BBC reform scrapped after Cummings exited No10 – Tory MP left raging 'they bottled it!'

Julian Knight said plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee and considerations to get rid of the compulsory payment altogether had been abandoned. The Tory MP pointed the blame for the lack of vision for change at the door of No10, saying ministers appeared to have changed their minds on reform.

He told “They’ve bottled it politically.

“We know since Cain and Cummings left Downing Street that effectively the mood music has more than changed. They’ve kicked decriminalisation into the long grass.

“It’s the worst of all worlds, because you make a decision ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“I, personally, was convinced decriminalisation was the right way to go, partly because it largely impacts young women.

READ MORE: BBC funding crisis: 200,000 households cancel TV licence fee in a year

“The large number who are criminalised are young women.”

Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, was seen to be leading the reform agenda in Downing Street, but both he and Director of Communications, Lee Cain, left their positions last autumn.

The Government last year announced it was launching a review on whether to decriminalise the non-payment of the licence fee but shelved the plans in January.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the current system was “disproportionate and unfair” but no better alternative had been found.

He said the Government would keep the issue under “active consideration”.

Mr Knight told this website: “The Government, I don’t believe, is serious about reform anymore in any way.”

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He made his remarks as his committee published a new report this week looking at the future of public service broadcasting.

The conclusions made a damning verdict, accusing the Government of being left with no choice but to renew the licence fee when the current royal charter – which sets out the BCC’s terms of operation – ends in 2027.

The report accused ministers of dither and delay, meaning they were now left with no choice on the BBC’s future but to renew the licence fee.

It said the Government has failed to put in place the necessary broadband infrastructure that would facilitate the BBC being funded through a subscription-style service like Netflix.

“They’ve effectively slashed what they are investing in broadband by two thirds,” Mr Knight said criticising the Government.

“It means that effectively you won’t have that superfast broadband coverage.

“That’s the way in which you get the subscription service out to everyone.”

The report concluded the licence fee was now likely to remain until 2038.

It said: “The Government either needs to come out with a strong alternative to the licence fee that it can put to Parliament, or strongly support the current model for at least the next charter period (2028-2038).”

A BBC spokesman said: “We welcome this thorough and detailed report.

“It is an endorsement of the crucial role played by public service broadcasters and the BBC as well as a clear call to build a strong future.

“We welcome the conclusion that the licence fee is the best way of funding a universal BBC.”

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