HC Deb 20 July 1987 vol 120 cc4-5
4. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department has assessed the impact of the Transport Act 1985 on children's fares; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)

Some local authorities have used the powers introduced under the Transport Act 1985 to provide for new or improved children's concessions. But in most areas there has been no change.

Mr. Pike

Is the Minister aware of the threat posed to the future of children's fares? In Lancashire, Ribble Motor Services is saying to Lancashire county council, "Unless you pay for this concession, we will make all children pay the full fare." This matter is to he discussed again on 28 July. Is this not an appalling situation? Will the Government give a clear indication that transport undertakings must give children a fare reduction?

Mr. Mitchell

Our information does not confirm that there has been any widespread withdrawal of such concessions. I know of only two operators who have withdrawn children's fares, and one has since reintroduced them. Ribble Motor Services has threatened to withdraw child fares, but the matter is to he discussed on 28 July. I suggest that we wait until then. It may help the hon. Gentleman if I add that new schemes introduced as a result of the Act have operated in Cleveland, East Sussex and Milton Keynes.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Is my hon. Friend aware of the discrimination against children in the private sector of education? Before deregulation, all children in the county of Nottinghamshire were allowed a concessionary fare. As an act of political vandalism, our county discriminates and will now give that concession only to children in the maintained sector. Is that not disgraceful?

Mr. Mitchell

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is disgraceful that there should be such regrettable discrimination. The matter rests with the local authority. Perhaps my hon. Friend will succeed in changing control of it at the next election.

Mr. Worthington

Does the Minister also agree that it is deplorable for a private bus company, as has happened in Strathclyde, to withdraw that concessionary fare?

Mr. Mitchell

That is a commercial decision for the operator concerned. Under the Transport Act 1985 the local authority is empowered to make arrangements for substitution.

Mr. Adley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the impact on children's fares under the Transport Act would be as nothing compared with the impact on children's fares of any proposal emanating from Brussels to put VAT on public transport? Will my hon. Friend make it clear beyond peradventure that the Government will veto any such suggestion?

Mr. Mitchell

I note my hon. Friend's views.