HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc1754-5
4. Mr. Dormand

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will seek to remove the anomalies which exist in the schemes for concessionary travel operated by different local authorities.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) on 20 June.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware of the confusion and bewilderment caused to the beneficiaries of these schemes, especially when the schemes in adjoining areas vary a great deal? Would it not be better if there were a national scheme so that recipients would feel that they were all receiving equal benefit?

Mr. Clarke

We believe that these matters are best sorted out by local authorities, which can judge varying local needs. We hope that local authorities will do what they can to resolve conflicts. I know that the county of Durham has evolved a county-wide scheme by agreement with the local authorities concerned.

Mr. Farr

I ask my hon. Friend to give the matter further consideration. Is he aware that wide and costly variations exist in one local authority area compared with another authority's adjacent area, which hits the disabled and old people extremely hard?

Mr. Clarke

I appeciate that anomalies are unpopular. However, there are differences in the needs and transport structures of different counties. We believe that local authorities must balance the needs of their areas with the desire to avoid unnecessary anomalies.

Mr. Sever

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his political colleagues in the West Midlands in both political parties consider themselves to be pioneers of concessionary fares, especially for the elderly? Is he aware that there is enormous demand that there should be some equalisation throughout the country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) has indicated, so that schemes may be seen to be fair and just?

Mr. Clarke

I am aware that differences throughout the country do not reflect party political divisions. The example to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention shows that Conservative councils are equally ready to respond to their local needs when the case exists for a discretionary fares system.