HC Deb 16 October 1969 vol 788 cc579-80
8. Mr. Bryan

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications when the combined radio and television licence fee is to be increased.

Mr. Stonehouse

On 1st April, 1971.

Mr. Bryan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the Director-General of the B.B.C., the Corporation will be in the red to the tune of £7 million by that date? Will he say why he is postponing the raising of the licence fee until after the next General Election?

Mr. Stonehouse

The B.B.C.'s finances were discussed in great detail with the Chairman and the Director-General of the B.B.C., and the arrangement which I announced on 14th August was made with their full agreement and will certainly meet their financial obligations, including the obligations which I have placed on the B.B.C. regarding local radio developments and music, which it accepts. It must be borne in mind that the total income of the B.B.C. is expected to be well over £500 million in the next five years. Therefore, the amount to which the Director-General referred in the Press release is very small.

Dr. Winstanley

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the Is. concessionary television licence fee for old-age pensioners living in hostels to all old-age pensioners who live alone or in houses exclusively occupied by old-age pensioners, thus removing a very undesirable anomaly?

Mr. Stonehouse

I realise that this is considered to be an anomaly, but if we grant a concession we have to draw the line somewhere. I have looked into this proposal with very great care, but I am satisfied that it would not be reasonable to extend concessions in kind in the way suggested.

Mr. George Jeger

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that this is a great hardship on old-age pensioners living alone who have only their small pension with which to pay all their expenses? If he has any difficulty in identifying these people, the Ministry of Social Services can help him.

Mr. Stonehouse

I repeat that I have gone into this matter with great care, together with my colleagues most directly concerned. The television licence payment is taken into account in the supplementary arrangements made for anybody in need, and I think that that is the best way of dealing with it.