TV Licences for over-75S

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:57 pm on 8th May 2019.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 3:57 pm, 8th May 2019

I agree, and I have explored that with the shadow Secretary of State. I have very real concerns about the future of the creative industry, especially about employment in the BBC and its capacity to produce good-quality programmes if it is asked to bear the cost of the free TV licence. I sit on the all-party Youth Violence Commission, so I know that there are key benefits to young people finding employment in the creative industries. That is important, so we must continue to advocate and argue for it.

Many hon. Members mentioned loneliness and social inclusion as reasons why people over 75 should receive a TV licence. I agree. We are already seeing the impact of high and rising fuel bills on pensioners—particularly those who live alone. Age Scotland and Age UK report that six in 10 pensioners who live alone have difficulties paying their fuel bills. The number with health conditions and disabilities is increasing. More than four fifths of people aged 85 and over report that their daily lives are limited by a long-term health problem or a disability. Those things have a real impact because there are numerous extra costs associated with them, including taxis to medical appointments, medical equipment, and support and care, so it seems ludicrous that the Government are saying that people aged 75 and over will have to cough up for a TV licence. It really is incredible.

As Opposition Members rightly said, this commitment was in the 2017 Conservative party manifesto, and the Government then allowed the BBC to have a consultation. I did not hear from the Minister—perhaps he will tell us when he winds up—whether the Government will ignore the BBC consultation because they have a manifesto commitment not to take free TV licences off people aged 75 or over. If they will, they need to say so this afternoon.