Access to Pension Credit

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:12 pm on 24th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 5:12 pm, 24th July 2019

I will not give way again, because I have a lot of points to cover.

I want to deal with the point that the hon. Lady and other Members made about the state pension age increase. Jack Dromey is married to a former Minister, now Mother of House, Ms Harman, who was in favour of the state pension age in the dim distant past in 1997, when she was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Hon. Members will understand that I am the latest in a long line of Ministers who have continued the policy of successive Governments to increase the state pension age by reason of equality legislation and the increase in life expectancy, which is light years away from the three score years and ten of our grandparents.

Patricia Gibson raised the situation of the Scottish Government in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham; I refer the House to the letter of 22 June 2017 from my opposite number Jeane Freeman to my hon. Friend Richard Harrington, in which she explains the section 26, 28 and 24 powers under the Scotland Act 1998, which provide opportunities for the Scottish Government to intervene should they so choose, particularly in respect of the section 26 discretionary payments.

I now turn to the issue of the BBC. Its decision to limit free TV licences only to those aged 75 and over and in receipt of pension credit is disappointing. We expected it to continue the concession, and we want it to look at other options to help more elderly people who rely on TV to stay connected to the world. The BBC has indicated that it will write to all existing TV licence holders, advising them of how the new policy will work and when they need to act.

The Government look forward to hearing more from the BBC about its detailed plans for communicating and implementing that change. That is clearly a matter for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Government officials continue to engage with the BBC, but it would be wrong not to point out that in 2015, when the decision was made, the director-general at the time stated:

“I think we have a deal here which is a strong deal for the BBC. It gives us financial stability...The government’s decision here to put the cost of the over-75s on us has been more than matched by the deal coming back for the BBC…I think being in control of our income…is a very grown-up response for the BBC and a grown-up response for any organisation”.

The House can draw its own conclusions from what Lord Hall said in 2015 and the consequent decision that it has made. I hope that the BBC will think again once it has reflected on the comments that it made in 2015 and the nature of the pushback that there has been.