§ Mr. Michael Marshall
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what are the functions and duties of the National Television Licence Records Office; and how long this office has been in existence;
(2) how many people were sent forms BRL 05 1–76 by the National Television Licence Records Office in the last 12 months for which figures are available; how many people failed to complete and return these forms; and what action was taken against those people who failed to return these forms;
(3) if he has any plans to issue a direction to the National Television Licence Records Office instructing it to cease issuing forms requiring information from people who do not possess a television licence or a television set;
(4) by what authority the National Television Licence Records Office issue forms for completion by individuals who do not possess a television licence;
(5) what was the cost to public funds in the last financial year for which figures are available, of the National Television Licence Records Office;
(6) how many people are employed at the National Television Records Office.
§ Mr. John
The National Television Licence Records Office, a part of the20W Post Office which acts as our agent in the administration of the television licensing system, was set up in Bristol in February 1972 and currently employs a total of 632 Post Office staff. It collects television licence fees and carries out licence record and inquiry work on our behalf under the powers in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. It maintains a list of households showing whether or not there is a television licence in force and inquiry letters are sent from time to time to apparently unlicensed addresses to help combat licence fee evasion.
During the 12 months to August 1976 form BRL 05 1–76, which is a follow-up inquiry letter, was sent by the Records Office to about 1 million people, of whom just under half failed to respond. When no reply is received, a visit from a Post Office inquiry officer is likely to follow. That could lead to a prosecution, if it were established that a television set was being used without a licence. This routine check helps to keep down the cost of the licensing system and licence fees and maintains the fairness of the system for the great majority who pay their licence fees, by identifying unlicensed users. We have no plans to instruct the Records Office to cease issuing these forms.
The total cost of the Records Office for 1975–76 was £6.7 million, which was met from the television licence revenue.