§ 1. Mr. Janner
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning concessionary television licences for retirement pensioners living in sheltered housing.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Mellor)
Since the change in the regulations in May 1988, we have received deputations from four hon. Members, and received 373 letters, 191 of those from hon. Members, about aspects of the concessionary television licensing system. The nature of each representation is not separately recorded, but the main points raised were whether the scheme should be extended to ordinary housing, the treatment of new residents of schemes which no longer qualified and whether the circumstances of individual housing schemes fitted the new regulations.
§ Mr. Janner
Will the Minister look urgently into the case of 10 old-age pensioners in Leicester, five of whom live in Braunstone in my constituency? Their preserved right to a concessionary television licence has been lost entirely as a result of bureaucratic delays in the television licence office. Leicester city council was not informed or asked to produce a list of renewals until August 1988, four months after the cut-off date. Does he agree that it is cruel and wrong that those elderly people should lose that right? Will the Minister do his best to cut through the bureaucratic tangle which should never have existed?
§ Mr. Mellor
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will let me have details of the case, I will join him in writing to the national television licence records office to sort the matter out.
§ Mr. Devlin
Will my hon. and learned Friend look into the interesting and anomalous case of the sheltered housing at Willey Flatts in Yarm in my constituency? It is an establishment of segregated and sheltered bungalows for which there is an extra charge because there is a warden service. In the past, the residents enjoyed a concessionary television licence because they were old-age pensioners. The national television licence records office wrote recently to say that in future the concession will not be available. Having realised that the bungalows are separate and have been so for 20 years, it is seeking to change the previous ruling. Will my hon. and learned Friend intervene in that completely ridiculous situation?
§ Mr. Mellor
Once again, all that I can say is that while the interpretation of the regulations is not a matter for me, if I am provided with the full details and if I can be helpful, I shall try to do so.
§ Mr. Corbett
Does the Minister understand that the arbitrary system under which most pensioners have to pay for a licence but some do not causes friction and resentment? Now that only seven in every 100 homes has a black and white set and as pensioners own most of those, will the Minister give them a Christmas present by exempting all black and white sets from the licence fee? If 452 the Government could do away with the licence for 7 million dog owners, why cannot he do the same for the far fewer pensioners who own black and white television sets?
§ Mr. Mellor
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that since its introduction in 1969 the scheme has caused a wholly disproportionate amount of grief to every Government who have had to deal with it. We have tried to tidy up the arrangements so that the scheme genuinely benefits those whom it was intended to benefit. Later on the Order Paper we may reach directly some of the proposals to expand the scheme. The schemes have a cost which would have to be borne by the average licence payer, many of whom, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are not particularly well off and would not thank us for adding to their burden in order to benefit others.
§ Mr. Latham
I was one of the 191 Members who wrote to the Minister. Is my hon. and learned Friend satisfied that local authorities now understand the regulations? I am still getting questions from constituents about the scheme and, obviously, in some cases there are serious anomalies.
§ Mr. Mellor
I repeat that a serious effort was made to clear out the anomalies in last year's regulations, but I am only too willing to look at any evidence from my hon. Friend that we have not succeeded in that brave endeavour.