Evening Times: BBC licence fee agreement 'little more than blackmail'

Plans to make the BBC cover the cost of free TV licences for the over-75s amount to "little more than blackmail", Labour has said.

The Government has struck a deal with the corporation which is estimated to cost £700 million a year.

Shadow culture minister Kevin Brennan said the move amounts to "pass the policy parcel" and he is proposing an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill effectively reversing the planned changes.

He told the Commons: "The continuation of free TV licences for over-75s was a promise that was made in the Conservative Party's manifesto, a manifesto which many over-75s voted for in good faith.

"And now, just 16 months later, the Government is legislating to do away with that pledge in all but name on the pretence that it should now be for the BBC to decide who gets a free television licence."

He said the manifesto was unequivocal in saying it would maintain the pensioner benefit, adding: "It said maintain, not pass the policy parcel, which is what the Government is doing.

"They are legislating to hand over responsibility to a body which will not be able to afford to maintain that entitlement."

Mr Brennan added: "It's a broken promise, that's what it is, masquerading as an administrative change."

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