On 8 May 2019, the House debated a motion calling on the Government to guarantee the maintenance of free TV licences for over-75s beyond 2020.
The concession which was debated by the House, was introduced in 2000, and allows every person over the age of 75 in the United Kingdom access to a free TV licence. The concession was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions in full between 2000 and 2017.
In the 2015 funding settlement, the Government agreed with the BBC that Government funding for the concession would be phased out between 2018 and 2020, with control of the concession passing to the BBC from June 2020. The Government and the BBC agreed this was a fair deal for the BBC; in return, the Government committed to close the iPlayer loophole and committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, among other measures. The Government are clear that the future of the concession from June 2020 is the responsibility of the BBC.
Parliament made this decision and legislated to put it into effect. Transferring responsibility for the concession was debated extensively during the passage of the Digital Economy Act 2017, which was agreed by Parliament.
The BBC announced on 10 June 2019 that from June 2020 only those who are over 75 and in receipt of pension credit would continue to receive a free TV licence.
The Government are disappointed that the BBC will not protect free television licences for all viewers aged 75 and over. We recognise that television is a vital link to people of all ages, but particularly so for older people who value television as a way to stay connected with the world. That is why we have guaranteed the over-75 concession until June 2020 and that is why we believe that the BBC can do more to support older people, and why we have asked them to do so.
The debate was an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of the BBC to every licence fee payer in the UK. The BBC is one of the UK’s most treasured institutions and is part of the social and economic fabric of the country. It is a world-class broadcaster and a cultural institution producing some of the best television and radio in the world.