I have already told the Bus and Coach Council that I welcome the careful thought the industry is giving to how it might respond to the challenges of the future. I intend to continue to discuss with the BCC and others concerned how the bus industry's indispensable role within our transport system can best be fostered and developed to meet changing needs.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Has he noted that the Select Committee on Transport is undertaking a major study of this issue and that an early-day motion, signed by 130 Members, of all parties, has been tabled stressing the importance of the role that the bus and coach industry can play in the future of transport? Does my right hon. Friend agree that for too long the bus and coach industry—both its public and private sectors—has been the Cinderella of the railways' ugly sister?
I am not quite sure about my hon. Friend's pantomine casting, but he is right to say that there is strong support for a development of the bus industry away from its bad image towards a new, high quality service and one that can provide for people's needs, particularly in rural areas, through mini-bus developments such as we discussed a minute or two ago in response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). The emphasis must be on changing needs. Undoubtedly, far greater development is needed of the services provided by mini-bus and voluntary service vehicles, post buses and a variety of other services' vehicles in a way that has not been done in the past.
Is the Secretary of State aware that "The Future of the Bus" was written in the aftermath of massive cuts in mileage operated, particularly in rural areas? We know that 40 million miles were cut in 1980. In the light of that, how can the Secretary of State pretend that shire counties can carry out their remits to provide a proper service to their people when he has cut 17·8 per cent. of the shire counties' transport supplementary grants this year? I draw his attention to the summary in "The Future of the Bus", which says that the service is now deteriorating and that the community as a whole will suffer as a consequence?
New forms of transport are urgently needed, especially mini-buses, to replace the highly expensive bus systems, which have had to be supported by ratepayers' money, and to which ratepayers have rightly objected. Our approach in future must be to get away from the old idea that it is necessary for a large 32-seater bus to run with minimal loads, at great cost, when the demand is much diminished. Diminished demand requires a new approach.