An online petition calling on the Government to resume the management and funding of the concessionary licence scheme passed the 10,000-signature threshold needed to trigger a response. But the Government’s reply was sent back by the Commons Petitions Committee which criticised ministers for failing to properly address the issues raised by the campaign.
A note from the committee says: “The Petitions Committee have considered the Government’s response to this petition.
“They felt that the response did not directly address the request of petition and have therefore written back to the Government to ask them to provide a revised response.”
A committee spokeswoman said: “Where Government responses do not directly address what has been asked for in a petition, the committee will ask for a revised response to ensure the issues raised by petitioners are properly addressed.
“The revised response will be published on the petition’s page once it has been received.”
Activists campaigning for the reintroduction of the free licence scheme have welcomed the move.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: “In the light of the rejected response, the Government can no longer equivocate over the lines of responsibility for this welfare benefit.
“It must say why it cannot or will not take back responsibility for the free licence scheme.
“The over-75s are collateral damage in the war of words between the BBC and Government, and this unsavoury spat must be ended.”
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The BBC had was given responsibility for funding the concession from June 2020 under a deal agreed in 2015 and argued keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million so introduced means-testing.
Only over-75s who receive Pension Credit are now eligible – meaning an estimated 3.7 million have to pay £157.50 a year.
Shadow Media Minister Chris Matheson said: “The Government is doing everything to blame the BBC for making the over-75s pay the TV licence when in fact it was the Tories’ decision.
“The message is clear – stop hiding behind the BBC and take responsibility.
“Everyone knows whose fault this is so stop taking everyone for fools.”
The Government has previously criticised the BBC for means-testing over-75s’ free licences.
But the corporation has said: “The decision to remove free TV licences for the over-75s was taken by the Government, not the BBC.”