HC Deb 18 December 1962 vol 669 cc1074-6
27. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will state the outcome of investigations by the Joint Working Party of the Post Office and British Broadcasting Corporation into licence evasion for radio and television sets; what is the estimated loss of potential annual revenue to the British Broadcasting Corporation and Treasury; and what remedial measures he now proposes for 1963.

Mr. Bevins

The working party has agreed that the most effective answer to licence evasion is a system of inquiry of individual households, conducted by post, followed up as necessary by personal inquiry, and backed by publicity. I have stepped up the scale of these inquiries, and they will be maintained at a high level during 1963. No reliable estimate can be given of the loss of revenue; but it is continually being reduced.

28. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Postmaster-General how many radio and television licences are currently in issue; what are the annual aggregate receipts compared respectively with five and ten years ago; what steps he is taking to prevent licence evasion with car radios; and what consideration he is giving to associating the car radio annual licence with the motor-taxation licence procedure to diminish the extent of evasion and loss of revenue.

Mr. Bevins

At the end of October, 1962, there were just under 3½ million radio licences and nearly 12¼ million television licences in force; annual aggregate receipts (excluding television duty) for the respective financial years were: £14 million for 1951–52; £28 million for 1956–57; and £39 million for 1961–62.

Inquiries about car radios are made as part of the general wireless licence inquiry procedure, and the need for a separate licence is widely publicised.

The suggestion contained in the last part of my hon. Friend's Question has been examined in the past and turned down, partly for administrative reasons, and partly because of the work it would put on local taxation officers. I can, however, see the attraction in this suggestion from the angle of reducing evasion, and I am looking at it afresh.

Mr. Nabarro

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his comprehensive Answers to both these Questions, may I ask whether he would agree that this is a very unsavoury state of affairs today, when several millions of revenue are being lost every year by the evasion of payment of the licence, most largely for radio, and to a lesser extent for television? Would he not agree that the spread in the use of car radio sets itself is a sufficient justification for looking afresh at the system by which the licence fee is paid? Is it not a fact that it is administratively very easy to attach the payment of these radio licences to the registration book for the motor car and, by a distinctive disc on car windscreens, put an end to this wholly odious form of evasion of payment?

Mr. Bevins

I well understand what my hon. Friend has in mind, and I will certainly do all I can, but, in fairness, I must tell the House that one of the obstacles here is that the Ministry of Transport at present has no legal power to compel local taxation offices to do this sort of work, but it does not exclude the possibility of doing it by agreement.

Sir J. Duncan

Would my right hon. Friend refuse to add anything to the front ends of motor cars, because one car which I have noticed has got far too much on it already?

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Though I am not dissatisfied with that Answer, none the less I should like to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible. It is not my car—it is the licences.