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BBC — [Phil Wilson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:36 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 5:36 pm, 15th July 2019

The hon. Gentleman, who I know worked for the BBC, makes a good point. I agree that the BBC is a public good, but there are other public goods that one can think of where we require people to pay or we means-test them.

I have a fundamental issue with it. I am sorry to use these words, but I think it was an election bribe. Once something is given for free, it is difficult to ask people to start paying for it. I recognise that challenge. I ask all right hon. and hon. Members to consider this: if this is always going to be a cost, and we have to make decisions, then should the welfare state be providing something for people who can readily afford it, so that we are unable to spend more on those who really are at the borderline? I say that not to get electoral gain; I represent a constituency that has the second highest proportion of over-75s in the country, so I commit electoral suicide. It is important that we address this; if we do not, we will find that other decisions will be made or will not be reviewed. I am particularly worried about inter-generational fairness; people are missing out because we preserve benefits for people on the basis of age rather than means.

My last point is to the Minister. She is an excellent Minister and she has inherited this package, if I can call it that, from predecessors in the Treasury. I believe that we need to look at this again. It is a big challenge. We made a commitment in our manifesto that we should stick by it. As for the future—and that gives us time to think about the future—I would like us to address whether it is affordable to give people a benefit that they would be able to pay for themselves.