§ Mr. Faulds
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements he proposes to adopt for giving effect to future increases in television licence fees.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
On the last occasion when television licence fees were increased, my predecessor made an announcement on 29th January 1975 of new levels of fees to come into effect on 1st April following. The difficulties which ensued were the subject of a report by the Parliamentary Commissioner and a judgment by the Court of Appeal. I have been considering how best to minimise the risk of a recurrence of these difficulties next time the licence fees have to be increased, and I propose to adopt the following procedure.
The next increases in the licence fees will come into effect at midnight of the day on which they are announced. I intend to time the actual announcement of the increase so as to ensure that people who have replaced expiring licences promptly are not affected by the increase, and that people whose licences are due for replacement at the begininng of the following month are given some notice of the new fee before the licence expires 527W and has to be replaced. But I must stress that any licence issued pursuant to an application made after the increase has taken effect will be at the new, higher fee.
Those who already hold a licence will be able to apply to post offices or to the National Television Licensing Centre for a replacement licence as from the first day of the month of expiry of the previous licence, and the replacement licence will expire on the anniversary of the expiring previous licence. Where an application is made earlier than that date, the licence will run the date of issue for a period of 12 months counting from the first day of the month of issue. Where the application is made after the end of the month in which the previous licence expires, so that there has been an interval during which the receiver has been in use unlicensed, the new licence will expire on the anniversary of the expiry of the previous licence. Where a licence is being issued for the first time the licence will run from the date of issue for a period of 12 months counting from the first day of the month of issue. In each case, the licence will be issued at the fee current at the date of application.
It follows from what I have said that, if a licence holder applies for his replacement licence early in the last month of currency of the old licence, he will be issued with a replacement licence for the full period of 12 months following the expiry of the old one at the then current rate of licence fee, even if an increase in the fee is announced later in that month. The fact that the licence fee increase will take effect on the day on which it is announced also means that if a licence holder delays applying for a replacement licence until late in the last month of currency of his existing licence, and an increase in the rates of fees has been announced and has come into effect before he makes his application, he will be required to pay at the new higher rate for his replacement licence.
In this context, I should like to remind the House and the public that a 25p television licence stamp has recently been introduced which people may buy at any post office to save towards the cost of their licence. Advance purchase of these stamps would clearly help to cushion the 528W impact of a licence fee increase when the money has to be found.
As to the date of the next increases, I have made no decision. It is clear that the finances of the BBC will necessitate increases before the end of this year. Hon. Members will understand that I shall not be able to give any advance indication of the date on which the increases will be announced and come into effect.