Local Transport Bill [HL]
Lord Snape (Labour)
My Lords, I do not have any problem with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Rosser. Indeed, the strengthening of the powers of Passenger Focus is not something, I would have thought, that any of us in your Lordships' House would object to. However, whether inadvertently or not, I felt that he glossed over many of the problems that give rise to complaints where bus services are concerned. I am not surprised about that because the brief that he delivered was prepared by the Passenger Transport Executive Group which believes that the only problem with buses is the question of ownership. Yet a countrywide survey made of passengers earlier this year—and I do not propose to read out the figures again because I did so at an earlier stage—revealed that in passenger transport executive areas in particular the main complaints of passengers were not the matters raised by my noble friend Lord Rosser but those of overcrowding on some services, congestion and the lack of information about where buses go to and how to pay fares, because many towns and cities have a different system of fare collection. These are all matters not for wicked bus company owners but for the passenger transport executives, although there is no mention of them in the brief that they habitually provide.
While supporting the aim behind the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Rosser, I hope the Minister will agree that other matters ought to be addressed, such as the recalcitrance of some local authorities to provide proper paths for their buses, proper areas restricted for bus users—bus lanes in other words—and the habit in some cities, including Birmingham which is run by a Conservative-Liberal coalition, of removing bus lanes because the leaders of those councils are in thrall to the private car. I hope these matters will be addressed by the Minister and he will bear in mind that the main complaints of many of our passengers in our major towns and cities lie at the feet of the passenger transport executives rather than those who own and operate the buses.