HC Deb 27 July 1964 vol 699 cc1100-47

7.43 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

I beg to move, That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to amend the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act 1955 in order to restore to local authorities the freedom to initiate schemes of concessionary fares to pensioners, the blind and the disabled which they enjoyed until November 1954, and to deal with the anomalies which arose therefrom. The crazy story, the almost incomprehensible story, of the Government's handling of the problem of concessionary fares goes back 10 years. Towards the end of 1954, a Mr. Prescott, a Birmingham ratepayer, who, I understand, was a member of the Conservative Party, but who has, to use one of its inelegant phrases, been "chucked" out since, went to the High Court to secure a declaration that the Birmingham scheme for concessionary fares to old people was ultra vires the corporation. The Court of Chancery decided that the corporation had neither the power to grant such concessionary fares nor the power to prohibit them and, therefore, the question as to whether or not these fares were legal or illegal had to be decided on general principles.

The court took the view that the corporation had the duty to hold a fair balance between all sections of its citizens and that, as this scheme meant, in effect, a gift to one section of its citizens, it was ultra vires the corporation. Birmingham Corporation appealed to the Court of Appeal and, on 30th November, 1954, the appeal was dismissed.

Birmingham did not go to the House of Lords, but, instead, it decided to promote a Private Bill to give the corporation power to carry on with its scheme. It is interesting to note that, in spite of an intensive campaign by the National Association of Ratepayers' Associations, there was at the town's meeting in connection with this Private Bill a majority of 10 to one in favour of the concessionary fares Clause.

Throughout the country, 96 local authorities were affected, and all these local authorities were faced with the prospect of having to promote a Private Bill in this House in order to continue their concessions. All of them gave concessions to children, 91 gave concessions to blind people, 67 gave concessions to disabled people and almost 30 gave concessions to retired people. The average cost at that time, as worked out by the late hon. Member for The Hartlepools, Mr. David Jones, was £6,000. A small town like Pontypridd, where the product of a 1d. rate was £600, would have had to pay the product of a 10d. rate in order to promote a Bill in the House.

I therefore introduced a Private Member's Bill to save all this tremendous expense throughout the country—96 times £6,000—and to save the enormous amount of work which would have been imposed on hon. Members. My Bill, which I brought in at the end of 1954, would not have introduced concessions, but it would have been a general enabling Measure. It would have reversed, in effect, the Prescott decision and would have given to local authorities the power which they, the Government and everyone else, always assumed they had until the Prescott decision. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport at the time, Mr. Hugh Molson, as he then was, said of this decision that it was entirely unexpected that a decision of the courts would deprive them of the benefit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 790.] The Government did not expect the decision; they and everyone else assumed that the local authorities were acting quite legally in granting these concessions.

Under the pressure of the imminent General Election, because there had been a change of Prime Ministers, Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, decided to allow this Bill and, I think, one other Bill, dealing with libraries in Scotland, to go through before the election, but, in the Standing Committee, the Government amended the Bill, using their majority, against the wishes of my hon. Friends and myself, so that, instead of being a general enabling Measure, all it did was to legalise concessions which existed at any time in 1954 up to the date of the Court of Appeal's decision on 30th November.

Sir Leslie Thomas (Canterbury)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government illegitimately used their majority at that time? Surely, that is the object of a majority.

Mr. Short

My hon. Friends and I warned the Government during the Committee stage and on Third Reading—I have taken the trouble to read the debates before this evening—that anomalies would appear immediately, from the word "go", and that what they were doing would, in effect, be no solution to the problem. But they were quite adamant about it, and they have remained so ever since.

Government supporters have made three points to justify their rigid attitude on this question. They are still making two of them, but they are keeping very quiet about the third. I will tell the House what the three points are. The first is perhaps best summed up in some words used by Mr. Hugh Molson at the time the Bill was going through the House. He said that the Bill was obviously a departure from the general and rational principle … that local authorities should at their discretion be free to provide, at the expense of the ratepayers, concessions for retirement pensioners living in their own part of the country which do not apply in other parts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February. 1955; Vol. 537, c. 790.] As recently as 4th June this year the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) said pretty much the same thing in a supplementary question. He said: Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the granting of concessionary fares would create a great many more anomalies, for the simple reason that a large number of pensioners would not be able to derive benefit from them?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 1249.] In other words, the local authorities should not be allowed to do anything unless everybody else can do it. This comes from a party which talks a great deal about freedom for local authorities. When the Bill introducing the general grant was being discussed, speech after speech was made on the theme of freedom for local authorities to decide what they did in their own backyard. Surely if the ratepayers in an area wish to do something for certain deserving categories of their citizens, they ought to be allowed to do it. After all, the councils are subject to close scrutiny and approval by the ratepayers every three years.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

What would be the position in a place where there are concessionary fares and there are also bus services which are not municipal services running into the same town? It would not be possible for the non-municipal services to give concessions unless the traffic commissioners permitted it.

Mr. Short

This is the same argument: if everybody cannot do it, do not let anybody do it. I believe that local authorities should be free to do this if they wish.

The second thing which the Government have said and are still saying to justify their attitude—we heard a great deal about this even up to a few days ago—is that it is much better to give these categories of recipients an adequate income. As late as 1st July, in what I think he will agree, on reading it, was a rather arrogant reply to me, the Parliamentary Secretary used these words: As has been explained on many occasions, we believe in paying people in cash and not in kind so that old-age pensioners have freedom to use the money in their own way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st July, 1964; Vol. 697, c. 1335.] I have read part of the answer, but not the arrogant part.

We all agree with that statement; we agree 100 per cent. But is the working community of this country prepared at the moment to ensure that when people retire they do not suffer a big drop in their standard of living? The goal to which my right hon. Friends and I wish to work is to ensure that when a person retires he suffers no drop in his standard of living at all. This is a matter of the relationship of the individual to the community. We believe that there ought to be a sort of social contract between the individual and the community; the individual gives his services to the community for 40 years or so, and when he retires he has the right to expect that the community will maintain his standard of living.

That is certainly what we are working towards, but we have no illusions about it. We believe that the time has not yet arrived when the working community is prepared to face up to that entirely. We think that members of the community are prepared now to take a big step forward, but we do not think that they are yet prepared to create a state of affairs in which a person retires and suffers no drop at all in his standard of living. Until that happens it is surely a decent, humane and sensible thing to grant this sort of concession.

I will tell the House the third thing which the Government said in 1955. The present Parliamentary Secretary took a great part in this, and he said it himself; I have read his speech tonight. I have already referred to the words of the then Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Hugh Molson. I gave him notice in another place that I should refer to him. He then said: If other local authorities desire to have the same powers, we think that it would be appropriate for them to promote a Private Bill in each case …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 792.] About 30 local authorities throughout the country took the Government at their word and promoted Private Bills, at great expense, to do this. Every single one of them had this Clause rejected at the request of the Ministry of Transport. The Newcastle Bill actually got through Committee in this House, but when it reached the other place there was a request from the Ministry of Transport that the Clause dealing with concessionary fares should be deleted, and the other place deleted it. That is the nearest that anybody has got.

The statement I have quoted was made by a great many Members, including the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton), who talked a great deal about this matter. But it was sheer hypocrisy, because the Government had no intention of allowing any Private Bill to go through in this respect. It is shocking that the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport read out his brief and said this—and in every case the Ministry of Transport had the Clause deleted. Of course, it made the Government's case on the eve of the 1955 election sound reasonable. They said, "We will legalise the concessions which already exist and we say to other local authorities that if they want to introduce these concessions they must bring in a Private Bill." But when they brought in a Private Bill, the Government requested the Committee, as Government Departments do, to delete this Clause. If that is not sharp practice, I do not know what is.

Since then, as we predicted in Committee and on Third Reading of the 1954 Bill, the position has become chaotic. Glaring anomalies appeared from the beginning of 1955. I will not describe the anomalies, because my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will describe the anomalies in Liverpool, and they are pretty much the same in every other area throughout the country.

For 10 years, in spite of Parliamentary Questions, in spite of Private Members' Bills—I do not know how many I have introduced—in spite of letters to local authorities, in spite of letters from organisations such as The Townswomen's Guild, the Scottish T.U.C., the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Association, the National League for the Blind, Edinburgh Town Council and many other local authorities—in spite of all this, the Government have refused up to 1st July to budge one inch. As recently as 4th June, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), the Prime Minister again rejected the proposal. He said: This raises the whole problem of whether benefits for old-age pensioners should be in cash or in kind. I said quite clearly then"— referring to a previous reply— that the Government believed that the right method of helping the elderly was to help them with cash."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 1248.] On 1st July, the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport also rejected a request from me that something should be done, and, if I may say so, rejected it with quite a lot of heat. The noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North described this as "Socialist agitation for concessionary fares". Just imagine the noble Lord describing it in this way! I quoted the case of an old man who had to go twice a week to the chest clinic and to pay 1s. 4d. each way, and the noble Lord described it as "Socialist agitation for concessionary fares".

I wrote to the Prime Minister, and I enclosed a duplicate of a letter from an old-age pensioner. I offered to meet the Prime Minister and to discuss the matter with him. The only reply I have had is a terse acknowledgment from his Private Secretary. This is from a Prime Minister who, when he emerged, promised on television that he would reply to all letters.

In a supplementary question following somebody else's Question, I referred to the Prime Minister's discourtesy in the House. After I had done so, I got a reply returning the old-age pensioner's letter, but saying nothing about my request to see him to discuss the matter. I received that reply from the Prime Minister—I hope that the House will notice this—on 7th July. On 8th July, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) received a similar reply, rejecting any amelioration of the problem.

On 8th July, however, there was a reply to a Written Question put down the night before by an hon. Member opposite. On the day on which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North got his reply, a reply was given to a Written Question put down the night before, and that reply appeared to be a complete about-turn by the Government. As in 1955, under the pressure of an imminent General Election, the Government decided to do something.

I want, however, to read this reply to the House, because there are a number of catches in it. Had it been a straightforward reply, I do not suppose that this debate would have taken place today. Let us see what it said on 8th July. It was as follows: I am getting in touch with the local authorities concerned with a view to reaching agreement with them as to what amendments of the law are required to secure that their powers to grant travel concessions under the 1955 Act are not eroded. Subject to our reaching a satisfactory agreement on these lines with the local authorities concerned it is our intention to introduce the necessary legislation next Session."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 116.] The first big snag is that the Government will not be in office next Session. But a Labour Government will introduce a general enabling Measure as one of its first Measures after the election. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Sir K. Thompson) does not believe that the Labour Party will win the election, he is the only person in the country who does not. I repeat: the Labour Party, as one of its first Measures after the election, will introduce a general enabling Measure.

That means, however, that the old, the blind and the disabled will have to wait six months. Whoever wins the election, it cannot be done in less than six months. The Government's attitude means, therefore, that with the best will in the world there will be a delay of six months before anything happens.

That interesting reply by the Government which I have quoted states that they will take steps to ensure that the powers to grant travel concessions under the 1955 Act are not eroded. The substitution of diesel buses for trolleybuses and the subsequent extinction of the concession might be regarded as erosion—clearly it is—and this might be put right, because a concession existed in 1955. But what about a bus route to a new estate which did not exist in 1955? In this case, there is no erosion, because the route did not exist in 1955. Therefore, no concession granted under the 1955 Act has been eroded. A completely new concession is required. Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that this is one of the major anomalies under the Act? It is not a question of eroding the 1955 Act. It is something entirely new which is required.

If the clever little formula in the Government's reply means what it says, if their words have the normal English meaning, it is completely inadequate and we reject it as nothing more than an electoral subterfuge. It is a subterfuge by a discredited Government who have their back to the wall.

Of course, the discussions with the local authorities are limited to preventing erosion. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members opposite have followed the point which I have been making. I have tried to spell it out in simple terms so that even an hon. Member opposite can understand it. The discussions with the local authorities under this formula are limited to preventing erosion. How can they discuss the provision of a concession on a new bus route which has come into existence since 1955? Presumably, they cannot go outside the formula.

The anomalies under the Act are known, and known precisely. The Ministry of Transport knows exactly what the anomalies are. There are about 10 anomalies and they are known exactly and precisely by every local authority. The only answer which will deal with all them is a general enabling Bill.

Last week, this House put through a Bill on Malta. We put it through in a few hours. I now, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, challenge the Government to put before the House in the next four days an enabling Bill which will give local authorities their freedom in this matter and we will pass it in a few hours. I have consulted my friends in the other place and they have agreed to put it through equally expeditiously. I challenge the Government to bring such a Bill before the House in the next four days, If they will, we will ensure that it becomes law before the end of the present Parliament.

Sir Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)

Why is that not in the Motion?

Mr. Short

I am coming to the Motion.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton has been, perhaps, the most reasonable Member on the other side of the House. I have re-read his speech on this matter. He took a much more humane and sensible line than almost anybody on the benches opposite.

The Motion censures the Government for two reasons. First, what the Government are proposing to do is quite inadequate and, in any event, it involves a delay of six months. Secondly, we censure the Government because of their intransigence and their rigid refusal to inject justice and sanity into this matter during the past 10 years until faced with the imminent prospect of electoral defeat.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

I followed with interest every word that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) said, and I have the feeling that throughout his remarks he has confused sentiment with substance. I welcome the Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others of my right hon. Friends. It is much better that we should ensure that the value of concessions is not eroded. I am interested in why this subject has been raised. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central has said that concessions have been given by the Government both in 1955 and now and that this was done for electoral purposes. I am interested to note that the hon. Member's Bill, which was enacted by this House, was dated just before the General Election in 1955.

We need to bear in mind the difference between giving benefit to a limited number of pensioners, however well deserving, and giving a cash benefit which can be used by pensioners at their discretion. I am also interested to observe that the Opposition this year have not had one Supply Day to deal with the matter of pensions and National Insurance. We are dealing with pensioners who, in their own journal, The Pensioner's Voice of December, 1963—

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

It does not circulate in Scotland.

Mr. Webster

I dare say that the hon. Member can read English. If he cannot, I as a Scot with an English constituency will interpret the wording for him, and I think that he will find it useful. It comes under the heading "This concession business ", and refers to the accepting of such a device which the official journal of the Old-Age Pensioners Association deplores and finds much less satisfactory than the granting and the continuing of granting of an adequate pension throughout. I am interested that in the last week of this Parliament immediately before the General Election the hon. Gentleman comes forth with this sort of stuff in order to get sympathy—

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman may recollect that, unfortunately—he may think otherwise—I have been ill for very many months in this Parliament. I gave notice when I was ill and as soon as I returned I introduced a Private Member's Bill, as I have done on many occasions during the past 10 years.

Mr. Webster

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was ill. I welcome him back in vigour and strength, as we have seen tonight. But it is interesting to me that both his campaigns have culminated immediately before a General Election.

The Opposition mount this campaign over a section of the community, which gets them a great deal of publicity and support among the electorate. They do this rather than challenge the Government on their main pension programme and rather than give their own programme for the pensioners. The Opposition have mounted Supply Days on every topic on which they thought they could defeat the Government, on sport and leisure, the cost of living and others things which, I agree, matter very much, but they have never once raised the subject of the actual pension, and that is what a great many pensioners in my constituency who do not live on bus routes feel most strongly about.

The hon. Gentleman said that we have done nothing for the pensioner. The Labour Party has talked about a half-term pension, and it seems to rely on slogans rather than substance. Its record is indefensible. It seems to prefer concessions to substance. I remember the steam which hon. Members opposite raised over the tobacco concession. I am a smoker and may later benefit from the concession, but not everybody can use it. We believe that we should give financial assistance in order to avoid only certain sections receiving the benefit.

We come back again to the article in the December issue of the old-age pensioners' official organ which talks about this playing on their sentiments as an indignity upon them. Let us consider this for a moment. We are told that we do not do anything for the retirement pensioner. I would remind the House that the pension which was granted in 1947 remained exactly the same for the rest of the term of office of the Labour Government. I am not mistaking their promises, which are very vague, with their actual achievement. The pension remained the same until immediately before the General Election. During that period, the cost of living went up very much higher than the 4s. rise in the pension given on the eve of the General Election. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite know that this is the case.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Surely the hon. Member remembers that when the Labour Party came to power the old-age pension was 10s. a week and when Labour went out it was 32s. a week. If the hon. Gentleman claims that the only increase in the old-age pension was 4s., how did he arrive at that figure?

Mr. Webster

I will explain why. The National Insurance Act, 1947, was a Measure based on the Beveridge Report, which was commissioned by the Coalition Government, and it was based on a principle which was thoroughly agreed and accepted by both sides. The pension was 26s. 8d.—the hon. Gentleman's figure is wrong—and it was raised to 30s. for men over 70 and women over 65. Fair shares for all we had! The pension was raised by 4s. and the value of it was eroded by 6s. because of the rise in the cost of living.

Then the pension went up from 30s. for a single man to 67s. 6d. a rise of 100 per cent. The pensioner realises that this is of greater value than a fractional benefit given to a certain section of the community and paid for by all as ratepayers. The hon. Member said that it will not cost the ratepayers anything. This is the typical Socialist story, that it will not cost anything. That is not so. It will cost the other fellow something, and that means the nation as a whole.

In 1951 a married couple received 50s. or 40s. a week according to whether they were over 70 or 65. Now they are receiving 109s. a week. Again it has more than doubled. During that period the cost of living has gone up 50 per cent. We appreciate that certain sections of the retirement pensioner community do not go entirely on the Cost of Living Index for their general purchasing. The cost of food index is of more importance to them, and that has gone up by 59 per cent. On both counts, this is better for them than a fractional benefit given to certain sections who happen to live near a bus stop.

I am quoting the London and Cambridge statistics. We hear about the wicked Tories and how cruel they are to the deserving poor. In 1951 the percentage of the gross national product spent on the retirement pensioner was 2.3. In 1949, two years previously, it had been 2.5 per cent. So even that was eroded. We are getting a contrast of sentiment and what actually happened. Today the percentage of the gross national product spent on the retirement pensioner is 3.6. That is an em- phatic improvement, and I am glad to find that the Opposition are now sitting quiet and listening to the actual substance.

Mr. Loughlin

We have heard this record before.

Mr. Webster

There is another reason why the Opposition are quiet and why the debate is on this subject and not on pensions. We want to know what the Labour Party's plans really are. I believe that their plans are kept very much in the dark so that they can get their hands on the occupational pensions schemes and use those funds to buy shares in industry as a form of back-door nationalisation. We want to know about this We want to get at the facts. We want to get the sentimental stuff away from this.

We are making certain that the principle here is not eroded. We are also making certain that the Government's greatest effort shall be to make a general improvement in the pension, as we have done in the past. It should be known that this is the Government's record, and that the Government will stand by their word. I hope it will be realised that in this General Election year this is the Opposition's bait for the electorate in an attempt to get control, and that it represents a sentimental approach by the Opposition without the substance which is necessary.

Mr. Willis

This is most interesting but—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

I am not quite sure what the position is. Has the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) given way?

Mr. Webster

No, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; I had finished.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. George Thomas.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) addressed us as though we were an election meeting. He succeeded within a short time in distorting more facts than I have heard him submit during the whole period of his membership of this House.

Mr. Webster

Would the hon. Gentleman tell me one fact I have distorted?

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Member is very impatient. I have only just started. I think it pitiful that hon. Members opposite should try to avoid the main issue which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short). My hon. Friend made an unanswerable case but all we have had from the Government is a blatant example of trying to use the old folk in the General Election.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare used two arguments. First, he said that the old folk did not want this concession and then, secondly, that it was a bait to get their votes. He cannot have it both ways. He must make up his mind whether this is a bait and the old-age pensioners want it, or that they do not want it and it therefore ceases to be a bait.

I have the honour to be president of the Cardiff Area Council of the National Federation of Old-Age Pensioners Association. In that area, we represent 4,000 pensioners in the City of Cardiff, and at the area meetings that I have attended regularly over the past few years there has been agitation for this concession Thatagitation has now sharpened because of increased transport fares, especially since it is clear that the old folk are not going to get a pension from this Government that is adequate to live on without recourse to the National Assistance Board.

During the past few days I have received a petition signed by 3,000 pensioners in Cardiff. The signatures were collected by Mr. Ivor Jones, himself an old-age pensioner and a very sick man. He found ready response in the city among those who believe that the local authority ought to have the right to grant concessionary fares for pensioners and, I believe, for other categories in the city as well.

The Government have a shocking record in this regard. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central has submitted his Bill in Session after Session during the past 10 years. It has been my privilege to be one of its sponsors. But every time it has been blocked by Government supporters. They have stayed on Fridays to kill it and if by chance the Bill has ever reached the Committee stage they have killed it there.

Now the Government have deliberately created the impression in the country that, if the country is misguided enough to return them, they will introduce legislation granting the right to give concessionary fares for old folk. That is the belief that has been spread abroad by the statements of the Minister. But, as my hon. Friend has made clear, that is not at all the intention of the party opposite. They intend merely to play with the 1955 Act.

I believe that it is wicked to tell the old folk that they must go to the back of the queue once again; that they must wait until next winter before anything can be done for them. If the will to put this matter right were there, both the pension would have been made adequate without a pensioner having to go to the National Assistance Board and my hon. Friend's Bill would have been passed.

Only a month ago, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition told the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister that, if the Government introduced a Bill to grant these concessions, it could go through in one day. The Government refused. Shortly afterwards they introduced the Malta Independence Bill. Why could not they have introduced my hon. Friend's Bill, since there would have been no opposition to it from this side of the House or in another place? The truth is that the only hope for the old folk to get these concessionary fares is a change of Government, and I believe that the country will take this as but one more indication of the necessity for change.

I promised to speak for five minutes only, and I shall keep my word, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be relieved to know. But I say to the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare—for the time being—that he has not helped himself by his distortion of facts and that he has not clouded the issue in the minds of the electorate.

Mr. Webster

Will the hon. Member quote me one distortion?

Mr. Thomas

If the hon. Member were here in the next Parliament, I would. The reform for which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central asks is long overdue and it is disgraceful that the Government have not already introduced it.

8.26 p.m.

Sir Leslie Thomas (Canterbury)

I listened with great interest to the points made by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) and I congratulate him on his persistence throughout 10 years. But I cannot do so on his consistency in the light of the arguments that have been adduced against him. I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for having called me at this moment but, having listened to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, (Mr. G. Thomas), I go no further than to say that, in the family of Welsh Thomases, there are saints and sinners and doubters and non-doubters.

I want to take up the point that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West has just made. If he believes it, why does not he encourage his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central to try to reintroduce the tobacco concession?

Mr. Willis

Because he wants a transport concession.

Sir L. Thomas

That does not matter. The tobacco concession could have been included in the Motion as well as in the Bill. I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, for he has been so persistent in this campaign, but the hon. Member for Cardiff, West has not adduced one argument in favour of this concession.

I venture to suggest that there are not four or five constituencies with such a high proportion of old-age pensioners as that which I have the honour to represent. If we were to accept what the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central suggests, what would happen to my old-age pensioners? They have not got public service transport. What is to be the attitude of the Government to the form of transport which would be available to old-age pensioners if this Motion were accepted? The situation is utterly ridiculous. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) on his persistency, but not on his consistency, because this form of Motion is an insult to all those who are receiving a retirement pension, to all those who are still mentally competent.

Why should the hon. Gentleman dictate to the man over 65 and the woman over 60 how they should spend their money, which is exactly what he is doing? This is the fundamental difference between the two sides of the House. Hon. Members opposite are dictating to the old-age pensioners how they should spend their money. What about the other concessions which could be given? I have a tremendous number of friends in my constituency who are old-age pensioners, some lucky enough to possess cars, many with sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law prepared to take them around, and many who prefer to walk. Why should we in the House of Commons decide how those people should spend their money? All the hon. Gentleman is saying is that immediately a man becomes a retirement pensioner, he becomes senile. I disagree, for there is no generation more independent than that.

Mr. Short

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman in the middle of his full spate. These concessions have been enjoyed for 60 or 70 years in some cases. The simple issue is that we want them to continue and he does not.

Sir L. Thomas

That is so. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that because these concessions have been in being for 60 or 70 years they are right and justified? I have said on the public platform many times that if we are to give a concession to retirement pensioners, it must be equitable for everyone in that section of the community. There was once a concession for tobacco which had to be redeemed, but never once have hon. Members opposite attempted to reintroduce it.

There are two things of prime importance to elderly people, and it is elderly people whom we are discussing. One is food and the other is warmth. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) to laugh, but she does not have in her constituency the proportion of elderly people which I have in mine. I was saying that if we give a concession to elderly people, we must make it a concession which is common to all and equitable to all.

Mr. Short

Fair shares in misery.

Sir L. Thomas

Fair shares for all, which is not what the Motion proposes. There are two things, food and warmth—

Mr. G. Thomas

Three and six for coal.

Sir L. Thomas

But the hon. Gentleman will never want to go back to the pre-war days when coal was cheap and the miners suffered. That is one of the reasons why some of us are on these benches.

Mr. G. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the purpose of my interjection, which I should not have made sitting down. Is he aware that, through the National Assistance Board, the Government allow 3s. 6d. a week to those who are too poor to live on their pension as a coal allowance in the winter? Is that the warmth he is talking about?

Sir L. Thomas

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we allow all sorts of disregards. I am rather shocked that he should intervene and say something which he did not intend to say.

If we are going to make a concession to old-age pensioners, it must be equitable throughout that section of the community. If we are going to make concessions on transport, they must be made on transport in all sections of the community, private enterprise and others.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central has not told us how he would deal with this problem in London. In Herne Bay in my constituency there is probably a higher proportion of old age pensioners who use private transport. How does the hon. Gentleman propose to arrange for subsidies on this? This is a very important point, and I think that the hon. Gentleman in introducing this Motion has underrated not only the intelligence, but the strength of character, of the old-age pensioners who do not want charity, because this is what it is in the form in which the hon. Gentleman is proposing to give it.

8.36 p.m.

Mr. Charles Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

I welcome the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir L. Thomas), because I have been impressed by what he said. His speech and that of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) characterise the Conservative Party's attitude to the elderly people of this country Hon. Gentlemen opposite have interest, they have sympathy, but they lack the will to take action.

I would have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have resisted the temptation to make the point that the endeavours of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) are mere electioneering. Nobody in this House has been more consistent, or has persevered so much, as my hon. Friend in his efforts to provide concessionary fares for old-age pensioners, the blind and the disabled.

It is not my intention to detain the House for very long. The point that I wish to make concerns the erosion which has taken place in the level of pensions. The Government have now created a situation where the elderly, the blind, and the disabled are becoming virtually socially isolated within the community. They are unable to participate in social life as fully as they might because of the limitations of their existing contacts.

One hon. Gentleman opposite asked, "Do the elderly want this concession?" Every hon. Member is entitled to his own view. Recently, I came across an elderly gentleman in my constituency. He had almost a poetic turn of mind. We were talking about concessionary fares, and he quoted these immortal words: What is life, if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?". He added, almost cynically, "But I wish that I had the facility to stare at something more beautiful than these four walls and that lot over there". "That lot over there" was the factory in which he had spent 40 years of his life. Because of the limitations which the present level of pensions imposes on him, he finds himself socially isolated and his movements restricted.

Regardless of which Government win the next General Election, we ought to be directing our attention to the need to do something about this important question of concessionary fares. I could quote a variety of sources to illuminate the circumstances which exist in this respect. I wish to refer to the Report on Social Contacts In Old Age—a survey carried out by the Liverpool Personal Service Society in conjunction with Liverpool University. It is appropriate that this evening my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) will be winding up the debate on this side of the House.

The Report makes one or two illuminating points. It refers to the Childwall ward of the city. It said: There are plenty of open spaces readily accessible, but a visit to a club or cinema or to a church of their own denomination involves a bus ride for many people … Opportunities for recreation out of doors are limited except for those people who are prepared to travel some distance by bus. Dealing with the Norris Green Housing Estate it said: All the shops are concentrated on the main roads running past or through the estate and for many of the old people shops as well as churches, clubs and cinemas can only be reached by bus.

Sir K. Thompson

I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to be unfair. Will he point out that Liverpool Corporation grants concessions for pensioners to travel, including travel on the service through Norris Green, which is part of my constituency?

Mr. Morris

I intend to make some of those points later.

As the hon. Member rightly says, the Report points out that when the survey was made Liverpool Corporation had a scheme under which concessionary fares were granted to elderly people over 70 years of age, and it makes a very significant reference to this. It says: Many of those who were over 70 and, therefore, had free travel warrants for buses between rush hours made use of them to ride to the Pier Head, sit there for a while and come back again … They appeared to derive a great deal of enjoyment from this. Even more significantly, the Report adds: Pensioners under the age of 70 could not really afford the fare several times a week. Hon. Members opposite may feel that I am concentrating more upon urban areas than rural areas, and I will, therefore, make a brief quotation from the Report on the Welfare of Old People in Rural Areas, prepared by the National Association of Parish Councils. As a result of reading this document one learns that The basic needs of old people are much the same in town and country, but the countryside problem is possibly the greater because of the smaller numbers concerned and the difficulties of transport. The difficulty of transport for the isolated and elderly members of the community is a question of vital importance. Over the next 20 years it is estimated that there will be an increase of 1,800,000 in the number of old-age pensioners.

Somebody has said that this is a sectional interest. Whether or not that is so, it is a very important interest. Contributions to the debate so far have tended to deal with the concession itself and the effect on old-age pensioners, the disabled and the blind who come within the terms of the concession. But there is another aspect of the question. We must examine the consequences of it. We have to look at the impact it may have on the public transport industry generally.

The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) made a valid point that in his constituency there are no municipal transport authorities. He asked what would be the effect of the concession in areas where there were only privately-operated transport undertakings. I wish to draw attention to the fact that there has, over recent years been a growing contraction in the number of passengers carried by public transport. This has happened primarily in the off-peak periods. During the 12 months ended 31st March, 1954, municipal public transport undertakings carried 6,858,894,000. During the 12 months ended 31st March, 1964, the figure dropped to 5,506,480,000. This represents a drop of 19.7 per cent. during that 10-year period. By providing this concession we should be doing a service for the municipal passenger transport industry.

Mr. G. Wilson


Mr. Morris

Let me go on to deal with the point made by the hon. Member, because it is important.

The private bus undertaking is fast disappearing. I do not know how many hon. Members have read the Report of the Transport Holding Company, which was set up with the authority of this House. The Report for 1964 indicates that this company, which is a nationalised concern, controls, either wholly or partly, one-third of the 76,000 buses and coaches in this country. Excluding the small operators engaged in private hire work and touring, the company, through its associates and subsidiaries, is responsible for 80 per cent. of the vehicle mileage involved. Almost the whole of the British public transport undertakings are either municipally owned or owned through the holding company.

Mr. G. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the point completely. The municipalities own a minority of buses, one-third of the nationalised industry. One-third is partially owned by the nationalised industry. Why should concessions be given to a minority when the majority of old-age pensioners who travel on buses would receive no benefit?

Mr. Morris

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his comment, but his figures bear little relation to the facts.

Mr. Willis

They bear little relation to the argument.

Mr. Morris

It is not true to allege that either the municipalities or the Transport Holding Company own a minority of the buses used for public transport.

Mr. G. Wilson

They do.

Mr. Morris

I am reading from the report of the company which is responsible for 80 per cent. of the vehicle mileage involved. This is not a party tract or political propaganda. It is the report of a company for which this House is responsible.

I do not wish to pursue this argument at length. I hope that I have already said sufficient to persuade the House to support the endeavours of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central and that in so doing we shall be doing a service to the elderly, the blind and the disabled, and also a service to the public transport industry.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I feel very strongly on this issue, and I can say in perfect honesty that I would have voted for the Opposition tonight had it not been for the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on 8th July. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) queried the fact that I put down a Question for Written Answer on 8th July. Perhaps I can illuminate the position somewhat when I say that, like him, I was rather shocked by the reply that was given by the Parliamentary Secretary on 1st July.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central suggested during business questions to the Leader of the House that the question of concessionary fares should be raised in the transport debate that was to take place on 8th July, and it was to find out whether there was a change of heart on the part of the Government, which I believed there was at that time, that I put down the Question. Had there been no change of heart, I intended to attack the Government in that debate. If any hon. Member cares to read my speech on that occasion, he will see that I said quite specifically that I scrapped my speech because I came prepared to attack the Government but that in view of the Answer of my right hon. Friend I had to change my tactics.

I feel that the 1955 Act is a very bad one. Through that Act we have had many anomalies, and it has meant, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central stated, that on new bus routes, serving new housing estates since 1955, pensioners have not been able to use their concessionary passes, and that in Newcastle, where trolleybuses have been changed to diesel buses, the pensioners travelling on the trolleybuses could make use of the concession, but pensioners travelling on the diesel buses could not. This is nonsensical. Some retirement pensioners have concessions in certain parts of the city and other retirement pensioners have not because they live in a part of the city which has a new bus route, or live in a new housing estate, or their area was served by diesel buses and not trolleybuses.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central was rather cynical about my right hon. Friend's reply on 8th July. I believe that he was wrong. He and I have seen eye to eye on a great deal of this issue. Since I was elected I have consistently fought for this idea of concessionary fares. I think that great care has to be taken to ensure that whatever legislation is brought in is completely fair. It would be a bad thing—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) wishes to say something, why does he not get up and say it?

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) about the "fighting" mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery), because I have not known him do any fighting. My hon. Friend said that the hon. Member put a couple of Questions on the Order Paper, but that is not "fighting". "Fighting" is voting against the Government.

Mr. Montgomery

If the hon. Member would listen occasionally instead of chatting so much, he might learn something, but that is very doubtful. I advise him to read the speech I made in that debate.

Mr. Lewis

I was in the Chamber.

Mr. Montgomery

It is a pity that the hon. Member came into the debate.

Mr. Lewis

I interjected on the last occasion and I was present on both occasions.

Mr. Montgomery

This new legislation must be completely fair and we must try to avoid any anomalies such as have arisen ever since the 1955 Act. It is vitally important that there should be full discussions between the Ministry and local authorities. It has been mentioned by hon. Members opposite that it would be perfectly possible for this legislation to go through in four days. I would be grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary if he could answer that point, and could say whether it would be possible to complete these negotiations and put the legislation through before the Summer Recess.

I want to know whether the discussions will be between the Ministry of Transport and local authorities, or between the Ministry and the Association of Municipal Corporations. This is vital. I am led to believe that the Association is rather lukewarm about concessionary fares. Therefore, the discussions should be with local authorities which at present have concessionary fares. I should also like to know whether, when discussions take place, account will be taken of the people of pensionable age who are not in receipt of retirement pensions.

Many of these people are often much worse off than those who have retire- ment pensions, particularly those who not only have retirement pensions but private pensions as well. In the scheme in Newcastle, to obtain concessionary fares a man must produce a retirement pension book. If he cannot do so a concession is not given. A great deal of grievance is caused among the small minority of people who, nevertheless, are not very well off but have to pay the full fare, while often people in a much better financial position are allowed to travel with concessionary fares and either pay nothing or very little. In Newcastle, the concessionary fare is 1d. during off-peak hours.

These points are important and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to them. I realise that we have not very much time for this debate.

Mr. A. Lewis

The hon. Member has not much time left here.

Mr. Montgomery

The electors will decide that.

I hope that my hon. Friend will give answers to the questions I have asked. On the answers will depend whether or not I vote for the Government Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I certainly could not vote for the Motion, which I believe to be nothing more or less than blatant electioneering.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)

This has been an important debate and I will not delay the House for long because I appreciate that other hon. Members wish to speak. Without wishing to comment on all the previous speeches, suffice it to say that the speech of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Sir L. Thomas) was dramatic, though totally unconvincing.

Despite statements made by the Government in recent years about the cost of living, and the announcement by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury earlier this month, it seems that they have no desire to reduce the cost of living; that is, unless they are willing to grant concessionary fares. This concession on public service vehicles would be welcomed by all old-age pensioners as a small but important contribution towards reducing their cost of living. Although the Government have said many things in recent years about helping old-age pensioners, there has been little action.

When the Government consider the unhappiness that is created by old-age pensioners having to pay full fares on public transport, I am sure they must realise that a concession of this sort is very necessary. Many pensioners lose family ties because they are unable to pay the fares to see their families, and it is regrettable that sons and daughters—perhaps because they have children and are unable to visit their parents—are not visited by old-age pensioners because they cannot afford the fares. All people have a desire to visit their loved ones. In refusing to grant concessionary fares the Government are refusing to accept this fact. As the electors watch the death of the Tories in this Parliament, if the Government do not say once and for all that they approve of concessionary fares, the final death blow will be struck. It will mean the electors writing the obituary of the Tory Party once and for all.

Politics apart, I wish to draw the attention of the House to Wales. Geographical conditions and high fares result in old-age pensioners in my constituency and other parts of Wales having to travel great distances. The total number of people in Wales receiving retirement pensions—these figures are published in the Welsh Digest of Statistics—number 308,000, which represents a very high proportion considering the size of the Welsh population. Between the age groups 65 to 85 that is the figure, and between the age groups 60 to 64 the figure is 174,000. Between 65 and 69 it is 120,000, and between 70 and 74 it is 91,000. Considering the total number of households in Wales receiving supplementary grants by way of National Assistance, we see that in 1963 700,000 people, or 32 per cent. of the population, would have been in receipt of concessionary fares had they been available.

Despite all this, in the constituency which I represent there are no public service vehicles. Nevertheless, if the Government were to back concessionary fares on public vehicles I am sure that the private operators would be given an impetus to follow suit and also give concessionary fares. Incidentally, from where I live to Swansea High Street Station costs 1s. 6d. return on the bus. Old-age pensioners who desire to meet their friends in the centre of the town to continue their social life must pay these fares.

In reality, no one can envisage any opposition to this Measure. I hope, therefore, that the Government will delay no further but that the people of Wales and Britain generally will see unanimity in the House and that we will agree to have concessionary fares. If the Government do not agree I regret that the finger of the electorate will write and, having writ, will move on to record in history the fact that the Tory Party wrote their own epitaph—"They shamed the parents of the nation."

9.5 p.m.

Sir William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)

I have listened with intense interest to the speeches of hon. Members opposite trying to give the impression that the Conservatives are, as one hon. Member said, kindly and sympathetic, but never able to do anything about the aged. It may interest the hon. Member to know that Brighton has had a Conservative council for very many years, and that only this morning I had the great pleasure of going round, with the welfare committee, some of our old people's homes. We have started no less than 14 of these homes in the last few years and they are amongst the finest I have seen in any part of the country.

We are told that we Conservatives are doing nothing, but I cannot help but wonder why Socialist Members do not get their own Socialist councils to pass resolutions asking the Members to bring forward Motions and Bills, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) has done—

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

We are doing so.

Sir W. Teeling

Not one hon. Member has mentioned that fact; hon. Members opposite have merely been speaking for themselves.

On the other hand. Brighton's Conservative council has already gone a long way towards getting this done. We have decided that after the General Election we will put forward our own Bill to achieve this object. It is not uninteresting to see what the town clerk says about the subject—it shows that there are at least two sides to the question. In his letter to the council, the town clerk says: The position created by the 1955 Act was considered in some quarters to be unsatisfactory and two conferences of representatives of local authorities with transport undertakings were held, but their desire to see amending legislation never came to anything because, first, the Association of Municipal Corporations was not in favour, secondly, the Municipal Passenger Transport Association was neutral, and, thirdly, the Ministry was, I believe, not particularly sympathetic. The over-riding consideration which influenced the A.M.C. was that since 1948 the State accepted the duty to provide adequately for the financial needs of those whose resources were otherwise insufficient, and that concessions of one kind or another to meet inadequate pensions ought not to be borne by the Rate Fund, nor, alternatively, by the remainder of the travelling public, this being one step towards disrupting the financial settlement of responsibility as between the State and the local authorities when the Poor Law régime was brought to an end. That is what our town clerk found from the municipal organisations.

But our town council was not to be put off by that. Councillor Mrs. Vale brought forward a notice of motion, and the council later resolved as follows: That this Council, being aware of the legal difficulties in connection with this matter, nevertheless express their complete sympathy with the objects of the original motion"— that is, to go back to the pre-1955 days: and request the Members of Parliament for the Borough to use their best endeavours to bring about any necessary change in the law to enable concessionary fares at off-peak periods to be granted to the senior citizens of Brighton. Incidentally, we have been talking in this debate about the blind and the old-age pensioners, but we in Brighton prefer to speak of our senior citizens. Anyone over 65 years of age is put in that group.

In most areas about 12½ per cent. of the population is over 65 years of age; with us, it is no less than 17½ per cent. In addition, Brighton is very hilly, and it is extremely difficult for old people to get about. We had a concession before 1955 for school children, for people connected with the bus companies, and their families, and, oddly enough, councillors, also. All these are allowed to remain at present, but we are all most anxious to get this problem solved.

I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central that it would be better if local councils were allowed to make their own decisions on these things. Those councils that really want to give these concessions are prepared to bring Bills forward, and we would then ask the Government to be fair and not try to alter the Measure in any particular detail. I am perfectly certain that when we on this side get back into power, after the coming General Election, many of us will do our level best to make sure we get what we want.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I agree with the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) that it would be a good thing if this matter could be left to the local authorities. This is precisely what the Motion asks for, but this has hardly been mentioned by hon. Members opposite. The House has not been asked to give any concession. All that it is asked to do is to permit local authorities to give it. This is the answer to questions about those local authorities that own their own undertakings. I cannot see why if Edinburgh Corporation and its citizens expressed a wish to help their old-age pensioners they should not be allowed to do so. The House has not been asked to do anything other than to permit that to be done. All the rubbish that we heard from the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) had nothing at all to do with the Motion.

We are asked whether or not a local authority should have the power to initiate schemes to help pensioners, the blind and the disabled. I am wholeheartedly for their having that power. The old-age pensioners in my constituency want this concession. I have been asked about concessionary fares more often in the last 10 years than I have been asked any other question. I can almost bet when the question will come up at my meetings. My local authority wants this power, and it is not a Socialist local authority. At the moment it is evenly divided between Conservatives and Labour, with a few Liberals holding the balance. Edinburgh Corporation wants it and it has written to the Prime Minister and wants to see him about it. The Corporation is trying to do what it can to gain for itself power to give its old-age pensioners a little treat by way of a concession on its buses.

The Corporation does all sorts of things for all kinds of other people. It sets up schemes limited in their character to children or other classes within the community, and there is neither rhyme nor reason about its inability to do this for old-age pensioners. The Government say to the local authorities, "We know better than you do". The Government used to talk about "Whitehall knows best", because one of my hon. Friends happened to use that phrase, but the Government do not simply say it—they act as if Whitehall knows best.

Why should the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport dictate to Edinburgh Corporation what it should do? He makes no contribution to the Edinburgh transport system. He does not even pay rates in Edinburgh. He is an interloper there, occupying a room at the top of St. Andrew's House simply because Edinburgh welcomes him there. Why then should he dictate to the Corporation the manner in which it should treat its old-age pensioners? Do I understand that if Edinburgh Corporation said, "We will hold a large Christmas party in Waverley market for the old-age pensioners" the Government would say, "No you must not"? But that is the argument. Would hon. Members say, "You must not give a Christmas party to your old-age pensioners because you are not doing it for everyone else"? What a piece of nonsense. I have never heard such rubbish in my life.

Hon. Members opposite prated week after week about giving the local authorities more power. "Trust the local authorities", they said, "Give them freedom to spend their own money". All right. Tonight, we shall be testing that in the Lobbies and we shall see how sincere hon. Members opposite really are. I bet that they will not trust the local authorities. They will not give the local authorities power to spend their own money when it comes to concessionary fares for old-age pensioners. It is about time hon. Members opposite faced the fact of what they are doing.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare gave us as the most extraordinary account of pensions that I have heard for a long time. He would not give way to me at the time, and I tell him now that his account was so inaccurate because he trusted his own Central Office propaganda leaflet. He did not even know what the pension was in 1945, and his Central Office had not told him. It had given him the wrong leaflet. I used to have a questioner at my meetings who came along with the same leaflet as the hon. Gentleman read out tonight, and he had not heard about the pension in 1945 either. He was like the hon. Gentleman, and about the same age, of course.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare never even mentioned the question we are discussing. When he reads his speech tomorrow, he will find that he never discussed the Motion at all. He accused my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) of making electioneering propaganda, but at least my hon. Friend spoke to the Motion.

Mr. Webster


Mr. Willis

I am one of the most courteous Members, and I give way to anyone when I am given way to. If the hon. Gentleman had allowed me to intervene, I probably should not have spoken tonight. I have no intention of giving way to the hon. Gentleman now. I am very sorry about that, and it really hurst me not to.

The hon. Gentleman's speech was entirely irrelevant to the Motion, though I am sure it will look handsome in his local Press. It was delivered entirely for electioneering purposes. It must have been; otherwise, he would have spoken about the Motion. He could not score any electioneering propaganda off the Motion, of course, so he dealt with other matters.

I ask the hon. Gentleman this question: does he think that a local authority should have the right to treat its old-age pensioners in a certain way, if it wants to?

Mr. Webster

I simply quoted the old-age pensioners' official organ as saying that they are more interested in the rate of pension than in this concession.

Mr. Willis

As usual, the hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. His speech was composed of the same sort of thing. I asked him a direct question: did he or did he not think that a local authority should have the right to give its pensioners a certain concession if the local ratepayers wished to do so? He never answered that. He will have a chance to answer in the Division Lobby in about 40 minutes, and he will answer with his feet, not his head.

We in Edinburgh would be delighted to have the power to give this concession to our old-age pensioners. This is the view of all parties in Edinburgh. This applies to a council which is fairly evenly divided. It certainly applies to the Scottish Old-Age Pensioners' Association—and I say this for the benefit of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare. The Scottish Old-Age Pensioners' Association is 100 per cent. behind this Motion. The hon. Member need not quote things which we do not see in Scotland and which are alien to us. Everyone in Scotland wants this authority. I hope that tonight we shall manage to defeat the Government on this matter, and I hope that we shall give local authorities the right to do as they wish in relation to the manner in which they treat local citizens.

9.21 p.m.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

I have listened to all the speeches from hon. Members opposite and I have come to the conclusion that with the exception of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling)—

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

On a point of order. For the sake of the record, may I point out that an hon. Member on this side of the House rose to his feet to continue the debate from this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Mrs. Braddock.

Mrs. Braddock

May I start again?

I have listened to all the speeches from hon. Members opposite, and with the exception of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion I am certain that none of them has read this Motion or knows anything about it or what its implications are. It would be very useful if they read the Motion. It reads: That this House regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to amend the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act 1955 in order to restore to local authorities the freedom to initiate schemes of concessionary fares to pensioners, the blind and the disabled which they enjoyed until November 1954, and to deal with the anomalies which arose therefrom. Only one speech has been made about the local authority responsibility. I am certain that quite a number of hon. Members do not appreciate what the situation is with reference to the powers of local authorities. Knowing that this matter would be of great concern, I requested my local authority, of which I have been a member for over 32 years, to give me a statement of the position showing what Liverpool were doing, the powers which Liverpool had under the 1955 Act and what is the situation now because of the changes which have taken place in the residence of people since 1955. To get this completely correct, so that there can be no question about it, I shall read the statement which the local authority gave me: Section 1(3) of the above Act limits the concessions which can be granted by a local authority to those which are were being granted at any date in 1954 not later than 30th November, 1954. The Corporation grant travel concessions to persons of 70 years of age and over in receipt of a National Insurance retirement pension or a non-contributory old-age pension, to blind persons, to ex-Service men suffering from leg disability consequent upon war service, to disabled civilians who have lost a leg or legs owing to enemy action, and to scholars and to children under five years of age. The City Council have obtained, under the Act, a certificate from the Traffic Commissioners declaring the facilities which were being granted at 30th November, 1954. The area in which free travelling facilities are available include Liverpool, Bootle, Litherland Urban District and parts of Huyton-with-Roby Urban District. Kirkby Urban District, Prescot Urban District and Whiston Rural District. The certificate from the Traffic Commissioners is supported by a map defining the area in which free passes were being granted at 30th November, 1954. May I break for a moment and say that this map is there for the use of the officials of the corporation who issue the certificates and that nobody can go over the limit of the map and its designated area.

In places like Liverpool and in other areas where there are new housing estates, where people are being asked to move, where, in Liverpool, the slums are the worst in the country, where people are being asked to move out of the central area over on to the other side beyond where the map line finishes, when older people who have lived in shocking conditions are being provided for in a place which we in Liverpool call "on the other side of Macketts Lane"—they want better conditions; they are persuaded to accept them because they are told that they can have them now, and if they do not take them now they might be dead before they have the opportunity of having them in the central area.

If they go over to the other side of the line which is prepared on the map, the corporation cannot let them have their concessionary travel pass. It is taken from them. That must be happening in local government throughout the country where there have been changes in areas since 1955. If Liverpool has been given a line on a map outside which it cannot supply a concessionary pass, this must apply also to all the other local authorities in whose areas there have been changes since 1955. Things have changed considerably.

It is not a question of a person using a bus and paying for it and then, if in receipt of National Assistance, going to the National Assistance Board, and saying, "I have spent so much on visiting friends who lived next door to me before I was moved outside the concessionery fare area. Can I have three bob, because I have paid that for the bus?" That is a silly business and that is why I am so concerned about what the Minister of Transport says. These problems cannot be met by a means test at the National Assistance Board. We want to see the matter dealt with properly. I notice on the benches opposite my colleague from Liverpool, the hon. Member for Walton (Sir K. Thompson), who also knows the position in the city. This sort of position is being faced by many local authorities in whose areas there have been changes since the 1955 arrangement was made.

We are asking for an alteration, or, at least, a review of the present situation, so that if alterations are needed they can be put into effect. No suggestion by the Ministry of Transport that there will be some sort of increase in pensions or for pensioners who have had concessionary passes will meet the position.

To resume the report which I have had from Liverpool, it says: The Act empowers a local authority to continue to provide the facilities which they provided in 1954, or grant lesser facilities, but they are unable to extend these facilities. The effect of the Act so far as Liverpool is concerned is to limit the granting of the facilities to persons residing within an area defined on the map attached to the Certificate granted by the Traffic Commissioners under the Act, which Certificate is evidence of the facilities which were being granted in 1954. The existing legal position creates anomalies not only in Liverpool but in many parts of the country and, in addition, prevents the City Council from making even minor adjustments in the concessions at present granted to old-age pensioners and others. The difficulty which now arises is that residents in Kirkby Urban District and Whiston Rural District, outside the area shown on the map attached to the Certificate, cannot be issued with free passes so that the Corporation is in the position that some of its own tenants outside the City boundary receive passes whilst others do not. The position is aggravated by the fact that many of the people transferred to Kirkby and Whiston and living outside the area in which free travel passes can be issued were themselves the holders of free passes when living in Liverpool and on their transfer to Kirkby and Whiston have been deprived of the passes they previously held. So far as Netherton is concerned, the Corporation is not able to grant facilities to residents in this area as travel concessions were not being granted in that area in 1954"— although the local authority buses use and go as far as those areas. So it is dependent not on where the Liverpool buses go, but on where one lives whether one can have a pass on a local authority bus. The statement goes on: The City Council receives, from time to time, representations from responsible social welfare organisations about adjustments in the existing timing of travel concessions, but now, no matter how reasonable these adjustments may seem to be to the City Council, the Council has no power to grant them. We are asking that the present conditions shall be looked at to see whether they require adjustment and amendment to meet the difficulties which have arisen since 1955. That was nine years ago, and a great many things can happen in nine years.

The statement goes on: The City Council have from time to time placed on record their desire to see the Act of 1955 amended, and they have on a number of occasions supported efforts which were being made to have the Act amended. The Parliamentary (Special) Committee, at the request of the Passenger Transport Committee, decided to consider the question of including specific powers in the next General Powers Bill to enable the Corporation to grant facilities to old age pensioners residing within the area served by the Passenger Transport Department. Last year a Private Members Bill"— of which I was one of the signatories, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short)— which sought to amend the Act of 1955 by giving local authorities operating passenger transport undertakings general powers to grant concessionary travel facilities, was introduced into the House but the Bill was dropped. This is important. It shows how much local authorities are concerned about this. This applies not only to Liverpool, but to all local authorities which have concessionary passenger transport provisions.

The statement goes on: On the instructions of the City Council, the Town Clerk wrote to the Liverpool Members of Parliament. This was not only to the Labour side; it was to both sides. stating that the Council would welcome their support for the Bill, which, in effect, sought to grant the very powers for which the City Council has been expressing support for some time.

Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)

And so has the Manchester Corporation.

Mrs. Braddock

This is the Bill which the Government refused to allow to proceed. Steps were taken to ensure that it did not reach its final stages. I have signed four or five Private Members' Bills and Private Members' Motions on this matter within the last few years, and each one has been out-worded or outvoted or stopped by hon. Members opposite who, I believe, do not understand, or did not understand, exactly what they meant. [Interruption.]

The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) is making all sorts of comments. Before I read the last sentence of the Liverpool declaration, I would point out that if a local authority wanted to issue travel concessions on private buses, it ought to be able to pass a resolution through its council and make an agreement with private companies. But it cannot do that while things stand as they are. That is what we are concerned about. I hope that the hon. Member for Truro is prepared to understand what the position is. If local authorities were given powers to deal with this matter, they could make their own private arrangements on a payment basis, as other local authorities do which run buses through their own areas.

When I was a member of the Liverpool Council, the areas surrounding Liverpool which I mentioned paid £2 a year to Liverpool Corporation so that their people could have concessionary passes. Why cannot that be done? It could be done under the powers that would be given by my hon. Friend's Bill. But it will not be done as long as we have the stubborn gang on the other side of the House, who are not prepared to deal with the situation that has arisen during this last 10 years but promise only to look at it in the next Parliament on the basis of National Assistance payments for bus travel where needed. That was the effect of what the Minister said.

The statement concludes: It is not possible to give an accurate estimate of the number of passes in use prior to the coming into force of the Travel Concessions Act, for as there were no charges made to local authorities at that time there was no incentive to ensure that passes were returned on the death or removal to another area of the holders. In the ten-year period before the Act some 40,000 passes were issued, out of these possibly only about 35,000 were in actual use in 1955, the holders of the remainder having died or removed to other areas. With the coming into operation of the new Act it was necessary to keep an accurate record of passes issued and in use to support the charges made to the City Council's rate fund and the rate funds of other authorities. That is the position in almost every area issuing concessionary passes.

What is wrong with the system proposed by my hon. Friend? The local authority could make arrangements according to local circumstances. Would it not be better to allow them to do this rather than to impose a national Act laying down specific regulations for all areas, quite irrespective of the differences between them all?

The word "eroded", in the Amendment, seemed to me to be a strange word to use. I looked it up in the dictionary. The definition is: To gnaw away, to eat away or to consume". If they mean to "gnaw away", the Government have used the right word. They have gnawed away the concessions given to pensioners. I receive letter after letter about this from my constituents. I know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is receiving complaints all the time about the fact that people who have been compelled or persuaded to move out of Liverpool, where they have had these passes, find—not having been warned beforehand—that they must now pay the full fares to visit the relatives and friends they have left behind.

It is time this matter was looked at properly and the Act brought up to date. It is almost 10 years since it was brought into operation. Things have changed. I hope sincerely that hon. Members opposite who have any sort of conscience will face the facts and will not allow themselves to be fobbed off by the sort of stuff thrown out by their party.

However, they will not be on those benches opposite soon. Indeed, perhaps that is the reason for their not wishing to do anything. We shall deal with the situation because we believe that this concession is essential and that the ratepayers have no objection at all to giving it to the elderly and the disabled.

9.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof welcomes the action announced by Her Majesty's Government to secure that the powers of local authorities to grant travel concessions under the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act, 1955, are not eroded". There is one thing on which the House will agree and that is in paying tribute to the persistence of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), even if we cannot see eye to eye with him about everything. As the House knows, the hon. Member has an Act on concessionary fares to his credit already and has another Bill before the House. He referred to the Third Reading of his Act when, strange as it may seem in the light of later events, he said: I am also extremely grateful to the Government for making the final stages of the Bill possible …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1955; Vol. 540, c. 897.] However, this spirit of good fellowship did not last for very long, and for some time the hon. Gentleman has been trying to extend the scope of the 1955 Act.

Mr. Short

Of course I was grateful to the Government. If the Government had not allowed that Measure to go through, all the old and blind and disabled would have lost everything. I was glad for a small mercy. But that was the time when I started to fight to get it enlarged.

Mr. Galbraith

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman admits that he was grateful to the Government at that time. Since then, he has been trying to extend the scope of the 1955 Act.

To begin with, he was rather a lone wolf, but on 28th April, this year, the Leader of the Opposition got on to the bandwagon. He even informed us at Question Time that day that he had made concessionary fares a main feature of the last election campaign. But the strange thing is that there is absolutely nothing about it in the 1959 election manifesto of the Labour Party.

Mrs. Braddock

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to what I said, he would have known that it was because so many people from Liverpool had moved into my right hon. Friend's constituency that he had been inundated with requests. He has been representing his constituents.

Mr. Galbraith

There must be a misunderstanding between the hon. Lady and me. What the right hon. Gentleman said was that he had made concessionary fares a main feature of the last election campaign and what I am saying is that the strange thing is that there is nothing at all about it in the 1959 election manifesto of the Labour Party; nor, so far as I can make out, is there anything about it in "Signposts for the Sixties". Instead, it is left to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, in a Ten-Minute Rule Bill, to tell us that this is now the official policy of the Opposition, while the leaders of the party, who should be doing this, are busily engaged in explaining away, as the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) did the other night, those sections of "Signposts for the Sixties" which the party likes but the country does not want to have.

No wonder the public is thoroughly mystified by the party opposite and no wonder the opinion polls show that its popularity is on the decline! This lack of public support is not surprising when, four days before Parliament adjourns for its long Recess, the Opposition choose for one of their precious Supply Days a subject which has been debated ad nauseam. However, I am very glad, for if this is all that they can find wrong with us, it must mean that we are doing very well.

The history of this matter goes back to 1954. As we know, a certain Mr. Prescott then challenged the validity of free travel for old-age pensioners in Birmingham, and the Court of Appeal ruled that it was illegal for local authorities to grant and to support out of the general rate fund free travel for particular classes of persons. It was this situation which led the hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill in 1955.

There was no need, however, for the Government of the day to give it facilities, but the Bill was accepted by the Government on the limited basis that it would be right to legalise existing concessions for local authorities, and to allow these to be paid for from the rates if necessary. During the Second Reading of the Bill the then Parliamentary Secretary, who has already been referred to today, said that the Government had had to consider the matter not only from the purely technical transport point of view, but also from the point of view—and I should like the Opposition to note this—of broad human sympathy with those who were in danger of having taken away from them concessions which they had been accustomed to enjoy for a very long time.

In fact, our view was that it would be unfair to take away concessions which were being innocently enjoyed, and in the transport debate on 8th July of this year my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery) referred to this when he said that once people had had the benefit of something it hurts all the more if it is taken away ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1964; Vol. 698 c. 475.] This is exactly the Government's view, but it is something which hon. Gentlemen opposite certainly do not seem always to understand, for a great deal of their purpose seems to be stimulated by a desire to pull down those whose standards are above the average. They do not seem to realise that nothing is absolute, everything is relative, and that a person who is absolutely well off may find himself harshly treated if suddenly he is deprived of what he has been accustomed to enjoy.

Mr. Spriggs

If the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Montgomery) believes what he said, he will have an opportunity of proving that in the Division Lobby later.

Mr. Galbraith

My reply to that irrelevant interruption is that if the party opposite recognises this fact with regard to concessionary bus fares which have become eroded, I hope it will apply the same humane approach to other aspects of politics.

As has been explained in the course of the debate by many hon. Members, one of the major difficulties in this matter, from the point of view of some councils, is that there have been changes in circumstances since the 1955 Act was passed, and as a result councils are no longer able to operate concessions which formerly they were able to.

For example, there have been changes in routes with the result that concessions no longer apply to them, or in some cases buses have been substituted for trolley buses—and this I understand is what is happening in Newcastle-upon-Tyne—or in some cases people have been rehoused, as for example in Liverpool, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) referred, in such a way that the concession no longer applies to them although they still use corporation transport. The difficulty in Liverpool is, of course, a tribute to the success of our slum clearance and housing policies, and that the grand scale of their success should throw up some minor marginal difficulty is nothing to apologise about. I think that people would rather have it this way than stagnation, with little or no house building going on, which is what happened when the party opposite was in power.

We recognise that changes of the sort which I have mentioned might be introducing conditions entirely contrary to the spirit of the 1955 Act whose object was certainly to allow existing concessions to continue. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 4th June: … if there are anomalies which are eroding the spirit of the 1955 Act, I am willing to examine them".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 1248.] It was as a result of this examination that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport announced in answer to a Question on 8th July that we would be getting in touch with the local authorities concerned with a view to reaching agreement with them as to what amendments of the law are required to secure that their powers to grant travel concessions under the 1955 Act are not eroded."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 116.] We shall be writing to the local authority associations.

Sir K. Thompson

Does this mean that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will ask local authority associations for their views, or ask those local authorities which are concerned in this matter for their views? There is a difference.

Mr. Galbraith

What he will do is to use the local authority associations as a kind of postbox, but he wants to get in touch with the authorities concerned to find out their views. When we have their views we can take the necessary steps in the next Parliament to put the matter right.

I can tell the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange who asked about the number of complaints which we have had on erosion, that the number is approximately 10, and not the vast number that she indicated. But it is one thing to deal with erosion, as we propose, and quite a different matter to extend this concession as hon. Members opposite want. Such an extension would create as many anomalies as it would remove. If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange will listen she will see that this is a good argument, even if she does not agree with it. Before the passing of the 1955 Act by no means all local authorities were giving concessionary fares to old people. In fact, according to our information only about 30 of the approximately 90 authorities which run municipal transport undertakings were doing so. I have heard no suggestion that local authorities should be compelled to grant concessions.

But even if this large proportion—two-thirds—did decide voluntarily to give concessionary fares, there are still many people who are not served by local authority buses at all. This is not only in the country districts. There are many towns, like Stoke-on-Trent, Norwich and even London, where the undertaking has to be run commercially, and where it cannot get help from the rates.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

The hon. Member has mentioned Stoke-on-Trent. The authority there has made great efforts to try to get this concession, but the private bus companies have been as stubborn as the Government and have refused to grant it.

Mr. Galbraith

That just shows the sort of difficulties that arise. These are kind of anomalies that exist. Even if local authorities were given powers to reimburse commercial undertakings from the rates—and this is not in the hon. Gentleman's Bill—there would still remain the worst anomaly of the lot, which is that the concession might be of no use at all to certain pensioners. This is something which hon. Members opposite seem to forget, when they talk about restoring freedom of action to local authorities. They do not take sufficient account of freedom of choice for the pensioner, and this is what really matters.

I find it very strange to hear the party opposite speaking about restoring freedom to local authorities when it has done so much to reduce their freedom. For example, it took away local authority hospitals, it took away local authority electricity generating stations, and it has been opposed throughout to the system of general grant, which gives additional discretionary powers to local authorities. So it is sheer humbug for the Labour Party now to start talking about restoring freedom to local authorities.

In fact, there is a good deal of muddled thinking about this proposition among the party opposite. If the view of the Opposition is accepted it means going back upon the 1948 National Assistance Act which, in the words of the late Mr. Bevan, made monetary help a national responsibility and welfare a local responsibility. Now, whatever travelling is, it is not welfare. It is a normal activity of civil life. It is not something like home nurses or home helps which are extensions of the Health Service designed to deal with the infirmities of old age and which are clearly welfare. Transport comes into the category of consumer goods, not social services. If there is to be any extension of travelling concessions for the old—

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

Is not the Minister aware that every doctor, every psychologist, will say that many lonely old people suffer badly because they cannot afford bus fares and that such a concession as this would bring them out to play their part in the life of our times in circumstances in which they do not do so now?

Mr. Galbraith

It may well be that many old people would like to travel, but many other old people would like to do other things. We feel that the fair way to deal with this is to see that they have adequate pensions and not to give concessions. If there is to be a general extension of travel concessions for the old, just because they are old, where is it to stop? Should not we, perhaps, provide electricity at cheaper rates, or coal, or gas, because old people feel the winter weather worst, or extra clothes or cheaper televisions? This is a very slippery slope to start on. If they say that we are to pay the old in this way, in kind rather than in cash, the party opposite show how thoroughly reactionary they are because this was the principle which the Truck Acts were designed to prevent and that was over a 100 years ago.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central said that he had sent a letter to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister enclosing a letter from one of his constituents who favoured the provision of concessionary fares. We must recognise that there is no unanimity among old-age pensioners in this matter.

Mr. L. M. Lever


Division No. 143.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Benson, Sir George Brockway, A. Fenner
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blackburn, F. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Alldritt, W. H. Blyton, William Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Boardman, H. Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Boston, T. G. Callaghan, James
Bacon, Miss Alice Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.) Carmichael, Neil
Barnett, Guy Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Castle, Mrs. Barbara
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Bowles, Frank Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Beaney, Alan Boyden, James Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Crosland, Anthony
Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Bradley, Tom Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Bray, Dr. Jeremy Dalyell, Tam
Mr. Galbraith

No, I cannot give way. Following the interchange which I had with the hon. Gentleman at Question Time, to which he has referred, I also received a letter from an old-age pensioner who also comes from Newcastle. The letter states: I entirely agree with you and please don't give way. A little extra money is far better than cheap fares"—

Mr. L. M. Lever


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Galbraith

She did not want to get paid in kind, she wanted cash. Then she added this, and it is very interesting I only hope that as a Conservative you are returned, because God help us if Labour is. Hon. Gentlemen opposite fail to appreciate the spirit of independence and the desire to choose for oneself which exists among old-age pensioners. That is what they forget. It is quite clear that we are deeply divided on this issue of freedom of choice. Accordingly, I ask the House to rebut the Opposition's ill-conceived Motion which will not remove anomalies and which will degrade the status of the old by making them accept recoupings of charity in kind.

On the contrary, I ask the House to support the Government Amendment which pledges the Government to prevent erosion and, by implication, to continue to promote still further the standards of the old so that they have freedom to buy more and more of what they want for themselves.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Aves 191, Noes 230.

Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rankin, John
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Redhead, E. C.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Reynolds, G. W.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kenyon, Clifford Rhodes, H.
Deer, George King, Dr. Horace Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Delargy, Hugh Lawson, George Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dempsey, James Lee, Frederick (Newton) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Dodds, Norman Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Doig, Peter Lover, L. M. (Ardwick) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Donnelly Desmond Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Driberg, Tom Loughlin, Charles Ross, William
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Lubbock, Eric Shinwell, Rt. Hon, E.
Edelman, Maurice McBride, N. Short, Edward
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) MacColl, James Silkin, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Evans, Albert Mclnnes, James Skeffington, Arthur
Fernyhough, E. McKay, John (Wallsend) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Finch, Harold Mackenzie, Gregor Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Fletcher, Eric McLeavey, Frank Small, William
Foley, Maurice MacPherson, Malcolm Snow, Julian
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sorensen, R. W.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Galpern, Sir Myer Manuel, Archie Spriggs, Leslie
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Mapp, George Steele, Thomas
Ginsburg, David Marsh, Richard Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mellish, R. J. Stonehouse, John
Gourlay, Harry Mendelson, J. J. Stones, William
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Millan, Bruce Swingler, Stephen
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Milne, Edward Taverne, D.
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mitchison, G. R. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Monslow, Walter Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Hannan, William Morris, John (Aberavon) Thompson Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Harper, Joseph Mulley, Frederick Thornton, Ernest
Hayman, F. H. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Thorpe, Jeremy
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Tomney, Frank
Herbison, Miss Margaret Oliver, G. H. Wade, Donald
Hilton, A. V. O'Malley, B. K. Wainwright, Edwin
Holman, Percy Oswald, Thomas Watkins, Tudor
Holt, Arthur Owen, Will Weitzman, David
Houghton, Douglas Padley, W. E. Whitlock, William
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Wigg, George
Hughes Cledwyn (Anglesey) Parker, John Wilkins, W. A.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pavitt, Laurence Willey, Frederick
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pearson, Arthur (Ponty pridd) Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Peart, Frederick Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Pentland, Norman Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Popplewell, Ernest Winterbottom, R. E.
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Prentice, R. E. Woof, Robert
Janner, Sir Barnett Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Probert, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jeger, George Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Mr. Charles A. Howell and Mr. Grey.
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Randall, Harry
Agnew, Sir Peter Buck, Antony Drayson, G. B.
Allason, James Bullard, Denys Duncan, Sir James
Anderson, D. C. Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Eden, Sir John
Arbuthnot, Sir John Campbell, Gordon Elliot Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Ashton, Sir Hubert Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham) Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)
Atkins, Humphrey Cary, Sir Robert Emery, Peter
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Chataway, Christopher Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Balniel, Lord Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Errington, Sir Eric
Barlow, Sir John Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Farey-Jones, F. W.
Barter, John Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Farr, John
Batsford, Brian Cleaver, Leonard Fell, Anthony
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Cole, Norman Fisher, Nigel
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Cooke, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Berkeley, Humphry Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Foster, Sir John
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Cordle, John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bidgood, John C. Corfield, F. V. Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Biffen, John Costain, A. P. Gammans, Lady
Bingham, R. M. Coulson, Michael Gibson-Watt, David
Bishop, Sir Patrick Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan
Black, Sir Cyrll Critchley, Julian Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)
Bossom, Hon. Clive Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)
Bourne-Arton, A. Curran, Charles Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)
Box, Donald Currie, G. B. H. Goodhart, Philip
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Dalkeith, Earl of Goodhew, Victor
Braine, Bernard Dance, James Gough, Frederick
Brewis, John d'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Gower, Raymond
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. Grant-Ferris, R.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Doughty, Charles Gresham Cooke, R.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Russell, Sir Ronald
Hall, John (Wycombe) McMaster, Stanley R. Scott-Hopkins, James
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Sharples, Richard
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maginnis, John E. Shaw, M.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maitland, Sir John Shepherd, William
Harvie Anderson, Miss Markham, Major Sir Frank Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Hastings, Stephen Marshall, Sir Douglas Speir, Rupert
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Marten, Neil Stainton, Keith
Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Stanley, Hon. Richard
Henderson, Sir John (Cathcart) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Stevens, Geoffrey
Hendry, Forbes Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon) Stodart, J. A.
Hiley, Joseph Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Storey, Sir Samuel
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Mawby, Ray Studholme, Sir Henry
Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Talbot, John E.
Hocking, Philip N. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Tapsell, Peter
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Quintin More, Jasper (Ludlow) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Holland, Philip Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Hopkins, Alan Morrison, John (Salisbury) Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Hornby, R. P. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Nabarro, Sir Gerald Temple, John M.
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Nicholls, Sir Harmar Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Hughes-Young, Michael Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Hulbert, Sir Norman Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Thomas, Rt. Hon. Peter (Conway)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Iremonger, T. L. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Hendon, North) Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Osborn, John (Hallam) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Page, Graham (Crosby) Turner, Colin
Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Page, John (Harrow, We (Harrow, West) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Partridge, E. Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Peel, John Vickers, Miss Joan
Kerby, Capt. Henry Percival, Ian Walker, Peter
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Peyton, John Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Kershaw, Anthony Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Wall, Patrick
Kirk, Peter Pike, Miss Mervyn Webster, David
Kitson, Timothy Pitman, Sir James Wells, John (Maidstone)
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Pitt, Dame Edith Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Langford-Holt, Sir John Powell Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Leavey, J. A. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Prior, J. M. L. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Lilley, F. J. P. Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Linstead, Sir Hugh Ramsden, Rt. Hon. James Wise, A. R.
Litchfield, Capt. John Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Longden, Gilbert Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.) Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher
Loveys, Walter H. Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet) Woodnutt, Mark
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Renton, Rt. Hon. David Woollam, John
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Ridsdale, Julian Worsley, Marcus
MacArthur, Ian Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Yates, William (The Wrekin)
McLaren, Martin Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Finlay and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.

Proposed words there added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the action announced by Her Majesty's Government to secure that the powers of local authorities to grant travel concessions under the Public Service Vehicles (Travel Concessions) Act 1955 are not eroded.