I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that there are people who could take up this con cession and do not. Does not that really prove that not all old-age pensioners want television and that many who cannot afford the full licence fee do not get the concession while many who do get it can afford the full fee? Would not my right hon. Friend be well advised to have a word with his right hon. Friend the Chan cellor of the Exchequer with a view to giving all old-age pensioners the same benefits, irrespective of whether they want television?
Taking my hon. Friend's second point, the position of the Government is well known from debates that we have had in the House. On the first part of his question, it would be helpful to have as much publicity as possible given to the existence of this special licence. I am sure that as it becomes increasingly widely known those who believe that they can benefit from it will claim.
Is not the Government's attitude quite indefensible? Is not it unreasonable that private cinemas allow old-age pensioners to look at their screens cheaply when the Government do not assist pensioners to do the same in relation to a public service? Is not it inconsistent to say, at a time when old-age pensioners receive concessionary travel fares, that those who cannot travel should not be subsidised to watch television?
Is the right hon. Gentle man aware of the very small proportion that that represents of the total number of old-age pensioners in the Southampton area? Will he seriously consider extending the concessionary scheme to cover all those in receipt of supplementary benefit, if nothing else?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, in the Government's view there is no way in which to extend the concessionary basis without creating further anomalies. I think it is better to provide cash benefits to enable people to spend them as they choose.