Taking free TV from over-75s is “state cruelty”

Labour will use an opposition day motion in the Commons today to highlight its support of free TV licenses for over-75s – a policy that the government is expected to drop.

The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised: “We will maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament.”

But the government-funded scheme that currently finances license fees for over-75s is due to end next year, which means it would start to come out of the BBC budget.

The pensioner benefit, introduced by Labour in 2000, is therefore expected to be scrapped or replaced with a concession under the current government.

If the benefit isn’t withdrawn entirely, the BBC could raise the age of eligibility or apply a means test. Yet Labour argues that those reforms don’t take into account the isolation experienced by older people.

New stats produced by Age UK show that nearly half of over-75s don’t live with a partner, 70% suffer from an illness that restricts their activities and nearly 10% go a week without seeing or speaking to friends or family.

Labour is expected use the parliamentary debate to draw attention to the recent analysis, which reveals that older people more likely to feel isolated and lonely, with four in 10 who say TV is their main source of company.

Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader and spokesman on digital, culture, media and sport, said: “Today Tory MPs have a choice: to honour the manifesto they stood on in 2017 or to disregard it, along with the trust of millions of older people.

“These new figures show just how isolated and lonely many over-75s can be. It would be a terrible act of state cruelty to take free TV away from these vulnerable people.”

Labour’s motion will call on the government to “‘honour its manifesto promise to older people and maintain free TV licences for the over 75s for the duration of this parliament”.

 

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