Pensioners pleading for the return of free TV licences are given new hope this week as a peer bids to change the law and restore the benefit.
Labour’s Lord George Foulkes will introduce a Private Member’s Bill which would force the Government to take back responsibility for funding the over-75s’ concession.
The peer, who chairs Parliament’s cross-party group on ageing and older people, said: “The Bill is due for presentation on Wednesday.
“It is a very simple one-clause, one-purpose Bill to restore the responsibility for free TV licences for over-75s to the Government.
“This will give them a chance to right a wrong, to honour their manifesto commitment and to end misery for many lonely older people.
“I have been getting heartfelt pleas and strong support from people who have read about the Bill.”
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “Boris Johnson needs to stop dithering over the free TV licence scheme and take back control from the BBC.
“The Conservative Party in the Lords should throw its weight behind Lord Foulkes’ Bill to put pressure on the PM.
“There is an impasse over the scrapping of the free licence that needs breaking.
“This situation is unsustainable and this welfare benefit must be restored.
“There would be widespread political support for a Government U-turn on this cruel policy and we will be happy to discuss solutions with the Department of Culture.”
The Tories pledged at the 2017 election to maintain over-75s’ free licences for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run for five years.
But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the concession from June 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.
The corporation introduced means-testing after warning that keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.
Only over-75s who receive Pension Credit are now eligible – with an estimated 3.7 million having to pay. The BBC and Government are locked in an ongoing blame game, with ministers saying the broadcaster “agreed to take on responsibility for the over-75s”.
But the corporation insists: “The decision to remove free TV licences for the over-75s was taken by the Government, not the BBC.”
The Mirror campaigned to save free TV licences, with more than 18,000 readers backing the fight by completing coupons in the paper.
Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said: “The Tories broke a clear promise to older people.
“It is a complete betrayal to deprive them of their free licence – especially at a time when so many over-75s have relied on the TV for company and information.”