Support Age UK’s Switched Off campaign and demand that the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences

334

MORE than half of MPs have claimed a free TV licence with the taxpayer footing the bill while 3.7million pensioners are being forced into paying the fee.

It has emerged that 320 members of parliament have claimed £154.50 for a TV licence for their second home or constituency.

 Protesters at the National Pensioners Convention in Blackpool protesting against the BBC's decision
Protesters at the National Pensioners Convention in Blackpool protesting against the BBC’s decision

The MPs’ bill, which taxpayers have been forced to pay, has reached £323,104 since 2010, according to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

One claimant is Jeremy Wright, the Culture Secretary, who was reimbursed for a licence for his London flat until 2015, reports The Times.

He has claimed another for his constituency office in Kenilworth, near Coventry, since 2016.

Mr Wright this month slammed the BBC after it announced plans to axe free licences for over-75s, except for the poorest pensioners.

Campaign groups said it was unfair that he and other MPs, paid at least £79,468, continue to enjoy the perk.

TAXPAYERS FOOTING THE BILL

George McNamara, of the charity Independent Age, said: “Pensioners will see this as extremely insulting. It seems there’s one rule for the MPs and another for them.”

MPs are allowed to claim for a TV licence in their constituency office, according to Ipsa, and were eligible to claim for one for their second home until 2016.

More than 700,000 people have signed petitions calling on the Government to protect free TV licences for over-75s.

The end of the universal free TV licence for the over-75s is a breach of the 2017 Tory election manifesto but the current Government is powerless to step in because it handed over responsibility for funding the TV licence fee to the BBC in 2017 as part of its new charter.

 Support Age UK’s Switched Off campaign and demand that the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences
Support Age UK’s Switched Off campaign and demand that the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences

But Matt Hancock, a former Culture Secretary, said the BBC should reverse the decision by slashing costs elsewhere in the organisation.

He also said he would conduct a radical overhaul of the way the BBC is run so it is fit for the digital age.

Mr Hancock said: “They should live within their means. The bigger question is what the BBC will do to fund itself in the digital age where in a decade’s time it won’t be clear what a “TV” is anymore.”

An unprecedented number of letters were sent in to The Sun following the BBC’s announcement that it would start means-testing for the giveaway from June 1 2020.

Furious pensioners registered their backing for our campaign to reverse the BBC decision.

Many branded the concept of a licence fee as “outdated” in a world of digital streaming.

Others said it was immoral for BBC boss Tony Hall to penalise pensioners when he was paying sky-high salaries to presenters such as Gary Lineker and Graham Norton.