HC Deb 21 January 1982 vol 16 cc397-9
2. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has given further consideration to achieving a fair distribution of the burden of the level of television receiver licence fees payable by commercial and other collective undertakings, including hotels, following his statement of 1 December.

16. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is yet in a position to make a statement about his policy on television licence fees payable by hotels.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

I have not completed my consideration of the issues involved, but hope soon to invite the comments of interested parties on proposals relating to the licensing of television in hotels.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he comment further, however, on the hint in his December statement that he regarded it as wrong that individual old-age pensioners and other consumers have to pay the same fee as commercial undertakings that have one licence regardless of the number of sets, and that changes would be made in such cases?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have agreed with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Trade, Scotland and Wales to consult the interested parties. Matters concerning the tourist trade are involved. I hope to complete those considerations soon.

Mr. Ford

Next time licence fees are increased, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that the Post Office plays the game by not ceasing the issue of stamps before the effective date and by taking account of those who, for reasons beyond their control, have been unable to pay the licence fee within a day or two of the effective date?

Mr. Whitelaw

It was generally accepted in the House that the new licence fee would operate for a three-year period. An increase will not, therefore, arise for a considerable time. I hope that all the arrangements that I sought to make on that occasion have obviated some of the problems to which the hon. Gentleman referred. If they have not, I shall look at them again.

Mr. Brotherton

When my right hon. Friend makes up his mind on this problem, will he bear in mind seaside resorts, where many of the hotels and holiday camps are open for only three, four or five months a year? If he decides to implement a licence fee for each room, will he ensure that such a fee is based on the number of months that such places are open?

Mr. Whitelaw

Those are all part of the considerations that we must have in mind. We must consider whether there should be a fee for every television set in every room and how it might be paid. I am prepared to discuss those matters with all the interested parties. I take my hon. Friend's point that we must consider the tourist trade and the many people in the tourist resorts who at present are going through a difficult time.

Mr. Hattersley

The Home Secretary says that he proposes to consult interested parties. May we have an assurance that he will not simply consult those who have an interest in there being no licence fee for commercial undertakings? Is he aware that several million families have an interest in not subsidising commercial undertakings?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am prepared to consider these matters. I know how the BBC feels about the matter. As representative of those who pay the licence fee to it, the BBC would like to see such a proposal come forward, as the working party showed. I shall consider all these factors. At the same time, we must be reasonably fair to the industries concerned. It must be remembered that whatever they give would not materially affect the licence fee paid by others.