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Television Licence Fees

Volume 895: debated on Thursday 17 July 1975

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment whether he will give consideration to the possibility of television rental companies collecting television licence fees on behalf of his Department through instalment payments.

This proposal has been considered, but there are practical difficulties which would outweigh any advantages to be gained.

Is the Minister aware that this is another facet of the problem, which the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) mentioned earlier, of the real hardship now being suffered by many pensioners and those on low incomes, for whom this is one reasonable form of entertainment? Is the Minister aware that this question follows my correspondence with the noble Lord in another placeā€”the answers to which, I fear, reveal a singular lack of flexibility in the Home Office in considering this problem in its broadest aspects? Will the Minister think again?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's comments to my noble Friend. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can write again. Pensioners have the opportunity of using the savings card scheme if they wish to do so.

Will the Minister reconsider the idea of combining the licence fee with the rental for those subscribers receiving the cable relay system in those areas where reception is not available in any other way? In that way the fee may be reduced, so that the people concerned are not obliged to pay twice over for the same service.

That suggestion will be considered by those who have to make the decisions about the matter.

Does the Minister accept that many of us think that the suggestion contained in the Question is a good one? Does he also accept that many of my constituents find it unjust that they must pay the full licence fee when they enjoy poor reception, or can receive only English or Ulster programmes when they want Scottish programmes, or suffer from all those disabilities.

Even the English sometimes suffer from the English programmes. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the scheme suggested in the original Question would add greatly to the administrative costs.

Since this is almost a universal service, does my hon. Friend think that the time has come to abolish the concept of collecting television licence fees and sending out detector vans, and make this a charge on the general revenue?

That issue comes within the terms of reference of the Annan Committee, which can report to that effect if it wishes.