It is somewhat ironic that the hon. Gentleman, whose party has always argued for localism, argues for centralisation of something that I believe should be a local decision. That is a matter for local decision making and local priorities. I have no doubt that Southport Council will take wise decisions about what is best for that town, as will others around the country.
As I said, the franchising powers are not entirely new—they have been available in London for many years—but are being refreshed. Franchising enables local authorities to specify the services that should be provided to local communities, with bus companies competing for contracts to provide those services. Local authorities that implement franchising will have more influence on where and when services run, but they will remain commercial operations, with the private sector providing those services.
That is what happens in London. The deregulation of the London bus market took place in the 1980s, but took a path different from the market outside London. Competitive tendering in London was introduced in 1985, and privatisation of the bus companies took place in the mid-1990s. That has evolved into a network with almost 2.3 billion passenger journeys a year. Those powers are being extended to other Mayors in other parts of the country, to give them the opportunity to operate in the same way as London. The Bill therefore provides for the Government’s intention for all combined authorities with elected Mayors to have automatic access to franchising powers.