I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday 5th June) meet—
(a) at 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 5th June;
(b) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 7th June;
(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 5; Schedule 1; Clauses 6 to 13; Schedules 2 and 3; Clauses 14 to 16; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday 7th June.
It is a pleasure to have you presiding over our deliberations, Mr. Bayley. I look forward to the debates, when I know that you will keep us in the best of order. I welcome colleagues from both sides of the House to the Committee, and I will welcome their interest in the Bill and their contributions to our proceedings. I am sure that the best of order will be kept by our Whips.
The Bill is important to some 11 million people in the country, and I am pleased that it received a broad welcome from both sides of the House. Its principle is clear: the Concessionary Bus Travel Bill will extend the geographical scope of free off-peak bus travel for older and disabled people throughout England. It builds on the Government’s earlier work on concessionary travel. In 2001, the Government guaranteed half-fare concessionary travel off-peak services within an eligible person’s local authority area. Since April 2006, they have made such travel completely free. The Bill goes even further and will make off-peak free bus travel available anywhere in England.
We are also taking the opportunity to put in place a flexible framework that will allow changes to be made to concessionary travel arrangements in the future. Subject to funding and practical arrangements being agreed, there could be mutual recognition bus passes throughout the United Kingdom in the future. We retain the power to extend the scope of the national concession to other modes, such as trams and local rail services or to other groups of people. The Bill is an important part of the Government’s work to promote social inclusion. I am sure that all members of the Committee will continue to welcome its principles, and I hope that we can resolve any matters of disagreement or concern quickly.
The programme motion proposes that the Committee can meet twice today and similarly on Thursday. It will allow for a full and proper discussion of each part of this relatively small but important Bill. The motion was introduced in my unavoidable absence due to circumstances beyond my control, thereby proving that Ministers, despite what they think, are sometimes completely dispensable. It was agreed happily by the Programming Sub-Committee.