Ogmore MP Chris Elmore has blasted the UK Government for misleading pensioners as to the true reason why people over the age of 75 will soon lose their entitlement to a free TV licence.
From next month, the BBC has said that it will be unable to continue funding the provision which was first introduced in 2001 by the then-Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown. This follows the Conservative Government’s decision to hand over responsibility for funding the free licences to the BBC in 2015. After this agreement had been reached, the Conservatives pledged to protect free TV licences for the over 75s in its 2017 General Election manifesto, in the full knowledge that the BBC would assume responsibility for the payments in 2020. Speaking following an Urgent Question on the issue, Chris called on ministers to do much more to reach out to those who may still be able to a free licence under the new rules.
Chris has campaigned repeatedly on this injustice and has called on the UK Government to promote Pension Credit to those who are eligible to claim it because those in receipt of the benefit will be able to continue having their licence fee waived. Around 4 million people are thought to be eligible to claim Pension Credit, yet last year the charity, Independent Age, found that approximately a third of this figure were doing so.
In July 2019, the Ogmore MP led a debate in Parliament on the issue, where he called on UK Government Ministers to take firm action to “ensure that older people receive the money that they are legally entitled to”. It is not clear that the Department for Work and Pensions has made any progress in extending the provision of Pension Credit to those who are not currently claiming it since then.
Speaking after the Urgent Question, Chris Elmore MP said:
“It’s extremely disappointing, yet unsurprising, that the Conservatives are seeking to rewrite history when it comes to the provision of free TV licences for the over 75s. Way back in 2015, the UK Government backed the BBC into a corner during its charter renewal negotiations and shifted the responsibility for funding this welfare policy onto the corporation.
“In 2017, the Tories pledged in their manifesto that they would protect free TV licences for the over 75s and are now feigning ignorance in the face of the BBC being unable to afford this policy.
“UK Government Ministers should start being honest with the British people and admit that their decisions will lead to some pensioners being further pushed into poverty at an already precarious time for many. There are over 1 million pensioners not currently claiming the Pension Credit they’re entitled to and they will now face an annual licence fee bill. This cannot be allowed to stand.”