West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper challenged the Prime Minister during Questions in Parliament on the Conservatives’ failed manifesto pledge to retain the free TV licence for the over 75s.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, MP Rosie stood to ask Theresa May to ensure that older people keep their TV licences.
Millions of older people across the country are set to lose their TV licence in 2020 despite the Conservatives promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect free TV licences until 2022.
As part of the last BBC charter the Government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy, and the cost, to the BBC and it is now up to the BBC to decide what to do with the benefit from 2020. They are currently consulting on a number of options including scrapping the free TV licence concession for the over 75s altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit.
The House of Commons Library calculated that were the free licence linked to pension credit, i.e. means tested, over 3 million people would lose their free licence. If the eligibility age was raised to 80 over 1.8 million older people would lose their free licences.
The House of Commons Library has also calculated local figures with 6,820 older households in West Lancashire at risk of losing their free TV licences.
Rosie Cooper MP was not impressed with the Prime Minister’s passing of the buck, she said:
“Almost 7,000 constituents in West Lancashire, benefit from the policy of not charging for TV licences to those over the age of 75.
“Many of these people are the most isolated and lonely in our society and for many the TV is their only source of company and key source of information.
“Hundreds of these pensioners would be plunged into poverty if this fee were to be introduced, or plunged into further isolation, which would be an absolute disgrace and a tragedy.
“The Conservatives made clear in their 2017 party manifesto their promise to protect the free TV licences for over 75s, but it seems clear that yet again, the promise was not worth the paper it was written on.
“While taxpayers, customers and viewers want and expect to see the BBC spend their money wisely, investing to provide a universal service to educate, entertain and inform, they want and expect to see the Government keep their promises and stand up for and protect our older people and not remove the concessions they have such as their free TV licence.”
Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons on 13th February 2019.
Despite the Prime Minister’s party’s manifesto promise, nearly 7,000 pensioner households in my West Lancashire constituency could lose their free TV licences. Often the television is their only source of company. Are the Government going to keep their manifesto promise by taking back the responsibility they have outsourced to the BBC, to ensure that older people keep their TV licences?
I recognise the value that people across the country place on having a television, and for many elderly people the connection that brings with the world. That is why the free licences for the over-75s are so important. We have been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue free licences when it takes over responsibility for the concession in 2020. May I just say that taxpayers rightly want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure that it delivers fully for UK audiences?