§ 5. Mr. Coleman
asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has had from local authorities in Wales concerning the need for a more uniform system of concessionary fares for retirement pensioners.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
Six local authorities have written to me. These concessions are a matter of local discretion as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries explained in reply 873 to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) on 14th February.—[Vol. 831, c. 34.]
§ Mr. Coleman
Will the Secretary of State convey to his colleagues in this unwanted Government, sustained by Liberal votes, the feeling of many people at this disgraceful refusal to bring forward a uniform system of concessions for old-age pensioners' road and rail fares? Will he urge upon the Government the need to understand this situation since they completely failed to understand the miners? This is an urgent necessity.
§ Mr. Thomas
Concessionary fares are a matter for local experience and discretion. If there is a demand for uniformity it is open to local authorities to co-operate in achieving it.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
I fully accept my hon. Friend's plea for uniformity, but can the Secretary of State tell us what encouragement he has personally given to Welsh local authorities in this matter?
§ Mr. Thomas
The local authorities know full well that this is entirely a matter for their discretion. Many local authorities in Wales have exercised that discretion.
§ Mr. Fred Evans
Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is considerable perturbation about the unevenness of services in general in Wales and about this in particular? If I may broaden the argument, will he—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman was unwise to give me notice. He may not broaden the argument.
§ Mr. Evans
Perhaps I can rephrase the question, Mr. Speaker. Is the Secretary of State of the opinion that it should be mandatory on local authorities to effect a common system throughout the country? Is he aware that many local authorities are thinking of asking that the cost of such a service should be met from central Government funds?
§ Mr. Thomas
I know that certain local authorities, and in particular the Folkestone Borough Council, have suggested that the cost should be met from central funds. However, present policies place the emphasis, in my view quite rightly, on local authority experience and discretion.