THE BBC is “stealing the Ovaltine from pensioners’ night-time drink” because they are charging over 75s the licence fee, according to Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Leader of the House of Commons said the corporation had been “unfair on pensioners” while handing top stars bumper pay packets.
The broadcaster agreed to take on responsibility for funding over-75s TV licences, which had previously been free, but said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit.
Tory backbencher Sir David Amess said high pay for BBC stars was “outrageous and shameful” given the change.
He added: “£1.75million, £1.3million, 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.” Responding, 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.”
The BBC this week announced that Match Of The Day host Gary Lineker was paid £1.75million 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 £1.36million, making her the highest-paid woman in the top 10.
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.” A BBC spokesman said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-75s.
“The BBC Board believes the fairest option is to help the poorest older pensioners.
“Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit.
“Critically, it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty, it is the Government who set and control who is eligible for Pension Credit and what level of payments are made.”
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