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'or that he will receive discretionary travel concessions which are at least equivalent to the concessions provided for under subsection (1).'.
'the age of sixty years or over.'.
Mr. Jenkin: At this late hour, I shall explain the purpose of amendment No. 300, which amends clause 124(3). The clause contains the necessary technical definitions and regulation-making powers so that the price of the bus pass can be altered in a concessionary fares scheme.
The amendment's importance is immediately apparent. When a person benefits from a non-statutory concessionary travel scheme, the local authority should be released from its obligation to provide that person with statutory concessions under the Bill. Groups of local transport authorities that offer non-statutory concessionary travel schemes, should not need to offer a statutory discretionary fare scheme under the Bill.
I hope that the Minister realises that several transport authorities have made representations on the matter. I hope that he will accept the amendment or undertake to accept a similar amendment at a later stage.
Amendment No. 146 strikes at the heart of major discrimination in the Bill on concessionary fare schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) believes that it would be unwise for him to speak about the amendment because he might have to declare an interest: under our proposal, he would qualify for a concessionary bus pass in 2007; under the Government's provisions, he would have to wait until 2012. As we get closer to 2007, the matter worries him greatly.
Mr. Moore: In my case, it does not matter which scheme is implemented. If I am spared, it will be a wee while before I qualify. [Interruption.] I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bath has rejoined us to hear us fight the case for an earlier bus pass for him.
In Committee, the Minister did not tackle the fundamental point and identify the reason for the discrimination. He hid behind the fact that pensions legislation refers to equalisation by 2020. That is a long time to wait, and many organisations, including Parity, Age Concern and the National Federation of Post Office and British Telecom Pensioners, fail to understand the reasons for the discrimination.
The European courts, especially in the Atkins case, have failed to back the proposal that the amendment presents and have supported the Government's position. However, in case the Minister is tempted to hide behind that defence again, the Government won the case because the issue was further confused by others, not least young people, who were entitled to concessionary fares.
In Committee, the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) tried to clarify the cost of the amendment. He is a diligent Member and he contributed greatly to those proceedings. In his own way, he hoped to back the broad principle that we support and said:
Mr. Snape: I hope to follow the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) without repeating anything that I said in Committee, except that I asked the Liberal party how much the proposal would cost. Answer came there none, and answer came there none tonight. I hate to inject a controversial note, but I voted against it, as did my hon. Friends, on the ground that it represented a dash of cheap populism--not that that is common, of course.
Mr. Snape: My hon. Friend's sedentary comment is somewhat unkind. I am not sure how vast that store is, but that is how the proposal struck me. The Liberal party wrote to various people in various parts of the country, usually in constituencies represented by Liberals. They wrote to members of the Committee, me included--[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) shakes his head and professes to know nothing about it, but of course he did that. I do not complain; that is politics.
Most of the letters accusing me and other Labour members of the Committee of sex discrimination and refusing to allow elderly gentlemen to participate in a pensioner scheme--I almost fall into that category as the magic date is approaching--came from constituencies represented by Liberals. I have no objections as that is part of the rough and tumble and hurly-burly of politics, but I still want to know how much the proposal will cost. It is incumbent on the Liberal party, before engaging in cheap populism, to tell us--[Interruption.] I did not; I voted against. The Liberal party must tell us the cost.
Mr. Don Foster: May I attempt to answer both the hon. Gentleman's points briefly? The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), who served as the Whip in Committee, was the first to express concern about the letters. I assured him, as I assure the hon. Gentleman, that although I wish that I had thought of writing such letters, another organisation--not my party--wrote them without our knowledge or agreement.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about cost, but it would be absolutely zero in the next 18 months. The Government, for the past three years, have made great play of their introduction of the concessionary fares scheme. However, that will not happen for another 18 months. As the cost of their proposed package is about £40 million, it is not unreasonable to suppose that
Mr. Snape: The cost is part of the magic penny that we have heard about. [Interruption.] In fact, it is a small part of it and we are grateful to the hon. Member for Bath for that clarification. However, I say to him and the hon. Member for Ettrick, Tweeddale and Lauderdale--
Mr. Snape: I will get it right one of these days. If the hon. Gentlemen moved to my constituency--I should be glad to welcome them, although they would have to shed the false doctrines that they have followed for years--and waited until the legal retirement age, they would enjoy free bus and rail travel across the west midlands conurbation. I hazard a guess that that scheme, which was provided and maintained by Labour local authorities in the teeth of hostility from Conservative Governments over the years, is far more generous than those in Bath and Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, or whatever that constituency is called.
Before the Liberals go round the country stirring up discontent in such an appalling way and attack hon. Members who merely seek financial clarification of some of their more outrageous proposals, they should sit down with us and work out which parts of the country have the most generous pro-pensioner schemes. It will come as no surprise to them--it will certainly come as no surprise to the Conservative party--that the most generous schemes are in areas that have been controlled by Labour for many years. [Interruption.] That includes areas that were involved in what happened last Thursday.
Regardless of what happened then, we are talking about places that are still controlled by the Labour party. We are proud of the way in which we looked after pensioners and gave them travel facilities, and we will take no lessons from the Liberals. Unless the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), who keeps describing me as his guru--after my last intervention, I am not sure whether I still qualify for that title--has a spare ten million in his back pocket, I suggest he tell the Liberals to get lost and stop indulging in the populism that they love so much, especially at this time of night.