HC Deb 03 March 1983 vol 38 cc367-8
18. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now able to announce in what way he has been able to remove the anomaly regarding the payment of television licence fees for those persons living in disabled accommodation; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellor

As my right hon. Friend stated in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn) on 23 February, he has decided that physically disabled and mentally disordered people in residential homes run by local authorities or voluntary or private organisations, or in certain sheltered housing schemes for the disabled, should benefit from the special 5p television licence, which is already available to retirement pensioners in similar accommodation.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Minister confirm that it was not until my question appeared on the Order Paper today that a planted question from one of his Back-Bench hon. Friends also appeared? Should he not be more anxious to congratulate the disabled people at Cressy Fields. Alfreston, who refused to pay their television licences last year? Is this not a victory for extra-parliamentary activity.

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Gentleman's belief in the conspiracy theory of life does him no credit. The question to which he refers was tabled and answered properly. I am sorry that he cannot bring himself to welcome a helpful concession that will benefit many people.

Mr. Waller

Does not the history of such a concession show that one has only to introduce concessions to produce anomalies? Would it not be better if such assistance as is given in these concessions were given in cash, as the pensioners' organisations wish?

Mr. Mellor

Overall, what my hon. Friend says is our policy, but we inherited an anomalous set of concessions. I see no reason for denying the concession to the disabled when it is available to elderly people who live in the same type of accommodation. My hon. Friend's argument is right with regard to a further widening of these concessions.

Mr. Allen McKay

Would the Minister care to look at my ten-minute Bill of 26 October 1982, passed by the House by 187 votes to nil? When will he put the will of the House there expressed into practice with regard to concessionary television licences for old people?

Mr. Mellor

I have already made the position clear. I see no reason for not extending the concession to disabled people who live in the same circumstances as the pensioners to whom I referred earlier. However, there seems to be every reason for not imposing further costs on ordinary licence payers by extending the concession more widely, regardless of need.