More than a million of the poorest pensioners aged 75 and over are in danger of missing out on their entitlement to a free TV licence, Daisy Cooper MP has warned during a debate in parliament.
The concession, which was kept in place by the BBC for all over-75s during lockdown, comes to an end on 1 August – except for those claiming pension credit.
“Two-fifths of people who are entitled to the benefit – about 1.2 million pensioners – are not receiving it,” the MP for St Albans told the House.
“Some do not know how to claim, many struggle to apply and others feel embarrassed about requiring help. Is the BBC really to become a de facto arm of the Department for Work and Pensions?”
BBC should not be making decisions on welfare
Daisy, who is the Liberal Democrats spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, was lead speaker in a debate called in response to an urgent question she tabled to the minister.
“The BBC licence fee exists to give the BBC protection from political interference. The BBC should not be making decisions on welfare. That is the role of the Government,” she said.
Responsibility for funding free TV licences for all over-75s was passed by the Government to the BBC as part its funding settlement with the broadcaster in 2015.
Hundreds of job losses and programming cuts
“The Government should never have asked the BBC to take that on, and the BBC should never have accepted it. Continuing with the licence fee scheme for the over-75s would have cost £745 million – a fifth of the BBC’s budget,” Daisy told the House.
To meet that cost without Government funding, the BBC would have had to close BBC2, BBC4, the BBC News channel, BBC Scotland, Radio 5 Live and local radio stations, she said.
“As it happens, the means-tested scheme will still cost the BBC about £250 million, and to help meet that cost it has recently announced hundreds of job losses and programming cuts.
“Let us be absolutely clear about how we have ended up here. It was the Conservative Government who took the decision in 2015 to stop funding for free licences, and it was the Conservative Government who forced responsibility on to the BBC board to make the decision on the future of the concession.”