HL Deb 25 July 1986 vol 479 cc489-90

11.12 a.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government what organisations and individuals have submitted observations following the publication of the Peacock Report (Cmnd. 9824).

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, we have so far received observations from only a small number of organisations and individuals, and we look forward to receiving more in the course of the next two or three months.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, although it is early days, will the Minister assure the House that among the views that he will study with care will be those of representatives of the people employed in our broadcasting services? Will he also reflect on what the report has to say concerning free television licences for old-age pensioners?

Lord Leatherland

Hear, hear!

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, my noble friend joins me in that request. Will the Minister take on board the anomaly whereby although elderly people in residential care accommodation have their television licence free, in Gateshead recently an 83 year-old pensioner was held in a police cell for refusing to pay his £58 television licence? Finally, will the Minister and his colleagues resist any pressure to award television franchises to the highest bidder? Should not every attempt be made to maintain the highly satisfactory regulated process of our broadcasting service?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I understand the concern which may be felt about the implications for jobs and for pay and conditions in the proposals of the Peacock Committee. It is right that all interested parties, including employees, should express their views. The Government will reach conclusions only in the light of reactions to the report.

I well understand the objective interest of your Lordships in concessionary licences for pensioners. We recognise that the present arrangements give rise to anomalies. That is true with all concessionary arrange-ments. There will always be deserving cases which fall on the wrong side of the line wherever it is drawn. We shall look carefully at the committee's recommen-dations, but it would not be right to reach conclusions on them in isolation from other parts of the report. So far as concerns the noble Lord's third question, we shall certainly take that point into account.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, will the noble Viscount undertake that the House will have an opportunity to debate any recommendations before the Government reach conclusions on this important matter?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, that is not for me, but I note his remarks on the importance of the matter. I am sure that he will pursue it through the usual channels. I happened to notice or the Order Paper that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has put down a Motion on the matter for no day named.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, as the matter is highly important and extremely controversial, can the noble Viscount go a little further? Is it not normal—and can he not assure us—that a decisior will not be taken by the Government before the opportunity has been given for a full debate in both Houses of Parliament?

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, I do not think that I am in a position to give a guarantee, but I am sure that what the noble Lord says will be noted by the usual channels.