HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc579-80
11. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received from local authorities and individuals regarding the operation of bus services in Wales since deregulation.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

My right hon. Friend has received 16 representations. None of these came from local authorities.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is it not now clear that the prophets of woe have been confounded and that the combination of free competition with carefully targeted subsidy is providing Wales with a better bus service than it had before?

Mr. Roberts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The opponents of the policy, who predicted major problems, have been proved wrong, as the Government have always maintained that they would be.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

In the year before deregulation was introduced, 49 per cent. of the privately owned public service vehicles in Wales failed their annual test. Can the Minister give us confidence that as a result of deregulation that figure will be lower this year?

Mr. Roberts

I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government take the safety aspect very seriously. All existing safety checks on buses will continue, and even more spot checks on vehicles in workshops will be undertaken. The Department of Transport has employed additional staff for its vehicle inspectorate to increase enforcement capacity, and new vehicle examiners have been appointed in Wales. Vehicles found to be seriously defective will not be allowed to operate.

Mr. Terlezki

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Labour party's policy of closing the vehicle licence registration centre at Swansea will result in 4,000 people being unemployed in Wales?

Mr. Roberts

I noticed the Labour party's proposal to do away with vehicle excise duty and the licensing system and, incidentally, with the licensing centre at Swansea. However, I do not think that there is total agreement on the Opposition Benches as to the wisdom of that policy.

Mr. Roy Hughes

In relation to the Government's deregulation policy for our bus services, what will be the future of National Welsh? Will the Government allow it to be handed over to a firm of asset strippers? That would certainly be detrimental to bus services in Wales.

Mr. Roberts

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the bids that he has received. I assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend will consider the bids very carefully before coming to a final view.

Mr. Best

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the examples of greater service to the public since deregulation is a regular bus service between my constituency and his, carrying people to and from Ysbyty Gwynedd?

Mr. Roberts

Indeed, and there is plenty of scope for innovative services to be established. The rural transport innovation grant scheme is operating in Wales and it should be very helpful, particularly in rural areas.

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