TV Licences for over-75S

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 8th May 2019.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:32 pm, 8th May 2019

I am saying that we do not have the result yet. The BBC has not made a decision, so conjecture about what the BBC may or may not decide is just that—pure conjecture. The BBC is due to decide in June, and we will wait to see what it has to say.

Hon. Members have spoken about the importance of the licence fee concession in helping older people who experience loneliness, and I recognise that. The Government take loneliness very seriously, and we recognise that it affects a number of older people. That is why we have taken action. The Government’s loneliness strategy, which was launched by the Prime Minister late last year, is the first such strategy; it is this Government who are acting. As part of the strategy, the Government have committed to a range of policies to help to tackle one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. In my Department alone, for example, the Government have committed to maximising the power of digital tools to connect people, particularly concentrating on digital inclusion for older people and disabled adults. We have also committed to embedding tackling loneliness in our new £400,000 digital inclusion innovation fund, which was launched in September 2018.

We await the BBC’s decision on the licence fee concession, and it is right and proper that it has total independence in making that decision. For the reasons I have given, the Government remain committed to and respect the BBC as one of the essential institutions of this country.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
calls on the Government to honour the Conservative party’s 2017 manifesto promise to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s for the duration of this Parliament by ensuring sufficient funding to do so and, should the BBC propose changes to the concession, to ensure that the proposed changes are subject to parliamentary consent.