§ Mr. French
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to encourage the privatisation of local authority-owned bus companies. 
§ Mr. Norris
The great majority of bus services in the United Kingdom are now provided by private sector bus companies. Since 1988, 28 local authority-owned bus companies, including the eight largest, have moved404W successfully into the private sector. We welcome this, and are continuing to encourage the other bus company owners to consider seriously the options for privatisation.
At present there is a targeted relaxation in the set-aside rate for receipts by local authorities from sale of shares in their bus companies of 25 per cent.—and it had been intended that this would revert to the normal 50 per cent. rate with effect from 1 April. In order to assist local authorities planning to sell their bus companies in the next financial year, we have decided to extend the present set-aside rate of 25 per cent. for these sales to 31 March 1997.