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As much as they try, Tory Ministers cannot wash their hands of this terrible decision. A Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, proposed handing responsibility for the licence fee concession to the BBC as part of a disastrous charter for the BBC. The Government knew exactly what they were doing and they knew that this would be the result.
Ms McVey has made the matter a Tory leadership issue, even if I have more chance of scoring the winner tonight in Belgium than she has of becoming Prime Minister. Every single Tory leadership candidate must answer the question: “Will you bring the TV licence fee concession back to the Government?” That is the only way pensioners will avoid losing out—some 300,000 in Scotland; 3,000 in Airdrie and Shotts. Age Scotland reckons that 76,000 pensioners in Scotland do not claim pension credit even though they are entitled to it.
In the light of that decision, what consideration has the Minister made of funding the BBC to reverse it? How does this decision square with the 2017 Tory party manifesto commitment that helped to elect the Minister, which promised to, and I quote from page 66,
“maintain” pensioner benefits,
“including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this Parliament”.
The Tories promised pensioners that their free TV licences would remain. They must honour that promise.