HC Deb 12 July 1967 vol 750 cc804-5
43. Mr. Rowland

asked the Minister of Transport what representations she has received from local authorities and local authority associations on the question of extending concessionary fare facilities for pensioners; and when she expects to complete her review of the subject and make recommendations on it.

Mrs. Castle

I have received numerous and helpful representations and views. I am still studying this matter with a view to making a full statement on it early in the next Session.

Mr. Rowland

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the commitment to make such a statement will be widely welcomed, particularly round great cities like Birmingham, especially as she has been considering the matter now for well over a year? Bearing in mind that on 25th January her hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that local authorities were not in complete agreement about how to go ahead in this matter, can she say whether there has been any progress on this aspect of it in the last six months?

Mrs. Castle

As regards the time that we have taken over these consultations, I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that there is a lot of detail here, a lot of different types of anomaly and different ways in which we can tackle them, some of which are very much more expensive than others. In a situation in which hon. Members press me constantly for different forms of transport expenditure, I have to look at proposals carefully and be sure that I have the correct priorities. With regard to the attitude of local authorities, I think that I am right in saying that, in England and Wales as a whole, only the County Councils Association did not favour an extension of the concessions for the elderly.

Mr. Bessell

May I ask the Minister if she is aware that there will be some disappointment that this matter is being delayed until next Session? Has she taken account of the fact that by allowing cheap fare facilities at off-peak times, she would be increasing the revenue of British Rail and the bus companies?

Mrs. Castle

Certainly, in the costings which we have done on the scheme, we have taken account of the fact that some of the journeys would not have been taken without the concession, and clearly it would be absurd arithmetic to leave that consideration out of account. However, unfortunately there is some evidence that a number of the journeys would have been taken anyway, and that a greatly re heed fare means a loss of revenue in that case. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our costings take that into account too.

Mr. Blackburn

Will my right hon. Friend make her statement very early in the next Session, because the present anomalies lead to great unfairness as between one area and another?

Mrs. Castle

Yes, Sir. I am very conscious of the anomalies, and that is why I proposed the review. I am very conscious, too, of how warmly and widely welcomed the Government's original Traffic Concessions Act of 1964 was. As I said just now, there are many types of anomalies and many different ways in which we could extend the concession, costing different amounts of money. I have to keep my eye on costs.