HC Deb 11 November 1964 vol 701 cc994-5
11. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give a general direction, in the public interest, to the Transport Holding Company to operate concessionary fares for retirement pensioners during the off-peak hours; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Swingler

No, Sir. We do not consider this a suitable subject for a direction.

Mr. Dempsey

Is my hon. Friend aware that operators will not entertain this request because they claim that the Government hold more than 50 per cent. interest in the Transport Holding Company? Until such time as they get some direction, they will not entertain applications. Will he bear in mind that scores of thousands of old folk are now housed on the perimeters of townships and that bus fares have trebled in the past 10 years? It is very costly for these old people to travel to town centres. Will my hon. Friend do something to help these needy people?

Mr. Swingler

Apart from sympathising with what my hon. Friend has said, we are not proposing to direct any kind of operators to grant this concession. We are proposing to bring forward legislation to enable operators to grant the concession if they wish to do so where they are municipal undertakings. Other operators already have the power to make the concession, if they wish to do so, so they are in the position of the municipal undertakings that can make the concessions. Therefore, we do not believe that this is a subject on which we should give directions to any bus operators.

Mr. Powell

Surely the private operators are not in the same position as municipal operators will be to charge the loss upon the rates? This difficulty and difference remains.

Mr. Swingler

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the difference does remain. It is one of the advantages of the municipal undertakings that they are able to exercise this power. We want them to have the freedom to choose whether they should make the concession. The point is that we are not deciding whether the concession should be made. In cases where it is possible, we are leaving it to those who are running the operation to make the decision in the interests of the people.