Farage vows to scrap BBC licence fee

Nigel Farage said that, in a world of on-demand TV, people should not be forced to fund the BBC
Nigel Farage said that, in a world of on-demand TV, people should not be forced to fund the BBC - Shutterstock

Nigel Farage has pledged to reform the “institutionally biased” BBC and scrap the licence fee as part of Reform UK’s “contract” with voters.

On Monday, the Reform leader unveiled a manifesto that also promised to lower income tax and to leave the European Convention of Human Rights.

He said the licence fee was “taxation without representation” and that, in a world of on-demand TV, people should not be forced to fund the “wasteful” BBC.

The manifesto, launched in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, pledged to “commence reform of the BBC”. It said: “The out-of-touch wasteful BBC is institutionally biased. The TV licence is taxation without representation. We will scrap it. In a world of on-demand TV, people should be free to choose.”

However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the multi billion-pound spending pledges do not add up.

Reform said its tax cuts would cost £90 billion a year, which together with spending increases of £50 billion a year could be paid for through £150 billion in savings. The spending commitments are way in excess of those promised by Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Carl Emmerson, the IFS deputy director, said the package was “problematic”, adding: “Even with the extremely optimistic assumptions about how much economic growth would increase, the sums in this manifesto do not add up.

“Whilst Reform’s manifesto gives a clear sense of priority, a government could only implement parts of this package or would need to find other ways to help pay for it, which would mean losers not specified.”

In response, Mr Farage said: “If you change things radically, it’s always going to be problematic, and those who are part of the status quo might not like it and might not agree with it. But you know what? We’re the only party putting forward really radical ideas.”

He said it was “absolute nonsense” that his party’s plans would create a larger tax burden than Labour.

The manifesto included a pledge to eliminate NHS waiting lists within two years with a cash injection of £17 billion a year, while a series of tax cuts included a promise to take everyone earning less than £20,000 out of income tax altogether.

The IFS questioned whether Reform would be able to meet its target of cutting spending by £150 billion a year through eliminating waste and tackling out of work benefits.

“Spending reductions would save less than stated, and the tax cuts would cost more than stated by a margin of tens of billions of pounds per year,” said Mr Emmerson. “Meanwhile, the spending increases would cost more than stated if they are to achieve their objectives.”

The IFS said a reduction in tax of £90 billion a year would still see tax revenues higher as a share of the economy than in 2019/20, but in reality the package of tax cuts proposed would cost tens of billions of pounds a year more than that.

The think tank said the plans to cut the rate of corporation tax from 25 to 20 per cent immediately, and then to 15 per cent at the end of the Parliament, would cost twice as much as Reform estimates.

The £17 billion increase for the NHS would not be nearly enough to meet the party’s commitment to eliminate waiting lists within two years, said the IFS. It pointed out that eliminating the waiting list entirely had not been achieved in the history of the NHS.