Nick Smith MP has spoken out on behalf of older people in Blaenau Gwent as the Government prepares to hand over responsibility for funding free TV licences for the over-75s to the BBC.
The charity Age UK estimates that more than 50,000 over-75s across the UK could be pushed into poverty if the free TV licence is scrapped, as many of those on a low income are forced to cut back on essentials such as heating and food to meet this new expense.
The Government maintains that it fully expects the BBC to continue funding this concession. However, it does so in the full knowledge that this would mean the broadcaster taking a big financial hit and finding itself in the position of effectively being in control of a welfare benefit.
In the Opposition Day Debate on TV licences last Wednesday (May 8), Nick Smith MP said that the Government “needs to stop passing the buck, needs to honour their promises and keep TV licences free for our over-75s.”
He said: “Four in 10 older people say that their TV is their main source of company” adding that Age UK has said that cutting their access to it would be an “unthinkably cruel blow.”
Calls to keep the licence free for over-75s were supported by the motion passed at the end of the debate demanding that the Government funds free TV licences for the over-75s for the duration of this Parliament.
If the Government fails to meet this demand, Age UK figures show that 6,031 people in Blaenau Gwent will be affected, with over-75s making up 9% of Blaenau Gwent’s population.
Mr Smith MP said: “Four in 10 older people rely on TV as their main form of company, according to Age UK. This is being threatened by the loss of free TV licences.
“This Government broke its promise to keep free TV licences until 2022, and thousands of elderly people in Blaenau Gwent – and millions across the UK – could lose out.
“It is vital that the Tory Government steps up and fulfils the promises the party made in its 2017 manifesto.”