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Mr. H. Wilson:
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the hardship caused in newly developing areas by the provision in existing legislation limiting travel concessions, to old-age pensioners and others, to those routes in operation in 1954; and whether he will introduce amending legislation to provide for the needs of new estates.
The purpose of the existing legislation was to avoid the hardship which certain people would have suffered if they had been deprived of benefits which they had been enjoying for some time. I am not prepared to introduce amending legislation.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the excellent Measure introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short)was emasculated in this one respect in order to get it through before the General Election in 1955—and that was at the request of the Government? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in newly developing areas—I would instance the case of Kirkby in my own constituency—old-age pensioners have been moved from the city where they have lived and have lost previously-held concessions at a time when their living costs have risen? Will he agree to receive representations and to study whether more legislation should be introduced?
I would certainly not refuse to receive representations. There are, however, two points to be borne in mind, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. One point is that the Act was introduced only because of a decision of the courts which had to be dealt with. The other is that the procedure of Private Bills is open to any authority which wishes to put forward a Private Bill to allow it to make concessions through its own transport.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is really running away from the problem? In the case I have in mind the old-age pensioners are now living outside the area of the local authority which is responsible for the transport services. Does he appreciate that the old-age pensioners have lost concessions which they had two years ago and that this is due to their having removed outside the area of the local authority? Will he look into the whole question again?
I shall be only too pleased to have representations from the right hon. Gentleman if he likes to make them to me, but it must be without any commitment on my part to introduce legislation.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if we could fix up something for old-age pensioners generally it would be acceptable? Why do some Ministers argue that they cannot do anything to help old-age pensioners, and then when there is something that can be done the Minister finds difficulty in doing it? Will he give a sympathetic ear to something which at any rate deserves consideration.
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in the cities and towns where the Act applies, considerable anomalies are arising because of the extension of the towns outside the city boundaries? This also happens in towns where the legislation does not apply. Is he aware that every local authority which has applied for the powers since 1954 has had the appropriate provisions removed from its Bill by the House? Is not it time the Government introduced some general enabling power to enable local authorities to do these things?