BLAENAU Gwent MP Nick Smith has criticised the Tory Government for making a promise they knew they couldn’t keep, in pledging to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s.
During the 2017 general election the Conservatives made a manifesto pledge to keep TV licences free for the over-75s until 2022.
The Government-funded scheme actually comes to an end in June 2020. It then falls to the BBC to decide whether to keep licences free for the over-75s.
The BBC is currently consulting on the future of the scheme, after which they may decide to pull free licences for the over-75s.
Mr Smith has given his support to an Age UK petition which is calling on the Government to take back responsibility for keeping TV free for the elderly.
The Blaenau Gwent MP also raised the issue via a question to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright in Parliament last Thursday (January 31).
Mr Smith said: “Maintaining free TV licences for the over-75s until 2022 was a Tory manifesto promise, but the Government had already outsourced that responsibility to the BBC. So, why did the Government make a promise that it knew it could not keep?”
Mr Wright MP responded: “As I have set out, we expect the BBC to honour that commitment.
“We made it clear that we expected the BBC to take on responsibility for that concession, and it agreed to do so. That was clear to all in 2015.”
Following the question New Forest West Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said: “With the exception of God’s grace, nothing should be free. It distorts markets and misallocates resources, doesn’t it?”
Speaking afterwards Mr Smith MP said: “The answer I received was poor.
“If it was so clear in 2015 that the BBC would be deciding the future of free TV licences for the elderly, then why did the Conservative Party promise it would keep them in their 2017 manifesto?
“It seems to me that the Conservative government knowingly misled pensioners.
“I also find it disturbing that my question prompted another Tory MP to stand up and growl that ‘nothing should be free’.
“With ‘pensioner poverty’ on the rise, as well as social isolation and loneliness among the elderly, we should be looking after the over-75s, not giving them additional money worries or threatening them with losing access to television.”
The Age UK petition currently has more than 57,000 signatures and can be found at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/…/c…/save-free-tv-for-older-people/