HC Deb 29 November 1972 vol 847 cc399-402
6. Mr. O'Halloran

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will seek to meet representatives of the National Federation of Old Age Pensioners Associations as part of his examination of the question of concessionary television licences.

Sir J. Eden

The views of the federation on the question of concessionary television licences for retirement pensioners are already well known to me.

Mr. O'Halloran

In view of the injustices which still exist in our society, is the Minister aware of the desirability of granting concessionary television licences to pensioners in receipt of supplementary benefits?

Sir J. Eden

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. As he knows, I have said on a previous occasion that I am looking into the whole of this question.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend concede that he and his predecessor have both given us the somewhat trite reply that the matter is being considered? Has it not been considered for the last 10 years and been found wanting with a large majority of hon. Members? Cannot he expedite the processes and listen once again to the old-age pensioners' recognised organisations?

Sir J. Eden

I cannot speak about what has happened in the last 10 years in this connection. I have been in my present position only since April this year, and I am bringing a fresh mind to inquire into the problem.

Mr. Lipton

At the beginning of this Session I presented a petition signed by 22,000 old-age pensioners in favour of concessionary rates. Has the Minister taken any notice of it?

Sir J. Eden

I am sure that if any old-age pensioner—or any other person, for that matter—were asked if he was in favour of having something for nothing, the answer would be "Yes".

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the fact that one of his hon. Friends intended to present a Private Member's Bill which would deal with this subject? It is reported in the newspapers this morning that the Government have decided to block the Bill and to refuse it a Second Reading. The Bill would have presented a useful opportunity to air an important problem which we want to discuss in the House. The Minister is doing all of us less than justice by not allowing us the opportunity.

Sir J. Eden

I have not seen notice of any Private Member's Bill to this effect.

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order. In view of the Minister's very unsatisfactory answers, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

14. Mr. Leslie Huckfield

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what further consideration he has given to the matter of concessionary television licences for pensioners; and whether he will make a statement.

Sir J. Eden

As I told the hon. Member on 8th November, I am looking again at the whole question of television licence concessions for retirement pensioners.—[Vol. 845, c. 983–6.]

Mr. Huckfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the early day Motion on the Order Paper which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. John Silkin) and which has been signed by at least 100 of my hon. Friends? Will he give the House the total cost of giving all old-age pensioners a free television licence, and undertake to bring before the House as soon as possible the conclusions of his review?

Sir J. Eden

I am aware of the existence of the Motion to which the hon. Gentleman refers and of the extent of support which it has received. The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is, about £25 million a year. In regard to the third part of the question, I shall do so.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

Does not my right hon. Friend think that the proposal is a little odd, since it provides for concessions to be given to people over the age of 60 or 65 but does not include concessions for the blind and other disabled people?

Sir J. Eden

This concession is designed to meet the needs of elderly people who live in certain types of old people's homes which would qualify as registered homes for this purpose. I know that this matter has given rise to considerable anomalies, and it is the existence of those anomalies which gives rise to this Question and to my inquiries.

Mr. Heffer

Is the Minister aware that throughout the country young people in voluntary groups obtain old television sets, put them in working order, and give them to old-age pensioners and others, including the disabled? Is he further aware that in many cases proposed recipients are unable to take sets because they cannot afford licences with which to operate them? Would it not be a great contribution by the Government if they could assist these young voluntary groups by providing free licences for those whom these voluntary groups seek to help?

Sir J. Eden

I think that a matter of this kind is more properly a subject for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. There are any number of questions as to the proper order of priority in the provision of welfare benefits and assistance of this kind.

16. Mr. Moate

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what is the estimated annual cost of the concession he announced on 19th July, 1972, whereby the families of people living in old people's homes could benefit from reduced television licence fees; and approximately how many families will so benefit.

Sir J. Eden

No estimate of the cost is possible, but the number of people affected is unlikely to be large.

Mr. Moate

Is it not a fact that the cost is likely to run into only a few thousand pounds? Will my right hon. Friend's next concession be a little more generous—for example, charging lower licence fees to pensioners or to those who are in receipt of supplementary benefits?

Sir J. Eden

Generosity does not enter into the matter. This was a response to a particular case raised by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). I did my best to meet the case because I recognised that there was justification for taking some action. I hope that what I have done will be helpful even if only to a small number of people.