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Schoolchildren (Concessionary Travel)

Volume 890: debated on Monday 14 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has had regarding concessionary travel arrangements for schoolchildren; and what action is proposed.

Representations are frequently received from parents regarding arrangements for transporting children to school. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science the recommendations of the working party on school transport.

Will my hon. Friend look at this matter urgently and sympathetically? Is he aware that as a result of the recent increase in bus fares, many schoolchildren now have to walk to school along busy roads and by swollen rivers and other hazards, and that it is not good for their education to be sitting in wet shoes? There is serious concern about this problem. One mother trying to cope, remarked, "Duw, it's hard."

I am conscious that such problems exist. They exist in my own community as they do in every other community. The working party's recommendations have been received with widespread agreement, and long consultations have been going on on this matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the decline in value of concessionary fares for old-age pensioners as a result of the restrictions placed on them in the Government's circular of 23rd December?

That is a different question. We appear to have moved from one end of the age spectrum to the other. If the hon. Gentleman will table a Question on the subject I shall be glad to deal with it.

My hon. Friend said that he was discussing this matter with the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Are we to assume from that that national aspects are involved? If so, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that well-paid company directors, executives and the like can and do get cars and other allowances for travel, whereas children have to go to the schools to which they are directed, and that it is ludicrous that they should have to pay any fares at all? Should not there be a national scheme whereby all schoolchildren are allowed free travel to and from school?

I do not know what the cost of such a scheme would be to the taxpayer. In any event, I do not think that the working party discussed the broader issue of the cars and other expenses of company directors.