that line very carefully.”


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