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BBC — [Phil Wilson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:34 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Karen Lee Karen Lee Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Fire) 5:34 pm, 15th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson. I will speak briefly on behalf of the 570 people in my constituency who signed the petition calling on the Government to continue funding free TV licences for the over-75s. I mentioned in my intervention that at the weekend we were out as a party collecting signatures, and I imagine we got at least another couple of hundred more.

I am proud that we were in the top 50 constituencies to oppose this unjust and mean-spirited policy. It is totally unacceptable that over 4,400 households in Lincoln could lose their free TV licence under the plans. A recent survey found that 40% of older people say the television is their main source of company, and the Government seem determined to means-test loneliness and isolation. Nationally, it is estimated that over 1.6 million pensioners living alone will lose their free licence in a means-tested system. That is symptomatic of the Government’s whole approach. They should not offload responsibility for funding free TV licences on to the BBC. In fact, it seems that whatever question we ask in the Chamber, the responsibility is always pushed to somebody else.

It is particularly worrying that a further 1.3 million poorer over-75s who are eligible for pension credit but do not claim it are projected to lose their TV licence. That is one reason I will launch a campaign in Lincoln to end the pension credit scandal. More than 1 million pensioners in the UK do not get the pension credit they are entitled to. Those people generally have worked all their lives—they should get those benefits. My campaign will seek to raise awareness and offer support to those who are missing out on that crucial support.

I am aware that many hon. Members still want to speak, and we are all speaking along the same lines, so let me end by saying that it is typical of this Government to choose to cut taxes for corporations and the highest earners, while targeting their spending cuts on vulnerable older people who are struggling to make ends meet. That is morally wrong.