HC Deb 18 December 1963 vol 686 cc1224-5
24. Mr. Fitch

asked the Postmaster-General if, with a view to preventing licence evasion, he will introduce legislation to compel all retailers of wireless and television sets to report each sale or rental to the Post Office authorities.

Mr. Bevins

No, Sir. Any advantage that might be gained from such a measure would be outweighed by practical difficulties and by increased costs.

Mr. Fitch

Can the Postmaster-General say how much money was spent by his Department in the last financial year in attempting to detect non-licence holders?

Mr. Bevins

Not without notice, but it is quite a substantial amount. I must add that, if we were to do as the Question suggests, it would impose a very heavy burden on the radio industry, and an even larger one on the Post Office. The biggest practical difficulty inherent in this suggestion is that most people who purchase or hire new sets at present are already licensed in respect of old sets.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Has my right hon. friend made any effort to find out how much income has been lost to the B.B.C. in this way and has he made any calculation of the effect that this proposal would have in increasing the B.B.C.'s revenue?

Mr. Bevins

No doubt it would have some effect in increasing the B.B.C.'s revenue, but it would also have the converse effect of increasing the expenditure of the Post Office on administration. That, in turn, would react against the B.B.C. Our present measures to prevent evasion are proving very successful. In the first ten months of this year, about 300,000 people took out new licences for the first time.

Mr. Swingler

What sample research has the Post Office done into the so-called practical difficulties of implementing this proposal? Is he aware that most people who have considered this matter cannot see why there is any difficulty in enforcing this very simple rule, which would save the right hon. Gentleman's Department considerable detection difficulties?

Mr. Bevins

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not think he has considered all the complications which would arise. If we were to do this, we should have, first, to place an obligation on all the radio dealers in the trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Obviously. Substantial costs would clearly be incurred in making sure that that radio dealers met their obligations and in checking against licence records the information supplied by the dealers. Most of this work would be abortive because most people already have licences.