|Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill [Lords]
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): I want to discuss reasons why we might not need to extend the sittings of the Committee too much.
It is unfortunate that any such Bill should be introduced. It demonstrates yet more interference in our affairs and, more importantly, it would be far better if transport undertakings and local authorities were free to determine such concessions as they felt appropriate, in association with other authorities. However, we start not from that position, but from one of a great deal of complex legislation, so I ask the Minister for Transport whether he can explain some of the differences between the various pieces of legislation that apply to different authorities, which will be altered by the Bill.
The Minister might help to reduce the number of sittings if he clarifies two statements made by the Prime Ministerone on 4 July and the second last Wednesday, on the coach concession scheme that the Government are introducing. On 4 July, the Prime Minister said that he would bring the scheme forward in association with the Bill, but it does not refer to the scheme. That is why my hon. Friends and I have tabled an amendment to incorporate it in the Bill.
If the Minister intends to deny what the Prime Minister said on 4 July, it would be helpful if he could do so before we got to the amendments. The right hon. Gentleman told me in answer to a question last Wednesday that the Government had already delivered the coach concessionary fare scheme. There is a press release on the subject, although I am not sure whether it was issued by the Minister's Department or with his authority. If he brings a copy to the Committee, we might not need to sit this Thursday and certainly not on subsequent Thursdays, as the hon. Member for Bath suggested. If the Minister deals with those issues, we may be able to get home before Christmas.
Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the range of amendments that Opposition Members have tabled. The Bill presents us with a unique opportunity to improve the methodology behind the allocation of funds for travel concessions. Huge iniquities in the allocation of public funding exist behind an opaque screen of decisions on funding allocations and the practical end result is that individuals lose out.
The most profound example of that is found at the fringes of London, as I shall discuss in an Adjournment debate tonight. Individuals in adjoining streets encounter totally different frameworks for concessionary fares.
The Chairman: Order. I am prepared to allow wide-ranging debate on the sittings motion, but amendments have been tabled on the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises. Perhaps we can return to the motion.
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury): I welcome you to the Committee, Mr. Stevenson, and look forward to working with you. It remains to be seen whether that will be for a long time.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold, I welcome our fairly open-ended timetableif that is not a contradiction in terms. We must discuss important issues, including the introduction of the equal ages qualification in the Bill. The proposal is eminently sensible on the face of it, but I wonder what impact it will have on other aspects of life. Perhaps the subject is a little too wide to get into at this or, indeed, any stage of the Bill, but we should bear it in mind.
Another issue is the Bill's impact on local authorities, which is more important and more relevant. My hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold touched on the difficulties that our areas experience when trying to provide transport in the first place. I receive many letters from constituents on the issue, although I do not know whether other hon. Members do.
Mr. Clifton-Brown indicated assent.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: My hon. Friend indicates that he does, too. Perhaps that is because we represent large areas. It is difficult to travel from one area to another in my constituency as Tewkesbury covers only one tenth of it. It is important that we allow enough time to consider such problems to determine whether the proposals are relevant to the people of Tewkesbury.
We must also discuss what impact the measures will have on local authorities. Authorities such as that in Tewkesbury are hard pressed and we must ask whether the proposals will place another financial burden on them. If that is the case, we shall need to hear what will be done about that. We shall also need to consider how the other concessions that local authorities are allowed to provide will be dealt with.
Question put and agreed to.
The Chairman: Before we consider the amendments I remind hon. Members that there is a financial resolution in connection with the Bill. I am told that copies are available in the Room. I also remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule my co-Chairmen and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that may be reached during an afternoon sitting of the Committee. Finally, will hon. Members turn off their mobile phones. I am sure that they have already done so.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 20 November 2001|