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 sure the Mayor of London well and truly acknowledges that other parts of the country outside London need to have the benefit of investment, but this does not have to be an either/or. It is a question of priorities and making sure that we do not ignore vast swathes of the country.

We won on an amendment on Report in the other place to extend powers to re-regulate bus services to all areas. I hope that the Government’s stated commitment to devolution and improving bus services is not restricted to those areas that have struck deals for combined authorities with elected mayors. Labour was successful in removing clause 21, which would ban local authorities from forming their own bus companies and replicating the success of existing municipal companies. As the Minister is surely aware, municipal bus companies often outperform their rivals. Nottingham City Transport, for example, achieved a 97% overall satisfaction score in the most recent Transport Focus survey, while none of the big five bus operators broke 90%.

Removing the incentive to profit from operations can allow a greater focus on the social and economic purpose of bus services, meaning that buses can better cater for the social or business needs of a particular geography. Labour did not introduce a clause mandating municipal operators, but simply removed a clause prohibiting them, because we believe that there is not a one-size-fits-all model for running bus services. Indeed, there are a number of solutions for different areas, and it follows that, given the success of existing municipal bus companies, localities may judge that the municipal model is best suited for their area and may wish to attempt to replicate that success. If the Secretary of State is committed to devolution and believes that devolved authorities should be allowed to choose the best model to meet their needs, I hope that the Government will accept that the option of municipal operation should be preserved and that clause 21 should not be reintroduced.

We have an opportunity with this Bill to make significant improvements to bus services and, as a consequence, the social and economic life of much of our country, but Labour wishes these opportunities to be available across England, not just in some areas, and to be available to the fullest extent possible. We are happy to support this Bill, but ask that the Secretary of State listens to the forthcoming arguments—on both sides of the House, no doubt—and commits to transforming bus services in England for the better.