HC Deb 05 April 1976 vol 909 cc1-2W
Mr. Faulds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement about the position of television licence holders affected by the Court of Appeal's judgment of 4th December last in the case of Congreve v. the Home Office.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The position of those television licence holders who like Mr. Congreve succeeded in taking out overlapping licences before 1st April 1975 and who did not respond to subsequent requests to pay an additional amount was clearly and directly determined by the Court of Appeal's judgment on 4th December 1975.

There has, however, been misunderstanding about the consequences of the Court of Appeal's judgment for two groups of licence holders who were not directly affected by that judgment, but were financially disadvantaged by Home Office actions which were judged by the Court of Appeal to have been illegal. I propose to modify the arrangements which I have already announced to the House so that there can be no room for any suggestion that the financial disadvantage inflicted on these two groups of licence holders has not been fairly and fully rectified.

First, as to those who took out overlapping licences and who subsequently responded to requests to pay an additional amount. When they did so, they received notices from the National Television Licence Records Office extending the expiry dates of their licences. Though the extension of date was intended to be conditional upon the payment of the additional amount, the notices did not so state, and the extension could have been thought to have been unconditional. When after the judgment of the Court of Appeal the additional amounts paid were refunded, licence holders were informed that the original expiry dates were being reinstated, though again not in terms which made the two actions expressly conditional upon one another. In view of this, I have decided to honour the extension of date in all cases.

Second, as to those who sought to take out overlapping licences but were unsuccessful, and who have submitted claims for payment in accordance with the arrangements of which I informed the House in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) on 13th January.—[Vol. 903, c. 91.] Again because some uncertainty has arisen, and in view of the concession now made to those in the first group, I propose to make an ex gratia payment of £6 to each licence holder whose claim is accepted, whatever the expiry date of his previous licence. This represents a modification of the arrangements described in my answer of 13th January, which envisaged a scale of payments varying according to the expiry date of the previous licence.

Those who wished to claim were asked to do so in writing by 31st January 1976. I have not refused to consider claims received since that date, but three months have now elapsed since claims were first invited, and I think that the matter must now be concluded. I have, therefore, instructed the National Television Licence Records Office that any claims received after Thursday, 15th April should be regarded as out of time and should not be considered.