A TORY minister has been lambasted for his “stunning” response to concerns about elderly people being unable to afford to watch television.

John Whittingdale – Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister – said those that will be priced out by changes to licences fee can listen to the radio instead.

From August 1, BBC TV licences will not be free for all of those aged over 75, with three million households in the UK now facing a £157.50 charge.

The issue was raised during a debate in the Commons by SNP MP Owen Thompson.

He pointed out that Age UK research has shown many older people on low incomes in the UK will be unable to afford to watch TV once the changes are implemented.

The SNP MP said: “Given TV news is the only source of information for some older people, particularly during the current pandemic, what would the minister propose is an alternative way of getting this vital information to those who will no longer be able to afford to watch the telly?”

Whittingdale replied: “I very much hope that those on low income will take up pension credit and so be able to continue to watch television.”

READ MORE: BBC goes ahead with plan to end free TV licence for most over-75s

He then added: “But of course there are other means, I mean if they are anxious to obtain information then they can listen to any number of BBC radio channels and you do not require to need a TV licence.”

The minister’s comments were condemned by SNP members.

Thompson tweeted afterwards: “Even by the standards of this Government I was surprised by how poor an answer that was.”

Ian Blackford added: “This is just stunning. The response should be the Govt will accept its responsibilities and re-instate the over 75's rights to watch TV without penalty.”

The free TV licence was introduced in 2000, but the BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding the scheme as part of the charter agreement reached with the UK Government in 2015.

The broadcaster, which faces increased competition from streaming giants, says it cannot afford to take on the financial burden from the Government.