Bus Services Bill [Lords]

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:43 pm on 1st March 2017.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 1:43 pm, 1st March 2017

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the fact that there are vast swathes of towns and cities that are not served by a comprehensive bus network. They are left isolated for considerable lengths of time. Some inner-urban areas have no services whatsoever on a Sunday. That is the reality of the bus services in this country at the moment.

I am delighted that we have an opportunity to put buses front and centre of the national conversation about transport. This Bill is to be welcomed, as is the historic U-turn of the Conservative party towards re-regulation of our bus services, which is something that Labour has consistently fought for.

Although this Bill appears to be an acknowledgment by the Government of the failure of the deregulation of buses, the Bill as originally drafted did not go as far as we would have wished in remedying the underlying problems in the current model. In its current form, the Bill gives local authorities a number of options to improve bus services, allowing authorities to work in partnership with private operators, to plan and run their own network of bus services, or, if they wish, to keep things as they are. The recognition that local authorities can best judge what services they require and should be allowed to select the model that best meets their particular needs is welcome, but, if changes made in the other place are reversed, the freedom to deliver the best services will be taken away.

Powers to re-regulate local bus services should be available to all areas that want them, not just to combined authorities with an elected mayor. Not all areas want a combined authority, and the Government do not intend that every area of the country should be covered by a combined authority. That does not mean that the Government should prevent those non-combined authority areas from improving bus services solely on the basis that they are not combined authorities.