SNP slams the Tories for 'passing the buck' on free TV licences

11 October 2019, 00:01

Plans to scrap TV licences for over-75s caused fury earlier in the year
Plans to scrap TV licences for over-75s caused fury earlier in the year. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Scottish National Party said it was "shameful" of the Conservatives to pass the responsibility for free TV licences on to a public broadcaster.

Today's report, published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, criticised the UK government for trying to force the BBC into accepting a deal that meant it would have to "administer welfare benefits."

It also called for free TV licences to be reinstated to people over the age of 75 who do not receive pension credit.

The BBC sparked furious backlash earlier this year after it decided to scrap free TV licences for the over-75s next June.

In 2015, the government passed the cost of providing free TV licences for pensioners to the BBC.

SNP MP and DCMS committee member Brendan O'Hara was critical of the way the Conservatives handled the 2015 negotiations that led to the BBC making decisions over welfare payments.

He said: "It was downright shameful of the Tories to pass the responsibility of administering much-needed welfare benefits, such as free tv licenses, on to a public broadcaster, and this report rightly lays that bare.

SNP MP Brendan O'Hara was critical of the Conservatives
SNP MP Brendan O'Hara was critical of the Conservatives. Picture: Parliament

"The report was also right to point out the complete lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations and that the BBC cannot be absolved of responsibility.

"I hope Lord Hall has learned his lesson – don’t do secretive back-stair deals with people you can’t trust."

The investigation found the 2015 negotiations to be "flawed" and did not give licence fee-payers the chance for consultation.

It also stated that the BBC put itself in the "invidious" position of deciding who receives the welfare benefit of a free TV licence and criticised the corporation for a lack of transparency.

Mr O'Hara continued: "The way they handled – or mishandled - the 2015 funding negotiations by not consulting license fee payers and allowing false reassurances to be made to over 75s is further proof that this Tory government is uncaring and incompetent when it comes to looking after our older generation.

"The SNP warned of the danger of transferring this decision to the BBC. The UK government should now atone for their mistake and work with the BBC to find a funding formula to restore free TV licenses for the over 75s – we will not let them off the hook over this broken manifesto commitment."