HC Deb 04 May 1966 vol 727 cc1627-9
74. Mr. Barnett

asked the Minister of Transport if she will now give further consideration to extending the powers of local authorities to arrange for concessionary bus fares for old people; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Castle

With permission, I would now like to answer Question No. 74.

Our 1964 Travel Concessions Act restored to local authorities full freedom to arrange travel concessions on municipal buses and pay for them out of the rates. It has broadly achieved its purpose. But there are still some difficulties in arranging concessions on municipal buses where their services are closely linked with those of non-municipal operators. I have also had many representations that local authorities should be able to arrange for concessions on non-municipal buses, both in areas which are also served by municipal buses and in areas where there is no municipal transport.

I therefore intend to review the working of the 1964 Act and to consider the anomalies which have arisen in its working. I will consider all the representations that have been made and will consult the associations representing local authorities and bus operators in order to see what amending legislation, if any, is necessary.

Mr. Barnett

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be many old people in my constituency and elsewhere in the country who will warmly welcome this statement by her? There has been raised the anomaly—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member may only ask a Supplementary question.

Mr. Barnett

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a serious anomaly which has meant that many old people, old-age pensioners, have not been able to take advantage of the concession, and can she now tell us when we may expect the amending legislation to be introduced?

Mrs. Castle

I appreciate that there have been anomalies. It is true, also, that the 1964 Act has brought a tremendous boon to old-age pensioners, such a great boon that the rest who have been excluded under the arrangements which I have mentioned are anxious to share in those benefits. I know the part which my hon. Friend has played in bringing these anomalies to my attention, but I cannot say at this stage when amending legislation will be introduced if, as a result of my review, it proves to be necessary.

Dame Irene Ward

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the county borough of Tynemouth has already made representations—during the last Parliament—for action of this kind and that she will have its full support if she acts quickly?

Mrs. Castle

I am aware that a large number of local authorities have made representations on this point, and that is why I am undertaking this review, but I have to consult the local authorities, and, therefore, the review will take a little time.

Mr. Woodburn

Would my right hon. Friend, when she is considering this matter, try to find some standard by which the so-called losses accruing to transport authorities can be properly measured? At the moment it is calculated that when these old people travel by bus they cause a loss of anything between 5d. and 8d. per journey. Can my right hon. Friend. then, see that there is some reliable measure of the cost of their journeys, so that local authorities are not induced to suspend these arrangements because of exaggerated ideas of losses?

Mrs. Castle

All these aspects, including costs, will, of course, be covered by the review.

Sir S. McAdden

Would the right hon. Lady give us an assurance that, no matter what difficulties there may be, and difficulties where there are private bus companies and so on, she will get rid of the stupid anomaly which exists in the case of municipal undertakings competing with nationalised undertakings?

Mrs. Castle

All these anomalies, of course, will be considered. That is the purpose of having the review. It will have to be a fairly detailed one.