Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for making that point, and he must be reading my mind, because that leads on very neatly to my third point, which is about increasing choices in the chain of provision—passenger choice and supplier choice.
I am conscious that the franchising measure will ensure, as the Government have made clear, that
“only authorities with the ability, powers and funding necessary to make a success of franchising…will be granted access to franchising powers.”
However, as my hon. Friend Chris Green said, I think it is absolutely vital to ensure that this positive framework is available to all who wish to access it. I am therefore keen to hear what the Minister can say to reassure areas that may decide not to adopt that particular model of devolution. What will happen to them and what might, therefore, happen to us? That is even more crucial, given the potential for cross-pollinating and subsidising less profitable routes from more profitable routes, which would help the less-used services in rural areas that we have all been trying so hard to save.
Those mechanisms and the fresh focus on enabling bus services are long overdue. From a rural standpoint, the Bill should go some distance towards allowing communities to maintain and build on the services that they need.