HC Deb 03 June 1991 vol 192 cc11-2
10. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many responses he has received to his consultation paper entitled, "A Bus Strategy for London".

Mr. Freeman

We are continuing to receive official responses to our consultation paper "A Bus Strategy for London" and to date more than 200 have been received. I am not sure whether we have received one from the hon. Gentleman. The Government believe that a deregulated rather than centrally planned bus service in London will encourage more and varied services, so offering the best chance of increasing bus patronage.

Mr. Cohen

Does the Minister admit that he is riding along with deregulation in the bus strategy? When it has been adopted outside London, has not that meant 16 per cent. fewer buses? That would be a disaster for traffic in London. It might mean more buses in the rush hour but fewer, or perhaps none, off peak. Would not the quality of the bus fleet go down? Would not concessionary fares for pensioners and the travel card be placed at risk or be referred to the Office of Fair Trading? Does not that show that the Government are unsafe to steer London buses?

Mr. Freeman

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has his figures muddled. Since deregulation, figures for bus services outside London show an increase of about one fifth in the number of bus miles offered to passengers. There are more services by minibuses, double deckers, and coaches. The Government want to ensure that London has the same benefits—more bus miles offered to passengers —so that we can encourage more passengers onto the buses and thereby help to relieve congestion.

Mr. Dykes

Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree, none the less, that the experience of transport planning, here and in other countries, suggests that something less than full deregulation may be appropriate to the capital city? Will he bear in mind that need to compromise?

Mr. Freeman

We are still receiving consultation responses, including the contribution from the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen). The Government have not reached a final decision on the format of deregulation. However, the central principle is clear. It divides the Opposition from the Government because we believe in a substantially deregulated market. More buses would come into London to offer their services, which would, hopefully, mean more passengers on the buses—

Mr. Prescott

What do the passengers think?

Mr. Freeman

I shall not be drawn into making a riposte. The Government believe strongly that, the more buses that are provided and offered to customers in London, the more people will travel on them and the less congested our roads will become.