Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat 6:15 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, a similar amendment to Amendment No. 7 was moved on Report. At that stage we drew attention to the need to help the bus industry, which is facing a serious revenue crisis. That was underlined in the bus industry over the past year when we saw turnover rising slowly and costs no longer falling.

The bus industry is struggling. Wages and fuel costs are rising and it received little help in the Pre-Budget Report--in fact, none that I can see. There was mention of £13 million being added to the rural bus service grant. But such issues as possibly reducing the amount and scope of fuel duty rebate were not addressed. The object of bringing forward this amendment again is to underline to Ministers the plight of the industry. It is often referred to, as it was in the Chancellor's Statement yesterday, as being important. But, interestingly, bus fares have increased enormously compared with the cost of motoring.

The Government listened carefully to motorists. They listened to the hauliers who used, in my view, undemocratic means to bring their plight to the notice of the country. Bus operators are too busy trying to run their services in accordance with the regulations to take part in blockades and otherwise inconvenience the public. But I wish to underline that, unless something is done to give buses better, unobstructed access to the public highway, within the next couple of years the Government will face a situation where many bus services which are now run commercially will require subsidy, and many will have to be curtailed. I am sure that that is not an end the Government seek.

Therefore, I ask the Minister again to consider how that priority might be enhanced. This series of amendments was tabled in consultation with local government. It was the one thing they wanted, second only to camera enforcement of bus lanes, to ensure that buses can move on the streets of our cities. I beg to move.