Bus Services Bill [Lords]

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 1st March 2017.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet 2:03 pm, 1st March 2017

I have not looked at the Jersey example, but my anxiety is that rolling back the clock, essentially, and renationalising and re-regulating the bus network could ultimately mean that we lose the investment we have received from the private sector into bus services over the last decades. My key worry here is that the effect of the provisions introduced by clause 4 would be to enable local authorities, who perhaps 30 years ago sold their bus operations at a commercial price, now effectively to confiscate those self-same businesses.

The inevitable impact of this clause is that companies large and small, who might have spent many years and a great deal of money, energy, effort and innovation building up their business, might be barred from operating in the event that they lose the franchise contest. They could see their operations in a particular town or city disappear overnight, leaving them with buses, staff, depots and equipment that they cannot use.

I am particularly worried about the impact on smaller bus operators, who provide important services in many parts of the country. Those with a successful business serving a relatively small area and small range of routes might find it very difficult to tender for a big local authority contract. They might also find the tender process for running services to be complex and expensive, and require costly professional advice. If the process is anything like rail franchising, complexity can be truly daunting.