Tories under fire over threat to end free TV licences for over 75s

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The SNP has said Tory cuts are leaving older people poorer – as the party criticised UK government plans that threaten to end free TV licences for over-75s.

Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Patricia Gibson MP said the Tories risked breaking their manifesto commitment to maintain free TV licences for the duration of the parliament – and were increasing pensioner poverty by failing to protect older people’s incomes and benefits.

The SNP Consumer Affairs spokesperson called on the UK government to ensure the free TV licence is fully funded, and can continue to benefit around 4.5 million households across Scotland and the UK.

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Commenting, Patricia Gibson MP said: “Tory cuts are leaving millions of older people worse off – and scrapping the free TV licence for over-75s would be another harmful blow at a time when pensioner poverty is on the rise.

“After years of damaging Tory austerity, and squeezed living standards due to Brexit, the last thing older people need is another financial burden from Westminster.

“It is time this Tory government finally made the welfare of our older population a priority – instead of making things even worse by taking away key benefits, presiding over the lowest state pension of any developed country, and denying women born in the 1950s pension justice.

“With Westminster failing Scotland and harming the interest of older people, its clear the only way to properly protect our interests and tackle pensioner poverty is with the full powers of independence.”

Ricky Tomlinson, who is perhaps best known for playing Jim Royle in BBC comedy The Royle Family, has given his support to an AGE UK campaign, which aims to save free TV for older people in the UK.

“I’m backing Age UK’s Switched Off campaign because I’m outraged that free TV licences for over-75s are under threat”, he said.

“TV means the world to so many older people, especially those who are disabled and those who can’t get out and about like they used to.”

“It is the only form of companionship for many who are lonely”, he added.

Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said: “Today the House of Commons expressed unopposed its belief that the government must stand by its manifesto pledge to protect free TV licences for over-75s.

“Members of Parliament and campaigners have made it clear that scrapping free TV licences is a betrayal of our older citizens, and this government must listen.

“For many, television is a lifeline to the outside world. Four hundred thousand people over 75 years old go a week without seeing or speaking to friends or family.

“Scrapping free TV licences will push more pensioners into poverty and leave many of our oldest citizens completely on their own.

“This Tory government should end the obfuscation and take responsibility; it’s time to put an end to this latest austerity measure and preserve the free TV licences promised to our pensioners.”