HC Deb 19 July 1984 vol 64 cc503-4
11. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many representations he has received about charges for television licences in private sheltered housing.

Mr. Hurd

We have received rather more than 100 representations from hon. Members, and about 40 from members of the public, about concessionary television licences for retired people in privately managed sheltered housing schemes.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an inconsistency, and indeed an injustice, here? In the case of private sheltered housing for the elderly a licence fee is charged for every television set, but a concession has recently been granted to private hotels with up to 15 sets to allow them to pay only one licence fee. Will my right hon. Friend now consider granting the same concession to private sheltered housing for the elderly?

Mr. Hurd

Under the new arrangements that we propose, hotels which are now in practice paying for only one set will, above the threshold of 15, pay for one set in five. I hope that—in Bournemouth as elsewhere—that arrangement will be seen to be fairer. We are, at the same time, extending the concession to disabled people in sheltered accommodation and to certain types of housing association housing not now covered.

Mr. Allen McKay

Why does not the Minister grasp the nettle and abolish television licensing altogether for old-age pensioners, with a view to phasing out licences for everybody?

Mr. Hurd

If we introduced the scheme which the hon. Gentleman suggested in his first breath, the colour television fee for other licence holders would rise to £70 for that reason alone.

Mr. Chope

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the introduction of advertising would ensure that the BBC would not have to raise the licence fee and that the cost of living of virtually every family in the country would be reduced by £1 a week?

Mr. Hurd

That is a wider question, which no doubt we will have other opportunities to discuss.

Mr. Winnick

We certainly do not want advertising on BBC television or radio. Why can the Government give tax concessions to the richest people in the community—as they have done in four of five Budgets—and yet deny to many people, including the elderly who live on their own, the natural justice of not having to pay the full television licence fee?

Mr. Hurd

A free licence for all pensioners, such as the hon. Gentleman has consistently argued for, would reduce licence revenue by about £250 million a year—one third of the total. His argument would be more complete if he told us how that money was to be found.