HC Deb 22 April 1975 vol 890 cc1224-5
9. Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the contribution to unemployment made by the cost of travel.

Mr. John Fraser

The cost of travel is one of many factors affecting people's job preferences but it is not considered to make a large contribution to unemployment.

Mr. Freud

Is the Minister aware that I and many other hon. Members representing rural constituencies have workers who are taking home £32 or £33 a week and who are forced to spend £9 a week on getting to and from work? Is he further aware that such men would be better off by staying at home and claiming, benefits? When will the Secretary of State grant some sort of travel allowance? Does the Minister understand that constituents who are spending that much money in travelling to and from work are getting tired of seeing their neighbours receiving more money whilst staying at home?

Mr. Fraser

First, I do not think that it would be practicable or proper to introduce a travel allowance. Secondly, I remind the hon. Gentleman that local authorities will spend over £100 million in 1975–76 in subsidising local bus services and that total Government support for the rail industry will amount to about £500 million in that year.

Mr. Costain

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the increased cost of fares is having a very serious effect on those who commute to London over long distances because they cannot obtain jobs more locally? Will the hon. Gentleman make representations to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer so as to get some income tax relief for those who have high travel costs?

Mr. Fraser

That is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The difficulty is that it would not be possible to distinguish between those who are forced to travel to their work and those people who incur travel costs as a matter of personal choice. It may not be a good planning concept to encourage commuting over long distances. Surely it would be better to try to have work close to people's homes rather than to encourage long periods of travel.