My Week in Westminster

It has been lovely to see more life return to our town centres in the past week – and I am glad to see social distancing still taking place.

I had a look around St Annes, Kirkham and Lytham and saw lots of different social distancing measures in place.

It is vital we keep our distance and keep hand-washing to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but it is also important to get the local economy moving again.

If we stick to those rules, and I note the introduction of a mandatory facemask policy for anyone using shops from July 24, we will see the infection rate fall further.

The decision to charge the over 75s for the licence fee is entirely the BBC’s doing.

The BBC accepted responsibility for funding these licences as part of a funding settlement back when George Osborn was Chancellor, which also reduced several funding commitments from them.

I sat on the Digital Economy Bill Committee at the time and there was nothing from the BBC to suggest they were unhappy with the situation. They gratefully accepted a reduction in their funding commitments for broadband and other measures – they also accepted the responsibility to pay for these licences.

They cannot now walk away from that funding agreement having accepted it so readily.

The BBC has the best back catalogue of material in the world and it could cover the cost of these licences easily if it chose to market it properly to a worldwide audience. When it developed the iPlayer, which it did with our licence fee money, it created an unrivalled platform which should have been used to fully maximise revenue from outside the UK. Instead, it has been overtaken by many other service providers, including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

If the BBC is not prepared to fulfil its obligations, perhaps it is time to reopen its entire funding settlement and look at it in full.