Non payment of the BBC licence fee will remain a criminal offence thanks to Peers in the House of Lords rejecting a government attempt to make it a civil offence.
Lord Grade, a former BBC Chairman conveyed concern that there were “dark forces at work”, amid fears throughout the chamber that watering down the offence would lead to thousand of households not paying the fee, blowing a hole in the BBC’s budget.
In the event, Lords voted 178 to 175 in favour of an amendment that retained the criminal penalty for non payment of the fee, which currently stands at £149.50 per household per year. The money goes directly toward funding the BBC.
Andrew Allison of the Freedom Association’s ‘Axe the TV Tax’ campaign said: “A number of Peers spoke in the debate, and these included Lord Grade (former BBC Chairman), Baroness Benjamin (Floella Benjamin, former BBC children’s TV presenter), Lord Cashman (former EastEnders actor), and Viscount Colville of Culross, a BBC producer. For the record, all of them declared an interest.
“It was a tight vote. If you took away those who have either earned a living out of the BBC, still work for the BBC, or have a BBC pension, the vote would have gone the other way.”
During the debate, Lord Grade warned his colleagues: “I would love to see the licence fee decriminalised, but there are risks in doing that.