HC Deb 28 March 1979 vol 965 cc437-8
4. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether copies of the Green Paper on concessionary fares have been circulated to organisations representing retirement pensioners; and what response there has been to the document to date.

Mr. William Rodgers

The Green Paper has been widely circulated and warmly welcomed. I have asked for detailed comments by 31 May, and these are now being received.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the proposals contained in the Green Paper are enormously heartening to pensioners throughout the country, and especially to those who are trapped in Tory-controlled authorities where there are either no schemes for concessionary fares or only mean and paltry schemes? Will he pay particular attention to the views of the National Federation of Old-Age Pensioners, which has a valuable contribution to make in this consultation?

Mr. William Rodgers

I shall pay particular attention to the views of the national federation and of all those who represent the pensioners, because I think that their views are relevant in making sure that we have an administratively effective scheme. I think that the proposals have been widely welcomed. Not only does it mean that standards will be raised where there are no schemes at present, which I regard as shameful, but that old people will be enabled to travel outside the areas in which they live and enjoy the concessionary fares which, if they are fortunate, they enjoy within their own area.

Mr. McCrindle

Has the welcome been as warm from pensioners in the Greater London area, whose scheme would be likely to deteriorate in comparison with those in areas where no scheme at all has existed?

Mr. William Rodgers

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I hope that he has read the Green Paper, because I have made quite plain in that that the national scheme will exist in parallel with and alongside such local schemes as there may now be. Where there is a good local scheme, I want it to be maintained. But even pensioners enjoying a good local scheme will have the benefits of what I have called transferability, to which I have referred, and these concessions will apply on local rail journeys as well.

Mr. Adley

Will the Secretary of State please accept the principle that the carrier, namely, the municipal companies and the National Bus Company, which account for 80 per cent. of the stage carriage services, should, in the same way as British Rail does, accept that they have a responsibility to provide a universal scheme, not dissimilar to the one the Secretary of State prescribes in his Green Paper, but funded and financed in a similar way to that used by British Rail? Will the Minister accept that what is sauce for the British Rail goose, and works very well, should be sauce for the National Bus Company gander?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not know how far the hon. Gentleman is making his views strongly known to the Christchurch district council, which so far has had no scheme at all for concessionary fares. In my view, it is the duty of operators, whether British Rail or bus services, to provide such concessions as they can within their own commercial responsibility. Beyond that there is no escape for local district councils from providing a proper concessionary fare scheme.

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