Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 5:11 pm on 25 October 2001.

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Read a third time; an amendment (privilege) made.

Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we on these Benches wish this Bill well as it leaves your Lordships' House and wends its way to another place. It would be extraordinary if we did otherwise given that we pressed very hard during the passage of the Transport Act 2000 for the equalisation of age eligibility for men and women. We remain concerned and disappointed that the Government have not taken the opportunity to widen the scope of this Bill to another age-related group, namely young people between 16 and 19 years of age. To have done so would have opened up opportunities in terms of accident reduction, sustainability and, most of all, access to services for a group of people who should be given every encouragement to stay in full-time education.

We also remain concerned about the costs to local authorities given that any shortfall between government grant and local authority expenditure can be met only by cutting other services. We already hear stories emerging from local authorities. We are still concerned about the underlying state of the bus industry. We hope that the Government will take very seriously some of the concerns which are being expressed, because, however good the concessionary fare scheme may be, without a good underlying bus service there is very little point in having it.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative

My Lords, I, too, wish the Bill well. Although the Bill is not very long it has been well scrutinised, as has the concessionary fare scheme in general. That may not have been quite what was intended when the Bill was brought forward. I reiterate the concern about compensating local authorities. Specifically, I refer to those authorities in London where the scheme is already widely operated and in some areas is mandatory, whereas in the country it is discretionary, and where it is probable that the implications of men travelling to work on concessionary bus passes has not been sufficiently taken into account. We have, however, addressed those matters during the course of the Bill. I hope that there will be discussion with the Association of London Government about the amount to be included in the standard spending assessment.

I note with some irony that equal opportunities have now worked in reverse. For once women are ahead of men, but, sadly, in this Bill it will be short-lived because in due course they will be married and hitched up to a lesser benefit.

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Minister of State (Housing and Planning), Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Minister of State (Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions) (Housing & Planning)

My Lords, the Chief Whip deplores speeches being made on this occasion. However, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott and Lady Hanham, for their support for the Bill. I believe that the measure has been very well scrutinised, and I hope that it goes to the other place with their blessing.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.