TV Licences for over-75S

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 8th May 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage) 4:15 pm, 8th May 2019

We have had a very good debate with some excellent contributions from the Back Benches. Like other hon. Members, I wish to declare an interest at the outset, which is that although I do not qualify for the concession myself—a fact that is well known by the former Secretary of State, Mr Whittingdale, as we share a birthday, having been born on the same date in the same year—my mother does. Like the parents of other hon. Members, she is, with her free television licence in hand, a keen follower of the BBC Parliament channel. Like others, she could perhaps afford to pay for her television licence, but she is a miner’s daughter who left school at 14 and worked hard in a factory all her life. It is the sort of concession that is extremely important to someone living on their own at that age. As other hon. Members have pointed out, it can be very lonely for those people. We should bear it in mind that there will probably be many people taking an interest in our proceedings today—I am told that there are often dozens watching the BBC Parliament channel—including many from the over-75 bracket.

We have had some excellent speeches today, including that of the right hon. Member for Maldon, the former Secretary of State. I thought he tried to give the impression that the BBC was delighted with the deal that was struck back in 2015, even though it has been described by others as a hospital pass. I am afraid that nobody really believes that, and deep down, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman does either. He is entitled, I suppose, to believe that ultimately there should not be a licence fee, which is what he said—he felt that it was unsustainable. However, knowing him as I do, if he wanted that to happen he would probably believe that it should have been in his party’s manifesto, and that it should have been consulted on, because it would be a major change in Government policy. Similarly on this—the potential ending of the free concession on the TV licence for the over-75s—it should have been in the manifesto if the intention was to end the free television licence concession, rather than pretending in the manifesto that it will be maintained rather than outsourced to the BBC.