Unfortunately, due to Parliamentary commitments I was not able to attend the debate on Wednesday 8th May.
Members of the Government do not, by convention, sign any Early Day Motions, as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code’s rules on collective responsibility. However, as you may be aware, people over the age of 75 are eligible for a free TV licence, which also covers anyone they are living with. It is estimated that the by 2020/21 the cost of continuing the free TV licences will be an estimated £745 million. At the moment, the Government reimburses the BBC for the free TV licences, but funding of the free TV licence will transfer to the BBC from 2020. It then becomes the BBC’s decision whether to continue the concession in its current form.
The Government has made it clear that it wants, and expects, the BBC to continue the concession. The BBC understood the level of commitment required when it agreed to the funding settlement and to take on responsibility for the concession in 2015. Therefore, I will not be signing EDM 2046.
In 2015, I understand the BBC commissioned Frontier Economics to explore the long-term options for funding the over-75's concession. Following the publication of its report last year, the BBC consulted on possible options for the future. This was an important step in order to ensure the BBC is aware of the public’s views on the subject. I look forward to hearing the outcome in due course.