asked the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made by his Department in assisting the co-ordination of concessionary fares schemes on a local basis.
The responsibility for coordination lies with the local authorities concerned but we have made a point of encouraging them to smooth out any unnecessary local differences.
Was not there something sinister in the announcement made by one of the Transport Ministers earlier today, asking local authorities to submit their fares policy for the past year and forthcoming years? Is the Minister aware that the county council elections resulted in more than 900 gains for the Labour Party and that those electors were voting for cheap, free and concessionary fares throughout the land? Can we assume that when the Prime Minister talked about putting the country back on its feet she was referring to the blind, the sick, the old and the disabled having to walk instead of having the freedom to ride?
We are concerned that with the grants that we give county councils should use the resources available in the most effective way on transport. Taking down the cheap fare in London from 12p to lop will not produce a dramatic switch from cars to buses. It is only dealing with ratepayers' money in a rather frivolous way. With regard to concessionary fares, we must let local authorities decide their own priorities. They also have to give revenue support to rural services and they have to provide other services for the elderly. Demands and local needs vary from place to place.