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Television Licences

Volume 893: debated on Monday 16 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further action he is taking in pursuance of his request to those holders of television licences who took out licences at the old rates before 31st March 1975, even though their existing licences were not due to expire until that date or later, to pay the additional amount which would have been due if the new licences had not been issued until the expiry of their old ones.

Since I answered Questions from the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and others on 17th April—[Vol. 890, c. 136–7]—I have given further thought to this whole matter.I recognise the attraction of the argument that the licence holders concerned were merely seeking to defer for as long as possible, while they could, the time when they would have to pay licence fees at the higher rates, and should not now be asked to forgo, or be deprived of, the benefit of their forethought. But I have a duty to protect the revenue, which finances BBC services that are available to all licence holders; and I have a duty to think also of the interests of those—the great majority—who have renewed and are renewing their licences at the new rates in the usual way, and of those who have already complied with the request to make additional payments. Their interests would be affected if I were to do nothing about those who sought to anticipate the increase in the licence fees by taking out new licences before their old ones were due to expire, and who have not so far complied with the request for additional payments.I hope that those who have received and not yet replied to requests for additional payments will now think it right to comply with the request. In the case of a licence holder who chooses not to make the additional payment now I propose to allow his new licence to run for eight months—for colour licences—or 11 months—for monochrome licences—from the expiry date of his old licence, and then to revoke it. This will give him his money's worth from his new licence, but at the new rate not the old rate. It will enable him, if he so wishes, to defer the time at which he has to pay any more money, though not by quite as long as he originally hoped, and so to realise at least in part the object of his forethought. It will, at the time time, ensure that in the long run the BBC does not lose any significant amount of revenue and that the interests of other licence holders are not prejudiced.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many television licences he has revoked since 31st March 1975;(2) in how many cases in the most recent convenient 12-month period he has used his powers under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 to revoke television licences;(3) if he will list the annual number of cases since 1949 in which he or his predecessors have exercised their powers under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 to revoke television licences.

Licence records are not kept centrally. The information is not, therefore readily available, and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give an undertaking not to use his powers under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 to revoke television licences of those who obtained licences prematurely until the Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner into this matter has been received and the House has had time to study its contents.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will direct the National TV Licence Records Office to cease writing letters to those who obtained TV licences prematurely, threatening the licence holders with the revocation of their licence, until the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner regarding this matter has been received.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to a Question from the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mr. Gilmour) on 11th June.—[Vol. 893, c. 190–191.]