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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, this is an extremely good idea. The noble Baroness mentioned £50 million as being the total cost of extending the scheme to everyone in the age group in England and Wales. However, as her amendment is confined to those in full-time education acceptance of it would cost a great deal less.
As the scheme is run across the age group on the trains, it is logical to extend it to buses. Although in many towns bus fares are reasonably cheap, they can be much higher when travelling out to the countryside--probably because the journeys are longer. However, young people who have just bought a car, or who are thinking of doing so, will find that a reasonably priced gallon of petrol and a bus fare compare badly. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend says about the amendment.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I understand why both the noble Baroness and my noble friend argue the matter in this way, but there are significant costs involved. Our estimate is that for the whole age group the cost would be somewhat higher than £50 million, although I accept that if it is confined to young people in full-time education the figure might be different. Nevertheless, it is a large sum. That figure would double our commitment in relation to pensioners and the disabled where we have already provided a guaranteed entitlement. In this House we have added the entitlement to people with disabilities. They are important steps, and inevitably there is an element of priority here.
The noble Baroness asked when I would review the situation and persuade the Chancellor to give me another £50 million. I cannot give a straight answer tonight, but clearly these matters will be kept under review. However, as the noble Baroness rightly says, under Clause 147 the Secretary of State has power to extend eligibility to such groups by statutory instrument. That is provided deliberately in order to be able to add particular groups, such as this one, when it is appropriate and additional finance is available. We believe that our immediate priorities are correct.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, I should like to go back to the review to which we referred. Will consideration of the eligibility of other groups extend also to what might be termed operational issues, for example, whether it is practical to operate the scheme on the basis of district council boundaries? As I said in Committee--it seems like many months ago--there is widespread concern in rural areas that the kinds of services to which people
Lord Whitty: My Lords, this clause relates to local authority-based schemes, as in the case of the concessions for pensioners and the disabled. Therefore, any extension under this legislation will apply also to local authority-based schemes. As far as concerns the particular operational aspect to which the noble Baroness referred, we would not have statutory backing to do that under the clause. However, without recourse to further primary legislation, under this Bill we would have the ability to extend the same provisions which now apply to pensioners and the disabled to this group, if such a decision was taken and the resources were available. Those resources, which are significant, would probably include the transfer of some private resources onto the public purse, because some private operators already provide reduced rate or free passes to schoolchildren. We would need to take that decision at a later point, but under Clause 147 it is possible to extend the provision under primary legislation.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness suggested that, according to one operator, the estimated cost would be £50 million for all young persons. We believe that the cost would be significantly more than £50 million. The exact figure depends slightly on how many of the existing facilities are taken onto the public purse, but it would be significantly more than £50 million. If it was restricted to those in full-time education, the cost would probably be half of that.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, the argument of the Government is that the costs are significantly more than the amount that my noble friend puts forward, which is based not simply on an estimate but a study with which she has been provided. Perhaps I may press the Minister for further information. This matter is material to the implementation of the provisions of Clause 147 to which the Minister referred.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot be more precise. It would involve a substantial sum and a new decision by government to extend it to the whole of this group, or those in full-time education. I cannot give any commitment to do that today or state the exact net expenditure required. All I say is that the primary power to do it is already available.
The Minister may well argue that in the United Kingdom where there is devolved government some matters may be treated differently in different parts of the country. We have had that kind of debate in the past. Equally, it is true that an argument which has validity in one part of the United Kingdom almost certainly has validity in another. I believe that the concerns of Scottish trade unions would be shared by their English counterparts if they thought about this matter objectively. We believe that the amendment will help the Bill move forward.
I do not believe that we should treat Scottish opinion lightly. Slightly further on in the Marshalled List one finds a government amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, which deals with a little matter of rural speed limits. That particular amendment provides that the Secretary of State shall consult Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales. Clearly, the Minister takes Scottish opinion quite seriously. I believe that in the interests of the Bill we should agree with Scotland on this particular issue and remove the workplace parking levy from the Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith drew my attention to this issue the other day and so I thought I might join in the debate. I am semi-disappointed--but only semi-disappointed--to see that it is the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the all-purpose Minister, who is to reply. Goodness knows what the Government would do if the noble Lord ever left the Government. They would have to appoint four new Ministers to take his place. I had rather hoped that it would be the
Yesterday the Scottish Parliament dealt with a transport Bill. Murray Tosh, a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament, had tabled an amendment to remove from the Bill the workplace parking levy, on which one or two people in Scotland are keen. The Executive, in the person of Sarah Boyack, accepted the amendment. It was not a case of the Parliament voting against the Government; the Government accepted the amendment. It split the Liberal Democrats because those in the coalition--for example, those who have ministerial cars--agreed with Sarah Boyack in agreeing with the Conservative amendment to take the levying of workplace parking out of the Bill. But at least two of their colleagues--who clearly do not have Mondeos--actually voted with the Scottish National Party against the amendment tabled by my friend Murray Tosh. It will be interesting to hear whether the Liberal Democrats in this House have any views on the subject; whether they agree with Jim Wallace and his friends, or with Donald Gorrie and his friend or friends.
If we are not careful businesses operating on a UK-wide basis will be affected by different provisions in Scotland from those applying in England and Wales. I know that the Government will say, "Well, that is devolution", but we are talking about businesses which think that they operate on a UK-wide basis. I think that business will find it odd. It may make Edinburgh and Glasgow marginally more attractive than English cities as places for businesses to set up. So maybe I should not complain too much. But it seems to me to be odd. If there are too many divergent positions like this, the United Kingdom will begin to be less like one country and more like two separate countries. Perhaps the Government should consult Sarah Boyack and ask her why she decided, along with her colleagues, to abandon the idea of workplace parking levies; and perhaps the Government should consider doing likewise in England.
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