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

My hon. Friend accurately describes what is often the modus operandi of this Conservative Government.

The hon. Member for North Devon also said that the BBC had agreed to continue the concession, but that is not true. In the end, the BBC was forced to agree to take on the concession, but with the right to change it. That is the essence of why we are here today—because the BBC is consulting on doing that, and that agreement was made with the Government.

My hon. Friend Janet Daby was one of many Members who pointed out that her mother watched the Parliament channel and was probably watching our proceedings today. I am sure that she would have enjoyed my hon. Friend’s excellent speech, in which she pointed out the importance of the free TV licence concession to older people.

James Cartlidge said that he had not intended to make a speech and was only prompted to do so by his own intervention on the shadow Secretary of State, in which he asked him whether, in principle, a multimillionaire should receive a free TV licence. In response to that, I asked him during his speech whether a multimillionaire should receive free NHS treatment. It is true of any universal benefit that it is available to all; that is the underpinning principle of a universal benefit. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to make the argument that the TV licence should not be a universal benefit to over-75s. I disagree profoundly with that argument, but it is a perfectly respectable one and he is entitled to make it; but he is not entitled to palm that decision off on the BBC. That is the essence of the argument today. Just like the former Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman said that he wants ultimately to abolish the licence fee. Well, if that is what he wants, I hope that he would agree that he should come here as he did today and argue for it, put it in his manifesto, put it to the people at an election and see whether they support his proposal.