Clause 2

Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 5th June 2007.

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The national concession: supplementary

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The purpose of clause 2 is to amend the definition of the travel concession authority as defined by section 146 of the Transport Act 2000. Currently, the definition includes non-metropolitan district councils, county councils and passenger transport executives, but the clause will extend it to the London authority and the Isles of Scilly. So far, so good. However, there are no eligible services on the Isles of Scilly. The intent behind the clause is that eligible residents of the Isles of Scilly could access eligible services on the United Kingdom mainland.

That raises two questions for the Minister. There are no eligible services on the Isles of Scilly and access to those services on the mainland is desirable, but  residents need to get to the mainland. As we explored in our discussions on the previous clause, what is the rationale behind excluding from the Bill services that allow access to eligible services? The same point was raised in regard to residents of the Isle of Wight. I look forward to her explanation.

Furthermore, she has claimed several times that £250 million is being made available to implement the scheme, but several documents published by the Department have stated that figure followed, in brackets, by “£212 million for England”. The difference is £38 million. Will she confirm how much of that £38 million is for the concession to the residents of the Isles of Scilly?

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 12:00 pm, 5th June 2007

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the clause and to ask the Minister about the paragraph concerning the Isles of Scilly. I am sure that she is aware that under equivalent legislation operating in Scotland, if someone is travelling from, say, the Shetland Isles to the mainland, the ferry journey is eligible, which allows them to access bus journeys on the mainland. The Bill does not provide for a similar extension of services for residents of, for example, the Isles of Scilly, where there are no bus services. Clearly, they cannot use their concessionary bus passes on the ferry. I hope that she accepts that a concession similar to that granted in Scotland, under which people can use ferries to get to buses, might offer a welcome extension for residents of places such as the Isles of Scilly.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Although it is true that there are no eligible services on the Isles of Scilly, the addition, in subsection (3), of the Council of the Isles of Scilly as a travel concession authority will require the council to issue passes to their residents for use on the mainland, under new section 145A(4). That will ensure that elderly and disabled residents of the Isles of Scilly can, on production of their passes, like everybody else, travel for free on off-peak local bus services anywhere in England. The Council of the Isles of Scilly is at liberty to make arrangements with a mainland council, such as Cornwall county council, to issue passes to residents on its behalf. It might be worth pointing out that we will deal with issues concerning the Isles of Scilly when we come on to amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5 and new clause 1.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon raised questions about the Isles of Scilly. The amount that they would get will depend on the basis of distribution, which is not yet finalised. We will be consulting on that and, indeed, later in our proceedings, we will discuss funding arrangements.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

Is the Minister accepting that the £38 million does not apply to the Isles of Scilly?

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I am happy to get back to the hon. Gentleman on that very point when it becomes clear.

I refer also to the inclusion in the clause of London authorities as travel concession authorities, which means that such authorities will reimburse operators of eligible London service permit routes, of which there are about 30, so that they can accept concessionary passes for the first time. They will also have a role in enforcement. They will not have to issue passes to  London residents, as the legislation will allow freedom passes to be used. London Councils can perform the functions in question on behalf of the London authorities, as they do for the reimbursement of Transport for London.

In answer to the question that the hon. Member for Wimbledon asked about the Isles of Scilly and the sum of £38 million, I am happy to inform him and the Committee that inspiration has struck me: of the total of £250 million, £38 million goes to devolved administration, leaving £212 million for the English authorities. If the hon. Gentleman would like any further information, I should be happy to provide that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.