HC Deb 08 June 1989 vol 154 c228W
Mr. Hanley

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on Ulsterbus Ltd. and Citybus Ltd. will be published.

Mr. Maude

The report is published today. The Commission concluded that Ulsterbus and Citybus ran a very efficient operation in spite of the severe problems presented by civil disorder.

The Commission say that the companies have had to cope with a high level of civil disorder which has presented many severe problems, not least the destruction of over 1,100 buses since 1969 and many more damaged. Nevertheless, they found an efficient, low-cost, lean organisation with short chains of command, supported by loyal, hard-working and frequently courageous staff.

They also found that there was little scope for the companies to reduce costs without affecting the quality of service provided and that:

  1. (a) manpower and vehicles were efficiently used and maintenance procedures were effective;
  2. (b) methods of determining the nature, amount and timing of capital expenditure would benefit from the use of systematic appraisal techniques and of whole-life costing;
  3. (c) further studies and experimentation were needed to refine the relationship between fares and costs; and
  4. (d) the companies' efforts to take more account of the impact of quality of service on demand and to make greater use of minibuses were worthy of support.

They also make recommendations on the financial framework and management information systems, comment on the competition from the Black Taxis and discuss the question of fares evasion.

In terms of priorities for action they first endorse and make recommendations about implementing the companies' new market-led approach and its emphasis on the needs of the customer and, secondly, recommend a clear financial framework in line with the 1978 White Paper on nationalised industries.

The Commission found that neither company was pursuing a course of conduct which operated against the public interest. They were more than impressed by the dedication of the companies' staff at all levels to maintaining their services to the public in the face of severe harassment.

Ulsterbus Limited and Citybus Limited will be producing a preliminary response to the Commission's findings within 3–4 months, in the light of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will make a statement.

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