Jacob Rees Mogg accuses BBC of ‘stealing Ovaltine from pensioners’ night-time drink’ after decision to strip over 75s of free TV licences
- Several Conservative MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg have slammed the BBC
- Mr Rees-Mogg blasted the BBC’s decision to take free TV licences for over 75s
- There was also criticism of the BBC for the high salaries given out to its top stars
The BBC is ‘stealing the Ovaltine from pensioners’ night-time drink’, Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed, after the corporation ruled that over-75s have to start paying for the licence fee.
The broadcaster had agreed to take on responsibility for funding over-75s TV licences – which had previously been free – as part of the charter agreement hammered out with the Government in 2015.
However, it has since said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit and will now charge 3.7 million over 75s.
The rule change came into effect in August – though a report earlier this week revealed that only 40 per cent have received letters telling them what they need to do under the new system.
Now, several Conservative MPs, including Mr Rees-Mogg, have hit out the BBC over the move, after the salaries of some of the corporation’s biggest stars were revealed.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has hit out at the BBC for scrapping the free licence fee for over 75s
Responding during business questions, Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons: ‘I do think the BBC has been unfair on pensioners in requiring them to pay the licence fee.
‘The hope was that they would not do this and they are basically stealing the Ovaltine from pensioners’ night-time drink by charging them for this licence fee and they are losing licence payers.
‘They lost a quarter of a million licence payers in the last year as people are voting with their feet.
‘And I think the BBC needs to pay attention to what my honourable friend is saying because, when charging some of the least well-off in our society and giving the money to some of the most well-off in our society, there are people who will rightly question that.’
Mr Rees-Mogg added: ‘I’m not entirely sure why a retired footballer is paid more than Vic Marks, a distinguished Somerset cricketer who regularly appears as an expert summariser on Test Match Special, and I would have thought he would be deserving of much more money than a retired Association Footballer.’
Tory backbencher Sir David Amess (Southend West) said high pay for BBC stars was ‘outrageous and shameful’ given the change.
He added: ‘£1.75 million, £1.3 million, just to mention two – and for what? And yet the BBC has got the audacity now to charge 75-year-olds for the licence fee.
‘These salaries are outrageous and shameful and it’s about time the Government put an end to it.’
The broadcaster had agreed to take on responsibility for funding over-75s TV licences – which had previously been free – as part of the charter agreement hammered out with the Government in 2015. However, it has since said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit
The BBC this week announced that Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker was paid £1.75 million for the year to the end of March, although he has since taken a pay cut.
BBC Radio 2 breakfast show DJ Zoe Ball shot up the list with £1.36 million, making her the highest-paid woman in the top 10.
Tory MP Lee Anderson (Ashfield) said his constituents should be consulted on high pay at the BBC.
He added: ‘The BBC is a fantastic employer – one of their employees recently received a £1 million a year rise paid for by the great British public.
‘However, the residents in Ashfield were not consulted over the pay rise due.
‘Does the Leader of the House agree with me that there should be a debate in this House so the people of our great country can have a choice in whether or not their hard-earned cash should be used to subsidise BBC presenters’ million-pound salaries?’
Mr Rees-Mogg replied: ‘As a public service broadcaster funded by the licence fee – i.e. taxpayers – the BBC has a responsibility to lead the way in promoting equality in the workplace, ensuring overall pay restraint and value for money.
‘And that’s why the Government requested that all BBC staff and talent paid over £150,000 are published.
‘But there is one thing that horrified, appalled and shocked me about the list that came out, and that is the name of Jonathan Agnew did not appear higher up the list.
‘I could not believe that there were people being paid over a million pounds and one of them was not our leading cricket commentator, Aggers himself.
‘This is a great injustice and I hope that somebody will request a backbench business debate to try and put this right. Fairness for Aggers!’