In a forthright exchange across the Despatch Box in the Commons Chamber recently, Reading East MP and Shadow Minister for Local Transport Matt Rodda went toe-totoe with his Conservative opposite number, challenging her on the issue of free bus travel for the under 25s.
Posing the question directly to Nusrat Ghani MP, Matt said:
“With free bus travel for the under 25s estimated at £1.4bn per year,why is the Minister opposing a scheme that could benefit up to 13 million young people saving them up to £1,000 each year at a time when they face significant financial hardship due to tuition fees and the high cost of living?”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary immediately rose to her feet in response, calling the Labour initiative an ‘intriguing’ policy but not committing to a direct answer to the Shadow Minister’s question.
Matt once again took to the Despatch Box and gave further challenge, especially in view of Ms Ghani placing the Conservatives’ heavy reliance on the much-maligned alleged costings of £13bn. Matt’s response was to cite the actual costings from University College London (a widely respected source of financial acumen across the transport industry), and where costs have been calculated as £1.4bn to provide free travel for under 25s.
Ms Ghani again responded, dodging the issue on costs and telling Mr Rodda to ‘go back to School and add up your figures’, and accusing the Opposition of ‘not taking young people seriously’, despite being directly advised by the Matt that the cost calculations from University College London to enable the provision of free travel for everyone in the UK being just £5bn.
The Government Minister’s pithy response was that help with bus travel was already being given by the Government, with concessionary fares to the disabled and the elderly – and that “we are doing what we can”.
The session continued with questions being put to the Government from other Members across the House.