HC Deb 22 July 1982 vol 28 cc520-1
7. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many concessionary television licences are issued to pensioners.

Mr. Raison

In March 1982 about 16,000 old persons' home television licences were in force. They covered slightly fewer than 500,000 pensioners.

Mr. Dixon

I remind the Minister that the Home Secretary, during the debate on concessionary TV licences, said: It would be a hard-faced decision to take away something that people already have".—[Official Report, 16 December 1981; Vol. 15, c. 357.] Is the Minister aware that his Department has taken away 7,564 concessionary TV licences from old-age pensioners on South Tyneside, thereby robbing them of more than £114,000 a year? Does that not make the Home Secretary a hard-faced man?

Mr. Raison

My right hon. Friend was referring to the old-age pensioners scheme in general. The pensioners on South Tyneside who received the concession were never entitled to it. They have been lucky for a time, but it would not be fair in future to allow them a concession which nobody else has.

Mr. Dickens

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the all-party pensioners group has been pressing the Government for some time to consider a concessionary television licence scheme which is just and fair? Is it possible that the Government may at some time move towards such a scheme, or are we wasting our time?

Mr. Raison

I should be reluctant to tell my hon. Friend that he is wasting his time, but I cannot hold out hope that we shall legislate. To provide free television licences for all pensioners would cost £250 million and mean putting up the colour television licence fee to about £70.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Would it not help to reduce the licence fee if hotels were charged a fee for each television set in each room rather than paying just one fee?

Mr. Raison

I understand that argument. We have been thinking about it. We shall announce our views in due course.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that the most contentious issue is that pensioners in warden-controlled houses pay 5p a year for their television licence while others pay the full fee? Is he further aware that many pensioners would be prepared to pay a Hate rate so that everybody pays the same? Does he accept that such a fee could be one-quarter or one-third of the full licence fee?

Mr. Raison

There are inconsistencies in the concession. We have thought carefully about many proposals, but I am not in a position to tell the House that we shall introduce a new scheme.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is my right hon. Friend aware that within five miles of a county town, such as Exeter, old-age pensioners and others cannot receive television? Is he further aware that, although there is to be a fourth programme and breakfast television, people paying the present licence cannot receive the existing service? Does he accept that that is intolerable? Yet the authorities refuse to do anything about it.

Mr. Raison

There are small pockets where it is difficult to receive television. The authorities are doing a good deal to try to remedy that. I accept that more must be done, but we should not hold up other developments in television on that account.