I am grateful to you for calling me, Mr. Bayley. The county council in Derbyshire has implemented the existing scheme to a greater extent than required by its minimum legal responsibility, in that the scheme is available during the evening rush hour as well as throughout the rest of the day from 9.30 am onwards. However, we have experienced a problem recently, which I hope my hon. Friend the Minister will address, about the way in which the bus companies are claiming back money from the local authority. That has meant that the half-price scheme, which previously ran before 9.30 am, can no longer be operated. It appears to many that the bus companies have, in effect, put a stranglehold on the local authority, by insisting on a greater level of payment—a couple of million pounds is being talked about—in order to continue to provide the above-minimum scheme upon which Derbyshire has embarked.
My question, which relates to the reimbursement of operators, is this: can we make absolutely clear the basis on which the reimbursement takes place in order not to have bus companies making extreme or exorbitant demands on local authorities? In the Derbyshire case, those demands have resulted in a lessening of the service that was previously available, albeit not in the concessionary fares window from 9.30 in the morning onwards, but in the concessionary fare scheme that operated before 9.30, which is no longer possible because of the bus companies’ demands on the local authority.