Has the Secretary of State seen the report from Conservative-controlled Hertfordshire district council, which estimates that the Government's bus proposals will cost the council £3 for every £1 saved? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that for Conservative-controlled Hertfordshire district council to join the Conservative-controlled Association of County Councils and the Conservative-controlled Association of District Councils in criticising those proposals means that Conservatives outside the House of Commons are extremely worried about the future of their bus services? Does some peculiar reason draw the right hon. Gentleman continually to the Dispatch Box to make a fool of himself?
I have seen the report in The Guardian today. I have always thought that it was better to read The Guardian carefully. The hon. Gentleman has failed to do so and has made a fool of himself this afternoon. The hon. Gentleman will, of course, be aware that The Guardian report on Hertfordshire was referring to transport supplementary grant and not to the bus policy.
As the Secretary of State is actively promoting the co-ordination and integration of transport fares and services in London, why does he insist on attempting to dismantle the very system that is allowing Merseyside and other major conurbations to have an integrated and co-ordinated system of transport fares and services? Is this not peculiar?
I pay tribute to Merseyside in the sense that the Greater London council has done even more damage to London Transport than Merseyside has done to its transport organisation. As a result, London Regional Transport will take longer to recover from that unfortunate experience. After that, we can see about applying the policy.
In view of the scurrilous campaign being conducted by the Labour-controlled Lancashire county council at a cost to ratepayers of £135,000 against my right hon. Friend's plans to modernise and improve the public transport services, will he assure my rural constituents that they will be infinitely better off under the new plans than they are at present?
I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend. Under the new policy we shall have a better, more flexible and more extensive system of rural bus transport. If Lancashire county council had not indulged in the expenditure to which my hon. Friend referred, it would have been able to afford several more rural bus services for the amount of money it spent on political propaganda.
I never made that claim. I said that what has happened in Hereford and Worcester is a good guide to what will happen in the rural areas. I never extended that to what will happen in the urban areas. I believe that great savings can be made through competition to enable county councils to purchase more services as well as to cut their costs.
If the Secretary of State is so convinced that Hereford is a good example, why were operators not prepared to tender for rural services? Will the right hon. Gentleman be honest and explain that, except on populated routes, people in rural areas will be deprived of bus transport?
I think she will find that in both the towns and the rural areas the bus services are better. The hon. Lady is wrong to say that rural routes are being withdrawn, because they are not.