HC Deb 25 April 1968 vol 763 cc470-1
10. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Postmaster-General how many colour television supplemental licences are currently in issue; what estimate he has made of the number in issue in 1970 and 1972; and, having regard to the growth potential, what steps he is taking to rationalise the colour television licence with black and white television and radio, in a single uniform annual charge; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Mason

At the end of March 1968, 20,400 colour television licences, which of course also authorise the use of black and white television and of sound radio, had been issued. Estimates made by industry of set sales suggest that this figure might grow to 625,000 by the end of 1970 and about one and a half million by the end of 1972. I would not wish to prejudge the issue but prima facie these figures do not suggest that the proportion of viewers with colour sets will be sufficiently large to justify abolishing the differential licence fee.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is confusing, discriminatory and undesirable to have this duality of licence fee as between black and white on the one hand and colour on the other? Would he consider, at any rate in principle, consolidating the position at an early date, perhaps within 18 months?

Mr. Mason

The hon. Gentleman has planted a thought in our minds, but perhaps it is a somewhat earlier thought than might have been suggested. I think that the licence differential between monochrome and colour will have to be considered. It will have to be done at some time in the future.

Mr. Mawby

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people in various parts of the country believe that the principle of differential charges should be extended rather than reduced because of the differences in reception? Will he bear that in mind?

Mr. Mason

That is an indication of how easily the House, and particularly hon. Gentlemen opposite, could be divided on this issue.

Mr. Dobson

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems in this case is that rather than have a licence differential between colour and monochrome he should be stimulating the manufacture of colour television sets in larger numbers in an effort to keep down the cost of these sets?

Mr. Mason

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Bryan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he does not at some time discontinue this differential licensing arrangement we shall gradually drift into a position in which a £10 licence will become general as colour television becomes more general?

Mr. Mason

I am aware of that.

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