Schedule 1 — The London Free Travel Scheme

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 28th June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz PPS (David Cairns, Minister of State), Scotland Office 5:17 pm, 28th June 2007

As the Minister noted earlier, the Bill applies only to England and Wales. I have no objection to that, as I am glad that the example set by the Administration in the Scottish Parliament, who were until recently led by Labour, is being followed in England. However, the anomaly is that the Bill does not take us forward to a UK-wide concessionary scheme. As a result, pensioners and others entitled to concessions in Newcastle, for example, will get free bus travel in London, Truro or Plymouth, but not in Edinburgh. Similarly, their counterparts in Edinburgh can get free travel in Aberdeen and Glasgow but not in Newcastle, Carlisle or elsewhere.

It is not merely a matter of cross-border arrangements for people who live in Berwick-on-Tweed or Dumfries, for example, although I sympathise with those hon. Members who represent those areas. Nor do I want to suggest that people should be able to travel from Caithness to Cornwall by bus, as that journey is not likely to be made very often, but we should allow pensioners and others to take advantage of these provisions in the different cities, towns and other parts of the UK. We should not lose sight of that goal, and I welcome the Minister's statement that the matter is being discussed with the devolved Administrations—even though some of them seem to want to build barriers between the rights and benefits enjoyed by citizens in different parts of the UK. I hope that the Government will pursue the establishment of a UK-wide concessionary scheme. Those of us with constituencies in the devolved areas will be lobbying the devolved Administrations to ensure that they respond positively to any discussions held at UK level.

I hope that the Minister will take my remarks on board, and I welcome the assurances and commitments that she made a few minutes ago in her opening remarks for this debate.