Bus Services Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 4th July 2016.

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Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative 6:00 pm, 4th July 2016

My Lords, if I have brought both Front Benches together, I have achieved something. Some noble Lords talked about disreputable operators. If, as a result of a franchising scheme, a disreputable operator goes out of business, no one would be happier than me.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, picked up on the fact that local authorities are currently putting services out for bid and that operators are either successful or unsuccessful. Noble Lords are right but the difference here is that an operator can be sure that, so long as he has a good commercial model and keeps his customers happy, he can stay in business. However, if he gets hit by franchising, he will be out of business through no fault of his own.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made an interesting comparison with the railway industry, but he will know that that is on a different scale and people in the railway industry know that that is the name of the game. They will bid for the franchise and amortise all the costs of their investment over the length of the franchise, whereas the operators that I am concerned about at the moment have no risk of being put out of business by franchising because that simply cannot be done. It is therefore a new situation that they could not have planned for.

No noble Lord has explained away my TTIP problem. Regarding facilities for operators, franchising may well provide efficiencies because perhaps fewer workshops and garages are needed. The problem is that someone ends up holding redundant facilities that they used to have a commercial use for. I am not convinced by the response of my noble friend but I will read Hansard carefully and, subject to the usual caveats, I will come back on this. Oh, the Minister wants to have another go at me.