Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
MONDAY 1 JULY 2002
20. Can I ask you about visits. I start by addressing
this question to Ms Street. When a TV licensing officer visits
a premises, do they ask for access to those premises?
(Ms Street) I do hate to pass the buck but, with the
Chairman's agreement, it is probably not a matter for me.
(Ms Patel) Enquiry officers do not have automatic
right of entry unless they have a search warrant.
21. Do they ask for access to premises?
(Ms Patel) Yes, they do but they make it clear, and
most of their visiting is done on the doorstep because they need
to ask questions about whether there is a television in the house.
Where they need to inspect whether there is a television, for
example when someone does not have a television, on a confirmatory
visit, they will ask. They will not insist on entry unless they
have a search warrant.
22. They do ask people if they can enter their
(Ms Patel) Only if they have to inspect whether there
is a televison in the house.
23. What is the procedure if the recipient says
he or she does not have a television and is refusing entry to
(Ms Patel) The enquiry officer will then leave.
24. Then what do you dogive up?
(Ms Patel) No, we write again to the particular person
explaining to them why we need to make a confirmatory visit to
check that they do not have a television as they are claiming.
Once we have made that confirmatory visit, we then do not go to
talk to that person for another two years.
25. What if he or she still refuses to give
you access to that private home?
(Ms Patel) We would then think hard about whether
we have reasonable evidence that there is the use of television
on that premises, and we would then look at whether detection
would be a sensible use of our resources.
26. What do you do to find out whether somebody
is using a television in a particular home?
(Ms Patel) We use external evidence; an aerial on
the house would be a give-away.
27. And if there is no aerial, then what do
(Ms Patel) If there is no aerial, we would then look
at whether we have enough of a suspicion that there is use of
television and whether it is acceptable to use detection. That
is a judgment I have to make, if there is not enough evidence.
For example, if a person has written to us a few times before
saying they have not got a television, you would probably say
there is no need for detection.
28. What does detection mean?
(Ms Patel) Detection means we use a detector van that
tries to detect whether there is a television in use at that moment.
29. Do detector vans actually work, and they
are not just some bogus thing? They are genuine?
(Ms Patel) Yes, they do.
30. Do you think it is right that in pursuit
of your commercial interests you should be requesting entry to
somebody's home for somebody who does not receive your service?
(Ms Patel) This is about our duty to enforce. We have
an obligation to make sure that we fairly and consistently enforce
the regulations. Our experience shows that one in five people
of those who claim they do not have a television set in fact does
have a television set. I think in those circumstances we would
not want to disadvantage those that pay by not checking up.
31. You know that we have corresponded on constituency
cases. I have a 92 year old resident who does not have a television
and felt intimidated by being asked for entry into her home. Do
you think it is right that your commercial interest could result
in one of my constituents being intimidated, or feeling she is
being intimidated, on the doorstep? Are you aware of any other
private sector organisation or commercial organisation that does
provide a service where it can ask for entry into a person's home?
(Ms Patel) We do not ask for entry. We ask for co-operation
of the honest majority to be able to check whether people have
a television set when they claim they do not. It is not about
our commercial interest. We do have a duty to enforce the licence
fee enforcement system. We have no way of knowing
32. Are you saying that you do not ask for entry
into people's homes?
(Ms Patel) We do not force entry into people's homes.
33. I never implied that. Did you say that you
do not ask for entry into people's homes?
(Ms Patel) Let me try and get this correct. When we
do an unconfirmed no set visit, which is to visit someone who
claims they have not got a television, we do ask to be let in
to check that fact. If people refuse, we do not insist on it because
we have no automatic right of entry.
34. Do you think it right that you as a commercial
organisation should be asking for entry into people's homes when
they do not receive your service? Eastern Electricity do not have
any right to ask me for entry into my home. I live in the south
of England. What right have you got to enter my constituents'
homes if they do not receive your service?
(Ms Patel) I am saying we have a duty to enforce the
law and not to disadvantage the honest majority that pays.
35. I will not go any further with that. Can
I move on to something else? In the direct debit quarterly payment
scheme, what premiums are paid? It says in the report that a premium
is paid. How much extra do people pay over and above the licence
fee to be able to pay by direct debit quarterly?
(Ms Patel) That figure is £5 per year.
36. Is that right?
(Ms Patel) Back in 2001 when we had the licence fee
reviewed, we had written to all scheme members at that time to
ask them to migrate to other schemes where they did not have to
pay the £5 premium. Some of them did migrate on to other
schemes, but others have chosen to stay.
37. Why are you charging people extra for paying
(Ms Patel) The underlying principle of the licence
fee payment is that you pay the fee annually in advance. For those
who pay in arrears, you want to try and make sure that they have
equivalent treatment. So someone who pays annually in advance
should not be disadvantaged for that and the £5 was thought
to be a reasonable estimate of the interest foregone for people
paying in arrears.
38. It seems to be a draconian measure to penalise
people who cannot afford to pay all at once. What about the cash
entry scheme; is there any premium for those people?
(Ms Patel) No, there is not.
39. Right, very good. Can I ask you in what
year it became a requirement for people with second homes to have
a TV licence in each home?
(Ms Patel) In 1997, I believe.