HC Deb 05 November 2003 vol 412 cc787-8
6. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales about the provision of public transport by bus. [135533]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with Assembly Secretaries about issues affecting Wales. The Assembly is allocating £8.5 million to local authorities this year to help boost the number and range of subsidised bus services, and to support community transport projects. That is in addition to their hugely successful free bus-pass scheme, which has opened up local travel opportunities for the over-60s and disabled people.

Ann Clwyd

As my hon. Friend knows, there have been innumerable complaints about the unreliable and shoddy service provided by Shamrock to my constituents in the Cynon Valley—and it also applies to neighbouring constituencies. Given that the company—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House is being unfair to the hon. Lady.

Ann Clwyd

Given that my constituents continually complain to me—week after week, month after month—about Shamrock's unreliability, and that people in the local authority have also complained about the company, what can be done to revoke its licence in view of its inability to provide the service that the people of south Wales deserve?

Mr. Touhig

I certainly recognise the importance of reliable transport and, more particularly, a reliable bus service. If an operator is not complying with its conditions of licence, that should be reported to the traffic commissioner for investigation. Where complaints relate to a service subsidised by a local authority, the council should also be informed. I can tell my hon. Friend that our colleagues in the Assembly are funding an officer of the National Federation of Bus Users, who will be happy to pursue complaints about particular local bus services. I would commend that course of action to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)

Without a rural bus service, the closure of small rural schools will lead to a huge increase in private car usage on the school run. In that light, will the Minister support my and my hon. Friends' campaign to keep small rural schools in Powys open—not only on account of their good educational record, but to ensure that journeys are shorter and that private car usage is not increased?

Mr. Touhig

School closures will be a matter for the local authority, but I am aware of an early-day motion tabled by Liberal Democrat Members which deals with that matter. Clearly, public transport is important to rural schools. I shall certainly take note of the hon. Gentleman's point and draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friends.