HC Deb 07 June 1972 vol 838 cc423-6
1. Mr. Moate

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what further representations he has now received on the question of concessionary arrangements for radio and television licence fees for retired persons; and what reply he has sent.

11. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will extend the present special television licence facilities, now applicable to retired people of pensionable age living in old persons' homes, to all retired people of pensionable age living in accommodation certified by local authorities or other organisations as being provided solely for such persons.

18. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what recent representations he has received regarding concessionary provisions for radio and television licence fees for retired people; and what replies he has sent.

20. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will now make a statement on the outcome of his consideration of the need to rectify anomalies and inequity in charges for television and radio licences for the elderly.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Sir John Eden)

As I told the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) on 10th May I am looking carefully at the arrangements for the special licence for old persons' homes. However, I would not wish to hold out much hope that there will be a simple solution and it will be some time before the full study is completed.—[Vol. 836, c. 1287.]

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that television is often the main source of comfort and company for many old people who find it increasingly difficult to meet the cost of the television licence fee? Will he do his utmost to persuade his colleagues in the Government that the time has come to stop stressing the obvious difficulties and that they should find a way whereby a concession can be given to those who are genuinely in need?

Sir J. Eden

I agree that for many old people television is a most important form of entertainment and companionship. The fact remains, however, that these are extremely complex matters, and the study which I have in hand will take some time to complete.

Mr. Dempsey

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the most dreadful companion that old folk can possibly have is loneliness? Will he therefore consider doing his utmost to make it possible for old people to enjoy such a television concession? Will he discuss the matter with the Ministers responsible for the social work department who may be able to assist financially?

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir, but I think that the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, the whole House will recognise that there are many old people who can well afford the licence fee for television. I am sure that all Governments have been right in placing the emphasis in this whole matter on providing cash benefits through the normal retirement benefit measures.

Sir G. Nabarro

As there is near unanimity that something ought to be done about this matter, and while recognising that the problem is complex, may I ask my right hon. Friend to recognise that the initiative ought to be with Her Majesty's Government, because the loss of revenue to the BBC, perhaps £25 million a year, could be made good by a parliamentary Vote specifically for this purpose if the House so desired?

Sir J. Eden

That may well be so as my hon. Friend says, but the fact remains that all Governments so far—and the present Government are no exception in this—have believed that the right way to deal with the problems of elderly people is through cash benefits. As my hon. Friend knows, we have been increasing these substantially during our period of office.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us in simple terms what is complex about this?

Sir J. Eden

The complexity is that it involves the whole system of the financing of the BBC. Second, if one gives a benefit in kind in one direction, there may be just as strong claims for benefits in kind in other directions.

Mr. Marten

On the more general question of television licences, will my right hon. Friend reconsider his refusal to grant a rebate on a television licence where the holder of the licence has died? Is he aware that once one has died—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that can arise out of this Question.

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order. Having regard to the complexity, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.