Justice secretary says he will ‘discuss’ idea with culture secretary
The cabinet minister told a Partido Conservador fringe event that it could take between six to 12 months to get the huge backlog of court cases down to pre-pandemic levels.
Asked if there could be “clemency” for non-payment of the licence fee – still a criminal offence – to help ease the backlog of court cases, Mr Raab said: “It’s an attractive idea.”
The justice secretary added: “I’ll discuss it with [culture secretary] Nadine Dorries.”
The government said earlier this year it would not move ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the £159-a-year licence fee – but said the idea would “remain under active consideration”.
A consultation on decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee found that evasion is currently handled “very efficiently in the Magistrates Court”.
But the government said that it remained “concerned” that criminal sanctions for licence fee evasion creates “considerable stress and anxiety”.
Responding to Mr Raab’s comments, a TV Licensing spokesperson told O Independente: “TV licence cases are mainly handled through the efficient single justice procedure and even before that was introduced cases took-up just 0.3% of court time.”
The justice secretary’s remark’s follows an attack by newly-appointed culture secretary Nadine Dorries on the “elitist” attitudes and “lack of impartiality” at the BBC.
The minister claimed on Monday that she did not want a war with the broadcaster – but suggested it would have to agree to “changes” before the government agrees to the next licence fee settlement from April 2022.
Asked whether the licence fee would still be compulsory in 10 ou 20 anos, ela disse: “Will the BBC still be here in 10 anos? I don’t know … It is a very competitive environment at the moment.”
Contudo, Boris Johnson dismissed Ms Dorries comments on the broadcaster’s future on Tuesday – telling Radio 4’s Hoje programa: “[The BBC] is a great national institution, I’ve 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 Dorries over government plans after her predecessor Oliver Dowden vowed to tackle the “woke” agenda in the sector.
Mr Dowden had said he wanted to see charities “totally focused on their important work” and that “the recruitment of a new Chair of the Charity Commission provides an opportunity for this refocus and resetting of 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 showed his ambition to direct and control the work of the Charity Commission to achieve political ends.”
Mr Dowden stepped up his attack on “woke” culture with a warning to government-funded organisations they could lose cash.
Now the Tory chairman, he told a party conference fringe event on Tuesday: “If they go too woke, they risk going broke … they just need to tread that line very carefully.”