Television Licence Fee

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 May 1981.

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Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax 12:00, 7 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he has given to the proposal of the British Broadcasting Corporation that an independent body should be set up to provide an impartial assessment of any licence fee increase proposed by the corporation.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

The BBC's proposal that future requests for a licence fee increase should be examined by an independent review body is still under consideration.

Photo of Dr Shirley Summerskill Dr Shirley Summerskill , Halifax

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the BBC submitted its proposal over six months ago and that the licence fee is due to be reviewed again in November? Before there is another increase, will the Government make a statement on their response to the BBC's suggestion and on their general attitude to the licence fee as a way of raising money to fund the BBC?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I am well aware of the facts that the hon. Lady has put to me. I shall consider what she has said. I emphasise that the Government still believe—as did the Annan committee—that the licence fee is the best method of financing the BBC.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Brighouse and Spenborough

Does my right hon. Friend understand that as the BBC licence fee increases the resentment felt by retirement pensioners who do not live in sheltered accommodation also increases? They feel discriminated against, because those who happen to live in sheltered accommodation can obtain a concession. Without increasing public expenditure, will my right hon. Friend consider this issue and whether it might be possible to find a fairer system, whereby all retirement pensioners—whether or not they live in sheltered accommodation—could be treated equally?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

There are problems in this area. Consideration must be based on the fact that free television licences for all pensioner households would cost between £155 million and £170 million per annum in lost revenue. That represents about one-third of the licence revenue and shows the complications involved.