The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was challenged over the huge rise in rod licences for disabled anglers during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons yesterday. The visibly uncomfortable Prime Minister pledged to look into the 37% increase saying: “I will look at the facts…and see what has happened to bring that about”.
Leominster MP, Bill Wiggin, raised the issue as part of the Countryside Alliance’s campaign against the 37% rise in the cost of concessionary rod licences for pensioners and disabled anglers imposed by the Environment Agency and Defra Minister Jonathan Shaw. Mr. Wiggin has promised to follow up his question and get a full response from the Prime Minister.
Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “It is too late to redress the damage this year, but we are calling of the Government to commit to a five year freeze on concessionary rod licence fees to bring them back down to a sensible level.”
“The Prime Minister was rightly embarrassed when confronted with the huge rise in the cost of rod licences for disabled anglers. Between 2003 and 2007 anglers contributed an extra £4.4 million through rod licence fees yet the Environment Agency was forced to raise fees further in 2008 in the face of Government funding cuts.
“Whilst budget cuts are beyond the Environment Agency’s control, the decision to raise concessionary licence fees by so much was insensitive and misguided. The Agency should not have proposed the 37% rise for pensioner and disabled anglers and the Minister, Jonathan Shaw, should certainly not have agreed it.”
Prime Minister’s Questions, Wednesday 30th April
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): While the Prime Minister is on the subject of disabled people, may I ask whether he is aware that Labour’s attack on vulnerable people has been extended to disabled anglers? They have seen the cost of their fishing licence go up by 37 per cent., as opposed to 2 per cent. for able-bodied people—if, that is, they can find a post office from which to buy one
The Prime Minister: I will look at the facts that the hon. Gentleman brings before us and see what has happened to bring that about. However, I have to say to him that this Government have invested in rural communities, and on post offices we are making £1.7 billion available.