In April this year we introduced free off-peak local bus travel for older and disabled people. As announced in the Queen’s Speech, we will introduce a Bill that will extend that free off-peak travel to anywhere in England from April 2008.
The Government’s commitment to extending concessionary fares to all pensioners is very much appreciated by pensioners in my constituency, but is the Minister aware that Swindon council is one of several that have changed the definition so that the off-peak period now begins at 9.30 am rather than 9 o’clock? That has dismayed my pensioners, who like to get out and about early. Does my hon. Friend know of examples of councils—
My hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner for her constituents, more than 16,000 of whom benefit from the Government’s policy of providing free off-peak local bus travel for older and disabled people. The decision to reduce the discretionary element is a matter for Swindon council, although I expect local authorities to consider the needs of their older and disabled residents very carefully before reducing discretionary concessions. I certainly sympathise with my hon. Friend’s constituents.
The Minister said that the scheme will apply only to England, but cross-border travel causes huge problems in my constituency and other areas bordering Wales. What discussions is she having with colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that there is a seamless bus transport system from England into Wales and back again? That would be of great benefit to my constituents.