THE SNP have slammed both the Tories and the BBC over handling of negotiations on the TV licence fee for over-75s.

In a new report, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee criticises the UK Government for seeking to "bounce" the BBC into accepting a deal that exposed it to "administering welfare benefits”.

MPs have recommended Downing Street and the BBC co-operate to restore free TV licences for over 75s.

The report finds that the 2015 "flawed" funding negotiations gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee-payers and that the BBC put itself in the "invidious" position as administrator of benefits.

SNP MP and DCMS committee member Brendan O’Hara said: “It was downright shameful of the Tories to pass the responsibility of administering much-needed welfare benefits, such as free TV licences, on to a public broadcaster, and this report rightly lays that bare.”

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The report also criticised BBC director-general Lord Hall, finding that he should have sought the “formal agreement” of the now defunct Executive Board before recommending arrangements for the TV licences to the BBC Trust.

O’Hara added: “The report was also right to point out the complete lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations and that the BBC cannot be absolved of responsibility. I hope Lord Hall has learned his lesson – don’t do secretive back-stair deals with people you can’t trust.

“The way they handled – or mishandled - the 2015 funding negotiations by not consulting licence fee payers and allowing false reassurances to be made to over 75s is further proof that this Tory government is uncaring and incompetent when it comes to looking after our older generation.

“The SNP warned of the danger of transferring this decision to the BBC. The UK Government should now atone for their mistake and work with the BBC to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over-75s – we will not let them off the hook over this broken manifesto commitment.”

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The BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding the TV licence scheme as part of the charter agreement hammered out in 2015.

While the BBC complained about the Government approach, MPs "found little evidence of transparency in the corporation's decision-making either".

It was a "flawed process on all sides that gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee payers," their report said.

MPs stated that "the criticism that funding negotiations should not have happened 'behind closed doors' applies as much to the BBC as it does to the Government".

They said minutes for the meetings should have been properly recorded but are incomplete.

The BBC could have acted earlier to communicate the likelihood that they would not be able to fund a full licence fee concession for people over 75 from 2020, the report stated.

But it was wrong of the then government to seek "to 'bounce' the BBC into accepting a deal".

More generally, the MPs' report criticises "poor management, leadership and governance at the BBC".

It said the problems surrounding the use of Personal Service Companies – its arrangements with its freelancers, including presenters – may have arisen from poor management.

"Future issues may emerge as a result of the same management and governance approach," the report said.

On the gender pay gap, the MPs found "there is still a long way to go at the BBC", even though the broadcaster is continuing to take steps to resolve the issues.