Slough MP Tan Dhesi writes to Observer readers:

In Parliament, Labour has been calling for the Government to take back responsibility for maintaining TV licences for people over the age of 75.

As it stands, millions of older people could lose their free TV. This is an important benefit for many elderly constituents in Slough.

The free TV licence was introduced in 2000 in recognition that the licence fee could be a source of concern for many people over the age of 75. It’s a crucial benefit for pensioners, who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation.

However, in 2015 - as part of the BBC's Charter renewal - the Tory Government shifted the cost of these licences to the BBC (from 2020), without giving them the actual funding to continue free licences.

I’ve always opposed this outsourcing of social policy.

The BBC duly launched a consultation on whether to scrap free licences completely, halve the concession, raise the age threshold, or means test them.

A final decision is expected this month, but I’m not very hopeful.

If TV licences are ended or means-tested, millions of older people, almost half of whom consider television their main source of company, will have to pay to keep the little company they do have.

I’m alarmed by Age UK's analysis, showing that scrapping the free licence could push 50,000 more pensioners below the poverty line.

Taking free licences away would also leave many older people feeling isolated and alone.

The Government was elected on a manifesto which promised to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s throughout this Parliament - that is, until 2022.

The Tories have now passed the buck and insist it’s a matter for the BBC, but I believe the Government must take responsibility.

MPs and campaigners have made it clear that scrapping free TV licences would be a betrayal of our older citizens, who deserve dignity in retirement and reward for their hard work.

Labour has pushed this issue in the House of Commons to try and force the Tory Government to act.

I will continue to press the Government to keep its solemn promise of funding free TV licences for the over-75s.