LICENCE TO KILL.
Pressure on PM to honour manifesto.
12 Oct 2019
BY MIKEY SMITH Political Correspondent.
LABOUR is piling pressure on Boris Johnson to save free TV licences for over-75s in Monday’s Queen’s Speech.
Deputy leader Tom Watson has urged ministers to keep their manifesto pledge to pick up the bill for the lifeline £154.50-a-year benefit – and “right this wrong at last”.
In a letter to Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, he said refusing to fund it meant “millions of the oldest in society will have to choose between being worse off or being cut off from the wider world”.
It comes after a committee of MPs urged the BBC to cut a deal with ministers to restore the benefit.
As things stand, free licences will be means tested from next year and 3.7 million pensioners face losing them. The Mirror is campaigning to save the benefit, which the BBC says will cost it £745million a year.
But former culture minister Ed Vaizey said yesterday: “I think the BBC actually has the right policy.
“I think a free TV licence for everyone over 75 is probably the wrong policy. But I do agree with the select committee, that if it is the Government’s view that there should be a free TV licence for over-75s, the Government should partner with the BBC and help fund that cost.”
In his letter, Mr Watson adds: “For those housebound or entirely on their own, television is a lifeline.
“Four in 10 older people say television is their main source of Labour’s Watson company. Taking that away from vulnerable people at the time of a national loneliness epidemic is unthinkable. You cannot means test for social isolation.”