Bus Services Bill [Lords]

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:07 pm on 1st March 2017.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling The Secretary of State for Transport 1:07 pm, 1st March 2017

I was about to come to that. The essence of the Bill is partnership. In the public transport arena, partnership between the state and private sector is really important. Through the provision of greater flexibility, the Bill will allow for enhanced partnerships that take forward existing partnership arrangements. In a rural area—where it is not always about building bus lanes, for example, but about other ways of improving services—the Bill will give local authorities greater flexibility to work with a private operator in a new and enhanced partnership that delivers improvements without some of the straitjackets in the previous arrangements. And of course we will continue to fund community transport, which plays an important role in many parts of the country, particularly rural areas. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, who will speak later, plays an active role in making sure we do the right thing by community transport.

I will wrap up now to give others time to speak. I want to make clear what the Government do not want the Bill to do. As I said, this is not the Bill the Government originally introduced or the Bill we intend to deliver on to the statute book, subject to the consent of the House. The amendments in the other place on opening up the automatic access to franchising powers to all local authorities would reduce certainty in the bus market and reduce investment and the attractiveness of bus services being offered. It would not be good news for bus passengers and certainly not for bus manufacturers and the people who work in those factories right across the UK, from Ballymena to Stirling and Yorkshire. We will therefore bring forward an amendment to reinstate the two-step process for non-mayoral combined authorities wishing to access franchising powers.

We shall also seek to reinstate the ban on local authorities setting up new municipal bus companies. My view is that local authorities have other priorities today, and this is about partnership between the private sector and the public sector. That is the big difference between the Government and the Opposition. They do not want the private sector investment that comes in and delivers better and newer buses, providing jobs in Ballymena. They want to go back to the days of the past, but we are not going there as well.