HC Deb 25 February 1975 vol 887 cc270-2
7. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary ot State for Social Services if she will pay an official visit to Keighley.

Mrs. Castle

I have no plans to visit Keighley in the near future.

Mr. Cryer

May I say how sorry I am to receive that answer? If my right hon. Friend were to visit my constituency she would receive representations from many of my pensioner constituents who are very much concerned at the injustices and anomalies regarding the allocation of free television licences. Will she assure the House that she will give urgent consideration to making free or reduced-price television licences more readily available? Finally, will my right hon. Friend prevail on her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to stop buying nuclear missiles so that the cost of my proposals can be met from defence savings?

Mrs. Castle

It is obvious that my hon. Friend is anxious to keep me busy not only by visiting Keighley but by running a couple of other Government Departments as well. My hon. Friend is aware that our policy on television licence fees is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Of course, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office made clear last Friday during a discussion on this matter, we are concerned, as is everyone in the House, about the existence of anomalies which give rise to a great deal of irritation. I appreciate that point. The simple way of getting rid of the anomalies by making free television licences available to all pensioners would be extremely costly and would in a way, create its own anomalies. It would mean that families which happened to have a pensioner living with them would benefit, whatever their income, at the expense of a family living on a very low income. I repeat the assurance which my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave on Friday that the Home Department is considering providing cheap licences for black-and-white television for pensioners and getting rid of some of the anomalies.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does the right non. Lady accept that if she made free television licences available to pensioners living on their own or with a spouse the anomaly to which she has referred would not arise? Is the right hon. Lady aware that there are many people who feel strongly that the problem of loneliness which old people now face could be reduced in this desirable way by spending a relatively small amount of money?

Mrs. Castle

Of course, the Government have examined that possibility. The concentrating of help on specific cases is a very obvious course to take. I can assure the hon. Lady that the matter is not as simple as all that. Even that step would not remove the difficulties. As I have said, the Home Office has made it clear that it is considering the matter again.

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has not the right hon. Lady wandered a little far from Keighley and the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer)? Do you not think, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman was treating the right hon. Lady more as a Prime Minister than as a Secretary of State by asking her to visit his constituency?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I would much prefer these points of order to be made at the end of Question Time. The right hon. Lady is responsible for her answer, I am not.