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 also know what actually happened in relation to the free television licence concession. Basically, as I will say later in my remarks, the BBC hierarchy were taken into a darkened room, rubber hoses were taken out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a punishment beating was administered, and they came out making the hostage statement that had been prepared for them, which was that they were delighted with the outcome of these negotiations. I note that the right hon. Gentleman laughs at that, so perhaps my description is not as far-fetched as it might sound.

My hon. Friend Ms Rimmer pointed out that she could make the shortest speech on parliamentary record if the Government would simply honour their manifesto. We could have done without having this debate today. We would not have needed to be here at all if the Government had actually made real the words of their 2017 manifesto. Instead, as she said, they have used this smoke and mirrors approach to avoid their real responsibilities.

Peter Heaton-Jones, who is unfortunately not in his place at the moment, worked for the BBC for many years and often participates in our discussions about the BBC. He said that the 2015 deal with the BBC represented, from the BBC’s point of view,

“all their Christmases come at once”.

Well, I do not think that it was actually the intention of the former Secretary of State that the BBC should walk away from that negotiation thinking that all its Christmases had come at once; in conjunction with the former Chancellor, it was quite the opposite. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the deal on the funding for the future of the BBC, it was wrong in principle to pass on responsibility for this social policy to the unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic BBC.