HC Deb 21 April 1986 vol 96 cc9-10
7. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of existing bus routes have so far been registered under the provisions of the Transport Act 1985 in West Yorkshire.

Mr. David Mitchell

Six hundred and fifteen local services with stopping places in West Yorkshire were registered with the traffic commissioner by 28 February. The figure for current road service licences, which is not directly comparable, is 681. The tendering process should be used to fill these gaps and to supplement commercial services in the evenings and at weekends.

Mr. Waller

Does my hon. Friend recognise the extent to which many people have been needlessly misled into thinking that those routes which have not been registered will disappear? Does he accept that this reflects one of only two possibilities—either there is stunning ignorance by local Labour and alliance politicians about the facts, or a cynical attempt is being made to frighten, alarm and deceive people before next month's local government elections?

Mr. Mitchell

My hon. Friend has hit the target, just as he did yesterday when he completed the charity-sponsored marathon. My hon. Friend is right. The transition works in two stages, the first involving the registration of profitable services, and the second, which is still to come, involving the provision of contract services on socially necessary routes. The people who are frightened by the scandalous campaign run by the Opposition will have the certitude of a contracts service with their county council if they are on a socially necessary route.

Mr. Pike

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many of the services that run from West Yorkshire into my constituency in Lancashire, which adjoins West Yorkshire, will not be tendered for and maintained? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that will be another symptom of the reduction in services to the public as a result of the Transport Act 1985?

Mr. Mitchell

No, I do not accept that. That is not the case, and it will be proved in the event not to be so.

Mr. Stott

I absolutely reject the hon. Gentleman's comments that the Opposition have been scaremongering. Is the Minister aware that, of the current routes run in West Yorkshire, only 71 per cent. have been registered with the traffic commissioners, which means that about 30 per cent. remain unregistered? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that 35 per cent. of evening routes and 50 per cent. of Sunday service routes have been registered? Those are broad averages, because registration ranges from 70 per cent. in Bradford down to 20 per cent. in Wakefield. Will the hon. Gentleman say with absolute assurance that those routes currently run by the passenger transport executive which have not been registered will receive sufficient financial support from the Government even though the county may be subject to rate capping and other financial provisions? Will those routes continue to run?

Mr. Mitchell

Whether those routes will continue to run will be entirely a matter for the local PTE and how it distributes its resources. The West Yorkshire PTE has informed councillors that the commercial network mileage has increased from the 55 per cent. previously assessed to 75 per cent. of current mileage. That is a major justification of the statements by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and me, and a condemnation of the Opposition's distortions in recent months and during the passage of the Transport Bill.