HC Deb 11 December 1979 vol 975 cc1058-9
6. Mr. Harry Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give extra financial help to retirement pensioners in view of the substantial increase in the cost of a television licence.

The Minister for Social Security (Mr. Reg Prentice)

My right hon. Friend has no proposals to make a special payment for this purpose. But the recent increase in the cost of television licences will be reflected in the general index of retail prices and, to that extent, it will be taken into account with other price increases when the rates of retirement pension are next reviewed.

Mr. Ewing

Is the Minister aware that, particularly at Christmas, countless thousands of old-age pensioners will regard themselves as the victims of a cruel deception? The Minister's Department is giving them £10 with one hand, and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is taking it back with another. What kind of Christmas gift is that for old-age pensioners?

Mr. Prentice

No, Sir. I think that there was an attempt at cruel deception by the Labour Party when it promised pensioners free television licences, without saying where the money would come from.

Mr. Farr

Will my right hon. Friend consider what is a sore point, namely that some pensioners pay the full rate for a TV licence while others, living almost next door, do not pay a licence fee at all? This is an anomaly. Will my right hon. Friend look into it?

Mr. Prentice

I assume that my hon. Friend is talking about old persons' homes, for which a small licence fee was introduced in 1969 not as a welfare concession but to correct an anomaly in the licensing of those homes.

Mr. Freeson

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is the last person to talk about deception. Will he accept that if we are to wait until there is a further uprating of pensions nearly a year will pass between the recent announcement of the increase in the television licence fee and the Government's taking action to uprate pensions?

Mr. Prentice

It is in the nature of pension upratings that between one uprating and the next 12 months later, the cost of living will increase. That is why the fight against inflation is our most important fight, on behalf of pensioners as well as the rest of the community.