HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 c105
39. Helen Jackson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment. Transport and the Regions what plans he has to discuss the future of bus deregulation with local authorities. [4702]

Mr. Prescott

As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport announced last week, we have launched a review of bus policy as part of the fundamental review of transport policy which I announced on 5 June. Local authorities will be among those consulted.

Helen Jackson

My right hon. Friend will know that those of us in Sheffield are aware that one cannot build an integrated public transport system with a totally deregulated set-up. What will he do to control the present free-for-all in cities such as Sheffield? Will he consider introducing a minimum standard of reliability and allowing local authorities to set environmental guidelines on the number of buses that can travel through city centres or on main routes?

Mr. Prescott

I agree with my hon. Friend that a deregulated bus system has been the enemy of an integrated transport system, and nowhere is that more true than in Sheffield. In that city, a regulated transport system, working under the passenger transport authority—set up by Labour—got people to use public transport more and their cars less. That is a matter of fact. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) told us that the bus system is better following deregulation. I appreciate that, having spent some time with his family, he may have missed some of the recent reports which show that deregulation has produced more mileage, fewer people travelling on buses, higher prices and less of a networked system. That is why we are right to carry out a review and to aim for an integrated transport system. Sheffield led the way, and we shall look at its experiences in the review.

Mr. Garnier

Can the Deputy Prime Minister envisage a re-regulated bus system without increased taxation or public expenditure?

Mr. Prescott

I know it is difficult for the hon. and learned Gentleman to think other than that everything is paid for by increased taxation, but I invite him to look at the ridership on buses in a deregulated system. Fewer people travel on buses because buses are less reliable and of a poorer quality. If we increased ridership, we would increase income from buses and the amount of trips from a particular bus. In that way, we could increase revenue to pay for the changes to improve the transport system.

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