§ Mr. Watts
asked the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 3 February, Official Report, column 45, when he expects to make a decision on the future structure of London Country Bus Services Limited to enable the management and staff to consider putting forward purchase proposals.
§ Mr. Ridley
I have today given the National Bus Company directions under section 48(5) of the Transport Act 1985, requiring it to make provision in its disposal programme for the division by 1 September 1986 of the local bus operations of four of their subsidiaries. A copy of the directions has been laid before each House. The details are as follows:
Subsidiary To be divided into: United Automobile Services Ltd. 3 parts Ribble Motor Services Ltd. 3 parts Crosville Motor Services Ltd. 2 parts London Country Bus Services Ltd. 4 parts
NCB's main objective under the 1985 Act is to promote sustained and fair competition, both between its own subsidiaries and between those operators and others. The board of NBC proposed last year the division of five of the company's subsidiaries: Bristol Omnibus, Southdown, United Counties, Alder Valley and United Automobile. They did not consider it appropriate to split up Ribble, Crosville and London Country because it would, in its view, weaken the competitive position of these companies and delay their privatisation. My view, based on a detailed analysis of local circumstances by my consultants, Price Waterhouse, is that these three very large companies could, if left intact, undermine the development of competition in large areas of the country and so deny many bus passengers the early benefits that deregulation is designed to bring.
I have concluded that the right way to proceed in order to allay the board's concern about the discharge of their duties under the Transport Act is to give directions to the NBC.
Four of the subsidiaries which the NBC itself proposed to split have already been divided. Division of United Automobile has not yet taken place and I have therefore included it in the directions for the sake of completeness. 552W The directions allow for part of United Automobile to join NBC's East Yorkshire subsidiary and for part of Ribble to join Cumberland Motor Services, as suggested by NBC.
The directions will resolve the uncertainty about the future structure of these companies and will enable the local managers and employees to consider whether to make proposals to buy their companies. I very much hope that they decide to do so.