MPs' TV Licences Should Not Be Free, Campaigners Say

Campaigners say it is wrong for MPs to get free television licences - as 180,000 people are prosecuted for not paying theirs.

It has been revealed that a tenth of all the criminal prosecutions in the UK last year were for failing to pay the £145.50 fee.

Under the expenses rules, parliamentarians are entitled to be refunded for their licence if they want one in their taxpayer-funded second home.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude claimed the cost of a TV licence for his second home

Records published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority showed that dozens of MPs took advantage of the perk last year, including millionaire Tory ministers Francis Maude and Owen Paterson.

Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said the BBC had to do more to cut waste so the licence fee can be reduced in future years.

He added: "It’s reasonable to expect politicians to keep up to date with the news, but by not paying the TV tax on their second homes they are immune to the impact of decisions made about the licence fee."

Meanwhile, former Ukip leader Lord Pearson said it was "horrifying" that so many people were being prosecuted for not paying their licences.

He is calling for major reform of the way in which the licence fee is dealt with by making it a civil rather than criminal offence.

"It is outrageous that so many people are brought in to the criminal justice system through this means. I believe that

non payment should be treated in the way that parking tickets are," he said.

"It is absurd that the courts are being clogged up by such a minor offence."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said around 193,000 defendants had proceedings taken against them for TV licence evasion in England and Wales last year.

She added: "Most TV licensing cases that are heard by magistrates' courts are uncontested and the case is therefore often resolved in the defendant's absence.

"However, as part of our ongoing work to make court processes more efficient, we are looking at the best ways to manage high-volume, low-level cases such as TV licence evasion."