HC Deb 20 July 2004 vol 424 cc140-1
4. Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab)

What plans he has to change the role of the passenger transport authorities in England. [184918]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty)

We have no specific plans to change the role of passenger transport authorities in England. However, "The Future of Rail" White Paper sets out new arrangements for passenger transport executives in England, in relation to their rail functions. These changes will bring about some consequential changes of function for the PTAs.

Mr. Watts

I very much welcome last week's announcement, which gave more powers to the passenger transport authorities. May I encourage my hon. Friend to go a little further and provide even more powers to excellent PTAs such as Merseyside to find ways to improve bus and rail services?

Mr. McNulty

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. He will know that the overarching group for the PTEs, PTEG—the passenger transport executive group—welcomed the comments in the rail review. My hon. Friend will also know that we published the rail review last week and that the statement that will follow today's questions deals with all other aspects of transport. I hope that my hon. Friend will be keen enough to stay in the Chamber and listen to the statement.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) in his pleas to the Minister to give passenger transport authorities more power over private local bus companies. Is my hon. Friend the Minister aware that the Go-Ahead group and its subsidiary, Go North East, propose severely to curtail bus services in west and central Gateshead in my constituency? Will he please look at that as a matter of urgency? Surely private bus companies ought to be subject to the same kind of public service agreements as local authorities and other public bodies, so that people who use the services can have some influence over them.

Mr. McNulty

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments about the rail review and what we have done with PTEs. I was recently up in Newcastle, which I think is fairly close to Gateshead, to discuss a range of matters with Nexus. If I need to return or to speak to the firm down in London about specific aspects of bus services, I will be more than happy to do so.