HC Deb 19 November 1984 vol 68 cc7-8
6. Mr. Rogers

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with local authorities regarding public transport developments.

Mr. John Stradling Thomas

My right hon. Friend and I have agreed to meet the standing conference on regional policy in south Wales to discuss its response to our consultation paper "Local Choice in Public Transport".

Mr. Rogers

As the Welsh Counties Committee, the Association of District Councils and everybody else in Wales, except a few potential cowboy operators, oppose the deregulation of buses, will the Minister examine the possibility of a franchise system instead?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

I cannot speak for cowboy operators. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can. The Welsh Office document is a genuine consultation paper. We shall consider all aspects of the matter in a genuine spirit of consultation, but I hold out no hope for the semi-monopoly franchise system proposed by some Labour Members.

Mr. Raffan

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that after deregulation safety standards will not just be maintained, as the consultation paper promises, but will be considerably tightened? Is he aware that even private operators realise that the existing total of 42 examiners to monitor 10,000 public service vehicles in the northwestern traffic area is grossly inadequate?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

The Government have absolutely no intention of allowing safety standards to be eroded in any way.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Minister agree that the effect of the Government's proposals so far will be to denude much of rural Wales of bus services, unless public money is put into public transport in those areas? Will he ensure that there is no reduction whatever in the provision of bus services in Powys as a result of Government policy?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

The difficulty about the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is that all the complaints are to the effect that the services have already declined, whereas he makes it sound as though flourishing services were about to disappear. Our proposals will provide an opportunity for more flexible systems to be developed for the benefit of rural users.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

In view of the welcome given to the consultative document by the Welsh Consumer Council, when my hon. Friend meets the local authorities will he urge them to start thinking positively about the opportunities presented there for cheaper bus fares, and even for new railway services?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

There will be discussion on both those points. We genuinely believe that competition will not only improve matters generally but will achieve better value for money and cheaper fares.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

What is the Minister's response to the view of the Transport Users Consultative Committee for Wales, which clearly stated that there would be a net loss of public transport throughout Wales as a result of the proposals in the consultative document?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

That is assertion and speculation without any backing whatever.

Mr. Barry Jones

Even at this late stage, will the Minister take steps to exclude Wales from the privatisation measures, which we believe will involve job losses, a decline in road safety and in reliability of services and the prospect of higher fares? Does he not realise that the likely result of these measures will be the denudation of rural Wales in terms of public transport services?

Mr. Stradling Thomas

No, Sir.