Tom Blenkinsop seeks clarity from Government over free bus travel for pensioners

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (19th April 2012) called on the Transport Minister, Norman Baker, to come clean over future plans to restrict access to free bus travel.

The question came following an article by Lib Dem Special Advisor, Chris Nicholson, in which he calls for the entitlement age for free bus travel to “be raised immediately to 65 and then rise in line with the state retirement age”. He then goes further still by echoing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s calls for means testing for the scheme.

Tom said:

“It’s becoming clear that means testing pensioners for their bus pass is a policy that Nick Clegg wants to push through sooner rather than later. The government’s position had become muddled ever since the Deputy Prime Minister called for means testing in December last year, and this latest article only adds fuel to the rumour mill.

“I was astounded to hear that the Lib Dem Minister responsible wasn’t even aware of what his colleagues had been proposing and even more worrying was his failure to give immediate assurances that this wouldn’t become policy.

“It was not until my Labour colleague, Stephen Hepburn, again raised the issue that there was a guarantee that there will be no changes to concessionary bus fares in this Parliament.

“Many pensioners in my constituency just wanted an honest answer – ‘are there any plans to restrict access to free bus travel for pensioners or not?’ It was a simple question, but the lack of an immediate answer was concerning. I will be keeping up the pressure on the Coalition Government to maintain this pledge.”

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