§ 8. Mr. Skinner
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about free television licences for pensioners; and if he will make a statement.
§ 9. Mr. Dormand
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to abolish the television licence fee for retired pensioners; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Hurd
During the past six months we have received representations from four hon. Members and 10 members of the public about free television licences for retirement pensioners. We have no plans to introduce concessionary licences for pensioners generally, which would put up substantially the cost of the licence to others.
§ Mr. Skinner
What justice is there when top people can live most of the year in posh hotels and not pay a penny piece towards the licence fee while pensioners, who have been robbed and cheated by the Government over the past four years, have to pay the full £46? The Minister of State should not give me any of that nonsense about the BBC 988 not having any money, because only the other week it agreed a contract with David Dimbleby, that anti-NUJ man who works for the BBC, for a £12,000 payment— [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Dormand
Is the Minister aware of how important television is to many retired people, many of whom find considerable difficulty in paying the licence fee? If the argument is—as it seems to be—one of cost, how does he reconcile saving what can only be described as peanuts with the astronomical sums that are being spent on the Falkland islands and will be spent on Trident?
§ Mr. Hurd
There are people, particularly old people, who, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, find it difficult to pay the lump sum of £46. That is why there are various schemes to make it possible for them to pay by instalments. However, if one is talking about taxpayers' money, most pensioners would probably prefer it to he used to buttress the value of the existing pension, which they can spend on anything they choose.
§ Mrs. Currie
Does my right hon. Friend agree that nothing causes more resentment among pensioners than the fact that most of them must pay the full licence fee while a small number living in warden serviced accommodation pay only 5p a year? Does he further agree that while concessions of this kind may look very nice when they are granted, ultimately they cause more trouble than they are worth?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Is the Minister aware that more than the number of pensioners he gave in his main answer have made approaches to me, and that there have been petitions on behalf of pensioners seeking a concessionary television licence?
§ Mr. Cormack
Has my right hon. Friend any idea of how much would be involved if pensioners were allowed to have free licences for black and white sets?
§ Mr. Wigley
As nearly every household has television, has the Minister seriously considered abolishing licences and getting the revenue from general taxation, particularly from progressive taxation, so avoiding the bureaucracy involved in the issue of licences?
§ Sir Anthony Grant
Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the interests of pensioners in my constituency and elsewhere who pay their rates and taxes who cannont stand the beastly television, who do not have it and who resent paying for other people to see it?
§ Mr. James Hamilton
While the Minister talks about the licence having to be increased by about one-third if old-age pensioners received concessionary licences, will he note that point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that, without exception, each hotel, with colour television in every room pays for only one licence? Is he aware that if the Government really had a desire to help old-age pensioners they could raise the necessary money to provide them all with concessionary licences?
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it does not follow that because somebody is a pensioner he or she is necessarily unable to afford the licence? Is he further aware that it would be unacceptable for those who find difficulty in paying their colour licence fee and who are not pensioners, to be penalised at the expense of those pensioners who can?
§ Mr. Denis Howell
Will the Minister accept that there are so many anomalies in this area, particularly between the cheap availability of television in five-star hotels and the 5p concessionary scheme, that it should be reviewed? Does he understand that all the arguments he adduced today were exactly the arguments used against the introduction of free travel for old people years ago, a step which has proved to be a great social benefit to the country as a whole? Is he aware that the responsibility in this case should be not that of licence holders, but of the entire nation in the interests of old people, for whom an increasing number of people wish to see the provision of concessionary licences?