HC Deb 20 July 1977 vol 935 cc1587-8
12. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what powers are available to him to vary bus fare increases approved by traffic commissioners.

Mr. Horam

My right hon. Friend may vary decisions of the traffic commissioners only on appeal under Section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1960.

Mr. Madden

Is my hon. Friend aware that the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority is seeking approval to increase bus fares by between 20 per cent. and 33 per cent.? Does he agree that such an increase would put a considerable burden on all bus passengers within the area, and is he happy that final approval in these matters should lie with the traffic commissioners, whereas approval in respect of rail fare increases lies with the Secretary of State?

Mr. Horam

It is a big increase in West Yorkshire—no one is in any doubt about that—but, as my right hon. Friend explained in earlier answers, this is part of the catching-up process, and it will happen, we hope, once and for all. That is precisely why we have now reversed previous policies on public expenditure support for bus fares and are now pumping another£80 million, in total, into bus revenue support. I hope that, as a consequence, fare increases will be only those necessitated by inflation and will be far more rare than they are today.

Mr. Flannery

Is my hon. Friend aware that in South Yorkshire fares have been kept down, even to the point of there being a conflict with the Government? May we expect that from the£80 million the£5 million of Government money which we have lost in South Yorkshire through keeping fares down—and, by the way, thereby winning a big election—will now be given back to South Yorkshire in order that fares may be kept down?

Mr. Horam

No, Sir; we wish to be fair to everybody, and therefore the policy will be pursued precisely as we indicate in the White Paper, with money being made available by local authorities, to which the Government contribute a part.

Mr. Gow

Would not these difficulties be overcome by a radical liberalisation of the bus licensing laws and the abolition of those expensive appendages of the bureaucracy, the traffic commissioners?

Mr. Horam

No. I think that that would simply be destructive.