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 Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 4:30 pm, 5th June 2007

Earlier today, we discussed the extension of what might be classed as a committed public service vehicle. One of the classes included the use of a ferry or boat. The amendment, which I have been asked to move by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Andrew George), relates to the Isles of Scilly. They merit a special mention under clause 2, where the national arrangement is extended to them. As was pointed out on Second Reading by some hon. Members, there are no buses on the Isles of Scilly, and some people have questioned why the scheme should apply there. I am sure that hon. Members know that five islands make up the Isles of Scilly, and that just over 2,000 residents live on those islands. The Isles of Scilly operate as a unitary and county council that runs all its services from a narrow council tax base.

It is for that reason that I am asking the Minister to make a specific and special exception in extending the scheme to the Isles of Scilly. At present, the cost of the ferry boat to the mainland is £7 per trip. The council has reckoned that it will receive no more than £10,000 in the revenue support grant settlement as reimbursement of the costs of introducing a concessionary scheme. There is no way that a council could operate its own special concessionary scheme with that sum of money. Furthermore, it cannot fund such a scheme because its council tax base for providing all the services for just over 2,000 residents is so narrow.

We are asking for the same sort of arrangement that operates for Scotland. Residents from the islands of Orkney or Shetland, for example, are permitted to take one ferry journey a year to the mainland and then use the buses. I have not specified frequency in the amendments, but we are looking for some recognition from the Department that the Isles of Scilly are a special case, and that there is no way that the council, which has to fund all the other services on such a narrow council tax base, would be able to introduce its own scheme.

The amendment would extend the scheme to use of the ferry boat by residents only. The scheme would not apply to tourists who are visiting the Isles of Scilly if they use the boat—they would pay the full price—but it would enable residents to access services on the mainland via a free ferry ride.