HC Deb 27 February 1984 vol 55 cc11-2
18. Mr. Leigh

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on progress of his plans to privatise the National Bus Company.

Mr. Ridley

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) on 14 February, at column 115, I am having a thorough study made of these and related questions and hope to be able to make a full announcement in the early summer.

Mr. Leigh

Although I welcome the privatisation of the National Bus Company, which is in line with the Government's belief in deregulation and increased competition, which has so benefited the consumer of coach services during the past four years, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is confident that privatisation will not adversely affect the provision of rural bus services?

Mr. Ridley

I shall study deregulation and increased competition before making any proposals for the National Bus Company. I assure my hon. Friend that the study will include ways of ensuring the continuation of rural and uneconomic bus services, although I believe that they could be provided with much less subsidy than at present.

Mr. Snape

Before coming to a decision, will the Secretary of State ignore the suggestions of Sir Alfred Sherman that existing railway lines should be converted into roadways, bearing in mind that this miniature mogul had taken a paid consultancy with the National Bus Company when he was sitting on a commission appointed by British Rail to examine this crazy proposal?

Mr. Ridley

I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman should object to Sir Alfred Sherman advising, whether paid or unpaid, British Rail and the National Bus Company. I assure the hon. Gentleman that any proposal to close any railway must be subject to the full procedure and to my eventual confirmation. There is no way in which bus services can be substituted without the full glare of a public inquiry being invoked.