New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: I remember you, Mr Speaker, warning me that making remarks about bus companies is one of the most dangerous things any MP can ever do. Nevertheless, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), I have had representations from my local bus company, Bluestar, which welcomes the provisions of the Bill in so far as they enhance partnership schemes, but which worries about the potential of franchising arrangements to introduce rigidity into the system and lessen the circumstances in which an enterprising bus company will introduce, for example, new routes at its own risk, unlike a cautious local authority that would be unprepared to take that risk. Will the Secretary of State comment on that?

[The Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling): I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. I make it clear again that, while we are extending the kind of franchising powers we see in London to other big cities and mayoral areas, it is not the Government’s intention to offer automatic franchising powers to other areas. Other areas that want to make franchising proposals will have to demonstrate clearly that they can provide an improved service for passengers. When making those decisions, we should bear in mind the flexibility and rapid innovation he describes.]