HC Deb 11 January 2000 vol 342 cc127-8
1. Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central)

What steps he is taking to improve the quality of bus services in Yorkshire and Humberside area. [103251]

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. John Prescott)

The Yorkshire and Humberside area will benefit from the measures in the Transport Bill. The Bill provides for a statutory form of bus quality partnership schemes and quality contracts in certain circumstances. That is in the interests of promoting high-quality public transport and a better environment.

Ms Winterton

I welcome the Bill, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that people in rural areas can feel physically isolated and socially excluded without access to good-quality bus services. The 1,800 new rural services have provided a lifeline to many of those people, but how many of those services are in the Yorkshire and Humberside area? What further action might be taken to improve rural bus services?

Mr. Prescott

The rural bus scheme is highly successful. Of the 1,800 services, about 134 are in the Yorkshire and Humberside area. Some authorities have not done so well, though. North Yorkshire, for example, has spent only about 25 per cent. of the money that was available, but I am pleased to announce 50 new projects in the rural bus challenge fund scheme, five of which will be in Yorkshire and Humberside. Many more people will have the choice of public transport in rural areas.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Government raise more from the fuel duty on community bus services than they pay every year in lottery grants. Will he therefore improve bus services in Humberside, Yorkshire and elsewhere by offering a fuel duty rebate to community bus services as well?

Mr. Prescott

We will take no lectures from Opposition Members on fuel duty. We are providing a rural bus service that is welcomed in rural areas, despite Opposition Members' protests. This morning, I received a letter from a pensioner in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley). It says: I am writing to tell you the Government's rural bus service initiative has produced two new bus services in my area. Not only that, they actually connect with the trains. It is called integration. A better public transport system is being provided by the Government.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when, next year, as a result of legislation that is going through the House, pensioners in Selby, Yorkshire become entitled for the first time to half-fare bus passes, it would be advantageous if a reciprocal agreement could be reached between West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority, the Selby district and all the other districts in Yorkshire, so that pensioners could use their half-fare bus passes throughout the county—as they can already be used between West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester?

Mr. Prescott

We seek to achieve that. Indeed, the legislation that is before the House will achieve it: a statutory minimum half-fare system for pensioners. Two million pensioners will benefit. It is another example of a good transport system.