HL Deb 02 May 1986 vol 474 cc510-1

11.22 a.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make representations to London Regional Transport about the effect on personnel of the closure of Loughton bus garage.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, the Government's view is that LRT and its subsidiaries should be left to manage their businesses without political interference.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble Earl appreciate that, while I expected that Answer, it is extremely disappointing? Does the noble Earl also appreciate that LRT is a nationalised industry set up by legislation initiated by the Government, and that the consequences of the Transport Act and tendering have led to the closure of the Loughton bus garage? Does he further appreciate that the men at that garage are extremely annoyed, to put it mildly, at the way they have been treated? It involves transfer from their homes if they wish to keep in the industry; and if they wish to go to one of the other concerns which have taken over the services, it will mean lower country rates. Does the noble Earl also understand that some very good men, who we would have wanted to remain in the bus industry, have left as a result of this? Will he bring pressure on LRT to realise that there are social and human consequences from what is taking place?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we understand that the garage is closing because it lost six out of its seven routes following competitive tendering by LRT and the Essex County Council. What is going to happen to the staff is of course a matter for London Buses Limited. I understand that they have held discussions with staff representatives. We also understand that LBL are offering to move staff to suitable vacancies at other garages, and are offering voluntary severance on terms which are much more favourable than the legal minimum to those who prefer to leave.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that those who travel on the buses in that area are already getting a bad service, and that it will be made worse by the closure of the Loughton garage? Is he further aware that, at times, buses which carry disabled children arrive forty minutes or an hour late, causing great disturbance to the children? Things like that really ought to be improved, and will he make representations?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's last point. It is solely because the bus service is so bad that we introduced the Transport Act last year to improve matters.