§ 23. Mr. Newton
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he is satisfied with the adequacy of arrangements for consulting the public about proposed changes in bus services.
§ Mr. Horam
Much depends on the attitude of individual local authorities, but the Transport Bill lays down firmer guidelines.
§ Mr. Newton
Is the hon. Gentleman aware in at least two recent cases in my constituency, major proposed changes in bus route have come as a sudden and unpleasant surprise to groups of constituents and, in one case, to their parish council? Since this seems to be direct evidence of inadequacy, will he not take another look at this and see whether he can strengthen the provisions in the Transport Bill?
§ Mr. Horam
I know the difficulties that the hon. Gentleman's constituents have faced in one case and I understand that discussions are now taking place between the operators, the council and the police to sort out the problems in good time. Certainly I take the point that the Transport Bill goes to this area. What we are providing elsewhere, apart from what is in the Bill, is that the county councils should set up advisory committees to consider plans of this kind about bus routes under the provisions that we are making in response to the views of nationalised industries.
§ Mr. John Ellis
Will my hon. Friend take note that the opening of the Humber bridge, although that date goes further and further back, will affect the whole of the transport infrastructure in North Lincolnshire, and that there is a vital need that the inquiries which have to be held —whether we keep the ferry or discontinue it—will have an impact on the bus services in that area? Will he press for the appropriate bodies to put those inquiries in hand immediately, so that we have plenty of time before the due date?
§ Mr. Adley
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, at the last Transport Question Time, we talked about the National Bus Company's community bus scheme? Is he aware that when I have had a chance to discuss this with neighbourhood councils in my constituency, some of their members were under the impression that this scheme was available only in what one described as "remote rural areas"? Will he yet again take on board the need to encourage the NBC to bring to the attention of parish councils, neighbourhood councils and community groups everywhere the fact that community bus schemes can be operated successfully in many parts of the country, provided that the information is made known to the right people?
§ Mr. Horam
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The NBC has made a great effort to publicise its scheme. As he knows, the pamphlet "With a Little Help from your Friends" is now widely distributed. I will put all the support I can behind it. In addition, at the end of our consideration of the Transport Bill, which is now due to come back to the House, we shall certainly issue a comprehensive circular setting out what can be done in this area. I agree that the maximum publicity is needed.
§ Mr. Molloy
Would the Minister see the chairman of London Transport to ask him whether the head of his bus section could see representatives of the outer London boroughs to see what can be done to improve the deteriorating provision of bus services in, for example, the London borough of Ealing? Will he also discuss with him the alarming increase in violence used against London bus crews?
§ Mr. Norman Fowler
Is it not a fact that the Government have done almost nothing to encourage new bus services to develop, particularly in rural areas? Why do not the Government reform the traffic commissioner system so that new services can develop naturally, which 455 would be to the benefit of the public and was requested by the county councils?
§ Mr. Horam
The hon. Member's charges are breathtaking in their inaccuracy. It is Tory-controlled county councils throughout the country which have been denying operators and people their bus services and have been cutting back one after another. It is only as a consequence of our policies that they are now beginning to change their minds.