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Television Licences

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th December 1989.

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Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:00 am, 7th December 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce free television licences for all pensioners and disabled; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

No, Sir. The cost of so doing for all pensioners would be £400 million, and would increase the price of the licence fee for the rest of us to over £100. Since many pensioners are not poor and most other television licence payers are not rich, that would not be equitable.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

If the Government can find sweeteners for British Aerospace and are able to make handouts to their friends in the City, why cannot they find £400 million to ensure that pensioners on one side of the street who have to pay for their television licences are in the same position as those on the other side of the street who do not? Why should the Prime Minister have 13 television sets and not have to pay for a licence? She has one in every room. Even Boris has one free. Now that this place is televised, some pensioners are having to pay to watch the proceedings in the palace of varieties while some get it for nowt. Surely that is the utmost degradation. Why do the Government not make everyone equal in this respect?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Without being ungentlemanly, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman was right to quote the example of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? He is suggesting that she should have an additional concession by having a free licence as a lady of pensionable age. That identifies precisely why he is advancing a bad idea. There are plenty of pensioners who are well off and do not require a state subsidy for their television licences. There are plenty of other non-pensioner, non-disabled licence payers who would resent, and rightly so, having to pay £100 instead of £66 to provide for a concession that is merely an electoral bribe for some and a fine for others.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that most reasonable people would say that there is no justification whatever in giving free television licences to every pensioner, including many who are extremely well off, while at the same time a large number of young families on limited incomes have to pay for a full and increased licence, which is hardly fair?

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

My hon. Friend is right. It is interesting that, notwithstanding the stridency of Opposition Members, when they come to formulate their policy proposals they do so with great care, simply saying that it is their intention to move towards a funding system which will permit"— presumably an open-ended commitment that could well be ignored in any Parliament that so chose. Those are weasel words, but if any right hon. or hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench wished to toughen them up a bit and give a categorical assurance that would delight the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I am sure that he will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.