TV Licences for over-75S

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 8th May 2019.

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Photo of Tom Watson Tom Watson Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 1:46 pm, 8th May 2019

My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is a complicated one. We are committed to 2022. I do not write or decide our manifesto. He knows I cannot do that. Our commitment to pensioners and protecting their benefits will be very clear. It is highly likely that we will be supporting pensioners after 2022, but I cannot give that commitment today. I will certainly make sure we do not outsource welfare policy to a public broadcaster.

The Government’s outsourcing means that, as of 2020, the BBC will be fully responsible for deciding who gets a free TV licence, and for funding that concession. It is manifestly unfair. Labour opposed that at the time, and our position has not changed—first, because passing responsibility for free TV licences to the BBC is outsourcing an important social policy. The BBC makes some of the best TV content in the world, but it is not a political body—it is not an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions—and nor should it be. It is not elected, and nor should it be.

Secondly, we opposed the move because the Government deliberately saddled our national broadcaster with a cost that could lead to many skilled job losses.