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I absolutely agree, and I echo the comments from my hon. Friend Helen Jones about our D-day veterans. I am proud that my grandfather was a D-day veteran from Southsea. I got into politics because towards the end of his life he needed services that, because of austerity, were not there for him. This change will affect so many people in our society.
Offering a free TV licence only to those in receipt of pension credit is an ill thought through plan that leaves the door open to injustice. We know that about 1.3 million over-75s are eligible for pension credit but do not or cannot claim it. When I met Age UK in Parliament to discuss that, it said that many older people struggle to self-validate that they are in receipt of pension credit, however straightforward the process is, because they are living with some loss of cognitive function or chronic illness. Therefore, those who are most vulnerable are set to lose the most.
This policy change means that at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners face a new annual bill that they cannot afford. What does the Minister have to say about that silent segment of vulnerable pensioners who have fallen through the cracks in our welfare system and now face further financial turmoil because of a poorly thought through Government policy?
In response to my countless letters and numerous written questions, including a joint letter I wrote with the Portsmouth Pensioners Association to the Prime Minister, I have consistently been told that this decision was made by the BBC. Since when did a broadcasting organisation begin administering welfare? Will Marks & Spencer or Tesco be responsible for delivering universal credit? Should we expect National Express to begin dishing out free bus passes for the over-75s? As a colleague said, the BBC is not the Department for Work and Pensions. Any attempt made by the Government to palm off responsibility is cowardly, unconvincing and spineless.
Make no mistake: this is a Government decision. It is up to us to be the voice of our constituents, and my constituents have spoken. The TV licence must remain free for the over-75s.