Clause 11

Part of Concessionary Bus Travel Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 5th June 2007.

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Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 4:30 pm, 5th June 2007

It is interesting to see the excitement with which hon. Members debate the Isles of Scilly. I have not had the pleasure of visiting them yet, but my predecessor did, and officials were there 10 days ago to discuss transport issues with the council. One of the points they reported back to me on, about which I can assure the hon. Member for Rochdale, is that the Isles of Scilly will, as I mentioned earlier, be working closely with Cornwall county council in preparation for April 2008. I commend them for doing so.

The Bill is good news for older and disabled people, because for the first time it makes the council of the Isles of Scilly a travel concession authority, meaning that it will be able to issue concessionary passes to eligible residents that they can use anywhere in England when visiting the mainland.

I am a little bit surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s amendments, because they would give the Secretary of State two powers. First, he would be able, by order, to extend travel concessions to

“water-borne public passenger transport” serving the Isles of Scilly, which in my language means ferries. Secondly, he would be able to change who is entitled to concessionary travel in the Isles of Scilly. The Secretary of State already has the power, under clause 8(1)(a), to expand eligibility for the national concession to new categories of people living in the Isles of Scilly. Similarly, there is a power under clause 8(1)(b) to include ferries serving the Isles of Scilly in the statutory scheme, so that they can offer free travel to all England pass-holders.

In addition, the council of the Isles of Scilly already has the power to agree voluntary schemes with transport providers, allowing discretionary travel concessions to its residents under section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000. That could, for example, include free travel on ferries. The people best placed to take account of unique local circumstances—no or few buses, for example, or being on an island—are those in the local authorities involved in discretionary schemes. That is why we have protected that right.