I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s comment, and I am pleased to see that his party is standing with us today in saying that what the Government have done is wrong. I will continue with my comments and come back to that point in a second, if that is okay.
The Conservative party seemed to recognise the important fact that the free TV licence for over-75s was a welfare provision when it made a political promise to voters in its 2017 manifesto. To quote the manifesto directly, the Conservatives promised to
“maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament.”
But we know that the Government had already set the stage for scrapping free TV licences back in 2015, which raises the question: why did they make that promise in 2017? How many of those other benefits can we expect to see outsourced as the Government continue to shirk their responsibilities to our pensioners?
Perhaps the most concerning factor is that this is just one of the Government’s abject failures to stand up for older people in our communities. Alongside our loneliness crisis and the worrying signs around pensioner poverty, we have had a social care crisis that has simply been ignored. Years after they first promised a social care Green Paper, and after several delays, we still have not seen one. Professor Martin Green, the chair of the International Longevity Centre and chief executive of Care England, described the UK as “completely and institutionally ageist” in December last year. Today, the Government must acknowledge their failings and take the first steps towards restoring trust in politics by committing to honouring their promises to voters and funding free TV licences.