HC Deb 15 February 1979 vol 962 cc1288-9
1. Mr. Madden

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received in favour of financing the BBC from the Exchequer.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Joel Barnett)

Apart from some of my hon. Friends, very few.

Mr. Madden

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that financing the BBC by means of the television licence is an extremely unfair and unsatisfactory system and that many people, especially the retired and low-paid workers, find it extremely difficult to pay the current licence fee? Does he not also agree that the administrative costs are very high and that the evasion level is growing? Will he join with his right hon. Friends in the Home Office in an urgent and proper investigation into how the BBC can be financed from the Exchequer?

Mr. Barnett

I agree with some part of what my hon. Friend said, but I am sure that he will recognise that any of the alternatives also raises problems. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has indicated that he has initiated studies which, as my hon. Friend will know, will include other methods of financing the BBC out of taxation. All these matters will be discussed, though entirely without commitment on the Government's behalf.

Mr. Forman

At the end of those proposed studies, will the Chief Secretary bear in mind the need to resist the siren calls for doing what the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) suggests, first, because television is not a social service, secondly because United Kingdom licence fees are well below European levels and could usefully be raised, and, thirdly, because there is always the danger of political control if television is financed in the way suggested?

Mr. Barnett

I know what the hon. Gentleman says. I never think of my hon. Friend's requests as being siren calls. He puts his requests assiduously and well. I do not necessarily agree with all the points that he makes. If we are to have a study, let us have it and see what the results are.

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