§ Mr. Gerry Fowler
asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has yet completed his consideration of a national concessionary fares scheme for elderly and disabled people.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
The Government believe that the time has come to provide a national scheme of concessionary fares for elderly, blind and disabled people. Such a scheme will not only be socially valuable but can ensure that better use is made of existing public transport.
The Government's proposals are set out in a Green Paper which has been published today. Copies are available in the Vote Office.
At present, some 40 local authorities still have no schemes at all and many more have schemes less generous than the Government have recommended. The Government propose that the national scheme should operate in parallel with those existing schemes which offer to local residents more generous provision than the proposed national minimum.
There are two major new elements in our proposal which will be widely welcomed—the inclusion of local journeys by rail and the provision that concessions should apply for local journeys anywhere in Great Britain, on the principle of "transferability".
Legislation will be necessary to establish the scheme and I would hope to introduce it in the next Session of Parliament. However, the extent to which the cost of the scheme exceeds present provision means that the date of its commencement must depend upon a satisfactory climate for public expenditure.
The Government will consult widely on the basis of the Green Paper, and particularly on administrative aspects. My colleagues and I will welcome comments which should be received as soon as possible and certainly before the end of May.