It is great to follow my hon. Friend Julie Cooper, who made an excellent case.
By failing to protect the free TV licence for over-75s, the Government are shamefully breaking their own 2017 manifesto pledge. According to Age UK, nearly a third of over-75s are living in poverty or just above the poverty line. If the free over-75 TV licence is scrapped, finding the money needed to pay that additional bill will be impossible for those struggling to make ends meet. At a time when social isolation and loneliness are on the rise, that could mean the loss of their main form of company.
I want to put on the record the views of some of my constituents who got in touch after I issued a consultation for over-75s on this issue. One constituent told me:
“It is often the only company that I have, and I feel as though if it were to be scrapped then it will be penalising those who have already contributed many years towards the country”.
“I, like many other people over 75, have worked and paid tax and insurance for approximately 60 years. Many of these people are on small pensions and we have served the country with dignity and honour. The TV may be the only form of entertainment and to scrap the licence is a kick in the teeth and a disgusting move”.
I agree wholeheartedly with my constituents. The TV licence is an important benefit for pensioners, who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. If TV licences are ended or means-tested, millions of older people, almost half of whom consider television their main source of company, will have to pay to keep the little company they do have.
The Government were elected on a manifesto promise to maintain all pensioner benefits, including TV licences. Those who have given so much to our country deserve better than broken Tory promises. When will the Government admit that they must do right by over-75s in this country, stand by their promises and take back responsibility for the TV licence?