HC Deb 09 April 1984 vol 58 cc8-9
9. Mr. Snape

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has met the chairman of London Transport to discuss future manpower levels on London's bus and underground services.

Mr. Ridley

I have noted with interest the chairman's views, expressed in his 1983 plan and other public statements, that considerable manpower savings are possible on London Transport without detriment to the quality of service offered to Londoners.

Mr. Snape

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that splendid organisation Capital to which the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) referred, has projected more than 13,000 job losses for bus and Underground staff? Is he further aware that the transport correspondent of the Financial Times reported on 21 March that the Department wants between 12,000 and 14,000 job losses during the next few years? Has there been some collusion between those two unlikely sources? What is the right hon. Gentleman's estimate of job losses when the London Regional Transport Bill becomes law?

Mr. Ridley

I can confirm neither figure, nor would it be for me to do so. I shall leave the efficiency of London's transport to the future chairman of LRT when he takes office. However, I must point out that since 1971 there has been a decline of 25 per cent. in the number of passengers using London Transport, but a decline of only 5 per cent. in the number of staff serving them.

Mr. Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend accept that London travellers and ratepayers want an improvement in the efficiency and productivity of London Transport? Will he discuss with the chairman exactly what contribution Les Huckfield and Arthur Latham are making to the efficiency of——

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Now tell him, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Bottomley

—either London Transport or the board?

Mr. Ridley

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We can secure——

Mr. Flannery

That supplementary was nothing to do with the question.

Mr. Ridley

We can secure that increase in efficiency when London Regional Transport comes under my Department. The money spent on Capital could have been better employed in helping the disabled or some other group that really needs help. It is extraordinary how their interests have been ignored and money thrown at other causes instead.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Secretary of State agree that while, theoretically, the single manning of buses in central London can be shown to be marginally more economic, in efficiency and availability there are severe disadvantages to such a system?

Mr. Ridley

No, Sir. The economic advantages are obvious and can be costed in millions. London Transport's studies show that the assault rate on bus staff per bus-mile on buses with conductors was 4.3 times higher than on buses operated by one person.

Mr. Parris

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if manpower can be saved on London Transport, a better service can be provided for lower fares?

Mr. Ridley

Of course, my hon. Friend is right. It also means that we can take some of the burden off the ratepayers, as I hope to demonstrate later today. I hope that my hon. Friend will stay to listen to me.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as a ratepayer in London, I am about to lose my rights to direct representation to the GLC or the LRT authority, which will now be run by the Secretary of State's Department? I plead with him to give more thought to the answer that he gave to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that to travel on a one-man-operated bus in London in peak hours is an absolute disaster, and that any saving is not worth making? Do not the statistics which the right hon. Gentleman has given relate to after midnight?

Mr. Ridley

In a way, it is a pity that the hon. Gentleman will benefit in two directions. As a ratepayer in London he will have a reduction in the rates that he has to pay and, secondly, he can come to the House and raise his grievances direct with me across the Floor. I cannot think of anything better for him.