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Column 1018discount will apply to Scotland. Even if it will, it is totally insufficient to deter a determined asset stripper who is willing to bid over the odds and more than recoup the extra cost by selling off the assets, which are often on prime sites in our towns and cities. Bearing in mind the fact that, of the 72 national bus companies, only two were the subject of successful management-employee buy-outs at the time of the original sale, if the Secretary of State will not agree to the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) to give 51 per cent. of the shares to the employees of the Scottish Bus Group, I appeal to him--if he genuinely supports employee- management buy-outs--to consider that one of the best ways to achieve it is to offer to them at least a 10 per cent. discount on the highest bid.
Furthermore, how many companies will any bidder be allowed to buy? When the 72 NBC companies were sold, no bidder was allowed to buy more than a maximum of three companies. Only 11 companies are to be sold in Scotland ; only one company should therefore be sold to any one bidder. What safeguards does the Secretary of State intend to provide to prevent the regrouping of the Scottish Bus Group under single ownership after privatisation? What will happen if some of the companies fail to find a bidder, especially those companies that operate in rural, remotely populated areas? Will they be kept in public ownership, or will they be given away--perhaps by means of a "buy one, or buy two, and get one free" offer?
Another aspect of the Bill that concerns me greatly is its effect on the bus and coach building industry in Scotland. Traditionally, Walter Alexander and Company of Falkirk has been the main supplier to the Scottish Bus Group and other Scottish bus companies, but already, as a result of deregulation, it is suffering declining orders. Imported buses and minibuses are coming on to the streets in even greater numbers. A privatised Scottish Bus Group will no doubt go down the same road. It will buy even more foreign vehicles. No longer will there be the traditional loyalty and connection between the Scottish Bus Group and Walter Alexander. The Bill will result in the loss of many jobs in the industry.
The Scottish Bus Group was not privatised at the same time as the National Bus Company, because the Government thought then that the result of deregulation would be that the Scottish Bus Group would swallow up most of the other independent and public operators in Scotland and thereby become a much more attractive and saleable commodity at a substantially increased price. However, that did not happen. The Scottish Bus Group lost several million pounds in the Greater Glasgow area as a result of getting it wrong, following deregulation.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) referred to Glasgow. I am glad that he has returned to the Chamber after a considerable absence. We know what happened in Glasgow after deregulation. Hundreds of buses crowded into the city centre, chasing even fewer passengers. They brought the city centre to a standstill. The newspapers were full of pictures. National television showed what was happening. The only person who was unaware of it was the hon. Member for Pembroke.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : The hon. Gentleman says that I was the only person who was unaware of it, but when he intervened during my speech I told him that the traffic commissioner turned down that complaint.
Mr. Marshall : Yes. When I intervened I also put the record straight as to why Strathclyde regional council felt that it was necessary to approach the traffic commissioner. I think that he made the wrong decision, but that is a matter of opinion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) is correct. His constituents, together with those of many other hon. Members, lost out. Buses were withdrawn from rural areas so that they could be used on what were believed to be the most lucrative routes in the Glasgow area. It was the economics of the madhouse, and they ended the problem. I am sorry to say that the fact that such behaviour was not profitable, rather than the actions of the traffic commissioners, ended it all. Indeed, the Scottish Bus Group lost millions of pounds.
The hon. Member for Pembroke seemed to welcome the purchase of London buses and the reappearance of conductresses, or clippies. The purchase of 30-year -old, and even older, open-ended ex-London Routemasters was not welcomed in Scotland by those of us who are anxious about safety and reliability in public transport. Glasgow got rid of such buses in the 1960s, largely because too many passengers got injured boarding and alighting at stops and elsewhere, causing a hazard to traffic.
The clapped-out ex-London buses kept breaking down in many parts of Glasgow. That was another problem which the traffic commissioners examined. The buses should have been in a scrapyard, not on the streets of a major city. I agree with the hon. Member for Pembroke that the conductresses were popular, but competition has meant that they have almost disappeared. As many of us thought at the time, the move was simply a temporary publicity gimmick.
The main emphasis of the Bill is on profitability, not the provision of services. At the moment, local authorities can and do subsidise unprofitable but socially desirable routes. As there is a widespread population outwith the heavily populated central belt of Scotland, it is not unreasonable to forecast that the majority of rural routes will be deemed unprofitable by private operators or left to depend on the mercy of local authorities which the Government continually deprive of the resources necessary to provide proper services for their electors.
The Bill has little to do with transport or providing services--it is all to do with selling off publicly owned assets at knockdown prices and transferring 10,000 workers from the public to the private sector, and it is yet another attack on trade union organisation and the wages and conditions of workers.
From 1960 to 1969, I was a transport worker. I spent two years as a tramcar conductor--I think that I am the only ex-"cour" conductor in the House--and seven years as a bus conductor, all with Glasgow corporation transport. Bus workers everywhere do an excellent job on behalf of the nation. They work all manner of shifts, every day of the week and every week of the year, sometimes in the most atrocious weather conditions and in the most difficult social conditions. What is their reward for all this loyal service? A kick in the teeth by the Bill. They deserve much better.
Column 1020The Bill will do nothing to benefit the economy of Scotland or to create jobs there. Indeed, it will cause jobs to be lost. For all those reasons, the Bill is bad and deserves our opposition. 10.53 pm
Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen) : I am quite convinced that what we heard from the hon Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) was nothing less than a grovelling performance in an attempt to get some sort of job in the Government. I wish him every failure in that. The performance of the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) at the prospect of jobs being gained in her constituency at the expense of another was quite disgraceful.
Many people will recall the moment of truth for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) when, as Prime Minister, he faced the reality of privatising Rolls-Royce. If he had not nationalised it, the company would have been finished or, more likely, snapped up by foreign buyers. The Government that the right hon. Gentleman formed started off on similar lines to the present one. Public ownership was considered a bad thing but, to his credit, the right hon. Gentleman did what he had to do for the sake of the country when he was confronted by the Rolls-Royce crisis. The right hon. Gentleman recognised that the country could not be run with a dogmatic approach to managing the economy and providing public services.
The Secretary of State for Scotland is now facing the reality that the dogma of privatisation is not a talisman for economic prosperity. No doubt his continued advocacy of it has more to do with personal ambition. He knows that the Tory Back Benches are full of people with arrested mental development who jump up and get excited at the mention of privatisation.
The Secretary of State for Scotland is beginning to recognise reality. That is demonstrated by his comments on 30 November when he said :
"I made it clear that the Government had no preconception as to whether the privatisation of Caledonian MacBrayne would be a realistic option."
We are told continually that privatisaton is the answer to everything, and that there is no alternative, yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman is on record as questioning whether privatisation would be a realistic option. Let us not hear any more of the Tory claim that they have a superior method of running the modern economy. His attitude to CalMac demonstrates that the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken a small but significant step on the road to Damascus. Let us have no more hypocrisy.
The Scottish Transport Group, which employs 10,000 people and has a turnover of £180 million, is obviously an important factor in the Scottish economy in addition to its crucial social role in Scottish life. The objectives of the Bill have been well summed up by the Secretary of State, as follows :
"To manage its bus operations as it would do in the interests of private shareholders seeking in particular to retain customer goodwill".
That demonstrates the Government's priorities, not only in the Bill but in their general approach to the economy. The second objective is to provide services "subject to Objective 1." It is quite clear that the provision of services is subject to the interests of private shareholders.
The Secretary of State for Scotland takes the view that the travelling public will benefit from the greater sensitivity
Column 1021to the market that a private company necessarily has. The intellectual poverty of such a banal statement does not square with the intellect of the Secretary of State. It seems that, in spite of his intellect, he is grovelling to the extremists on his own Back Benches. He is just another Tory politician on the make, prepared to sacrifice his credibility for his career.
Let us consider the service provided since deregulation. The Secretary of State for Scotland said :
"As he knows, Strathclyde regional council is perfectly able to provide public funds to support the continuation of routes that individual companies do not want to provide. The regional council is the appropriate authority to decide whether there is a social need for a bus service on a particular route."--[ Official Report, 30 November 1988, Vol. 142, c. 709-21.]
If ever I was tempted to judge the Secretary of State as a politician who was fair and above board, that temptation left me when I heard that statement.
As a former Strathclyde councillor, I remember the agonies that I suffered in the preparation of the council's budget. Against the background of successive cuts in rate support grant, we had to rob Peter to pay Paul in trying to maintain Strathclyde's public services.
Strathclyde regional council is one of the best run councils in Scotland. Even the Secretary of State has paid tribute to its record. To claim that Strathclyde is perfectly able to provide public funds for the continuation of routes does not stand up to scrutiny, and the Secretary of State knows it.
I disagree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) about Strathclyde region. Strathclyde's Labour administration is doing a first-class job, in spite of the Government, and all Opposition Members should be giving it our support.
Deregulation is not working. The Scottish Consumer Council says : "It is still too early to give a final verdict on the effects of deregulation. The situation is unstable and the forthcoming privatisation of the Scottish Bus Group throws everything in the air."
The Secretary of State has made great play of his enthusiasm for employee- management buy-outs. As has been said before, buy-outs have been preferred to control of the workers' future going to people who do not care. There is nothing wrong with employees buying out these companies--this is a means of common ownership which the Opposition welcome--but the motivation for employee buy-outs should not be employees' desperation to retain control over their future. They should be motivated by a thought-out, principled approach, encompassing economic and social factors.
The Secretary of State said that the Unity Trust bank was supported by the trade union movement. He should note the role of the Co-operative bank in this venture. The background to Unity Trust shows the support that came from the trade union and co-operative movements. It is a bit late for the Tories to claim the credit for that development. The Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that the pattern of employee buy-outs in Scotland differs from that in England. These buy-outs, if motivated by a commitment to the community of which they are part, would be crucial in maintaining jobs, standards and services.
Column 1022The Bill will do nothing for the travelling public and employees unless control is gained by employee buy-outs. The Secretary of State has done little to encourage them. Many of us remain suspicious that he will be content to allow the Tories' friends in commerce and industry to acquire these companies, with all the dangers for employees and the public associated with the Tory dogma of privatisation. For all those reasons, we shall oppose the Bill. 11.1 pm
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : It is getting late, but my constituents would not forgive me if I did not raise the points which they have made to me in the past few months about the Bill. They will be affected by the geographical subsidiaries, Central and Kelvin, which will be amalgamated and privatised. The service will become even worse in my constituency.
When I go around my constituency, I am asked, "Are the Government interested in public transport, or is it a thing of the past?" Sadly, it appears from some comments that it is a thing of the past. We have had two doses of the Government's attempts at transport in Scotland. We had deregulation. My experience, and that of my constituents, was dismal. As one elderly constituent said to me, "Since 1979, the Prime Minister has wanted to put us back on our feet. She has--because there are no buses left in the area." That was the result of deregulation in my area. Because of their stoicism, my constituents have told me that they have more chance of catching the flu than of catching a bus.
What do we have to add to deregulation? Bearing in mind that deregulation involved bidding for contracts, we now have privatisation as well. That is not deregulation which just invites tenders for routes ; it involves opening up to the market everything to do with buses, with the attendant issues of bus networks, costs, frequency of service and safety. Where is the social dimension? On 30 November, the Secretary of State talked about the social dimensions :
"Strathclyde regional council is perfectly able to provide public funds to support the continuation of routes that individual companies do not want to provide. The regional council is the appropriate authority to decide whether there is a social need for a bus service on a particular route."-- [ Official Report, 30 November 1988 ; Vol. 142, c. 721.]
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was telling us that social need was not met through privatisation. To meet it, we have to go to the local authority, which has been deprived of money year after year. Where is the social concern in the Bill? There are implications for local authorities in respect of assistance for the elderly, the handicapped and school transport and integration with fare-paying passengers.
What chance is there of a social dimension with the Scottish Bus Group working to a profit target? What faith should be put in the Secretary of State's statement about employee participation? Despite several opportunities, the Secretary of State has still given no commitment about employee participation. He said :
"It will be encouraged by the provision of financial assistance to management-employee teams wanting to bid for their companies and offering the prospect of locally based management with real employee participation."
As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) said, the Secretary of State gave no figures to support that. The Secretary of State's statement contains no commitment.
Column 1023The Secretary of State went on to say that the Government cannot guarantee that employee management
"will be the end result, because that will depend on the proposals eventually put before us."--[ Official Report, 30 November 1988 ; Vol. 142, c. 708-21.]
There is no commitment in that respect, just as there is no commitment to the social dimension.
We should remember that when we consider what happened to the 72 component companies of the National Bus Group in England when only two went to employee participation buy-out. That again shows why we do not have any faith in the Secretary of State's statement. Safety is an important aspect, but it has not been mentioned tonight. We should remember the Clapham Junction rail accident this week and the King's Cross and Herald of Free Enterprise accidents. Surely safety should have been an issue to be considered in Scotland's transport policy.
The environmental aspect has not been mentioned either in this debate. We have been told that the Prime Minister is interested in the green vote, but what about the greenhouse effect, lead-free petrol, overcrowded roads and an integrated transport policy? No reference has been made to that because the Government have a quick-buck mentality. This is a quick sell-off and the Government have no concern for anything that is left behind.
Finally, I shall deal with the rural dimension of the Bill and its effects on my constituency. I visited ScotRail last week and it informed me that tourism is the mainstay of Scottish rural routes. However, according to The Guardian last week, British Rail is now considering whether a bus service would be a better use of Government subsidy. Two routes in my constituency- -the Helensburgh to Fort William route and the Helensburgh to Oban route-- could disappear as a result of that. If that happens, those areas and communities dependent on tourism will decline. The life of the community is therefore in peril.
There are no Labour district councillors in Helensburgh ; they are all Conservative district councillors and there is an independent regional councillor. If I stand in Helensburgh town centre with a petition, I shall find 100 per cent. support because the Helensburgh public want to retain their communities, as they have repeatedly told me. They know that the bus service would not work. They need a rail service to retain the rural dimension. In effect, they are saying that they need an integrated transport policy.
What attention have the Government paid to such a policy? When was the last time that the Secretary of State met the chairman of ScotRail or the chairmen of the bus companies to discuss an integrated transport policy? The Bill makes no mention of an integrated transport policy. There is no commitment to such a policy, to communities or ordinary people. People's interests have been set aside in this sale in the pursuit of ideological goals and cuts in public expenditure. The Government are saying that they do not want to spend any more or to give any commitment to a public sector service in Scotland, whether rural or urban. In other words, they are casting aside people's social concerns.
The Bill shows a total lack of concern for social, environmental and transport issues. It will do nothing for the ordinary person, the community or the country, and that is why it deserves to be rejected tonight.
Column 102411.10 pm
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill) : Like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall), I have an interest to declare. I, too, am a Member sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union.
I have another interest to declare, which is shared by only one other person in the Chamber at this moment, and that is you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My second interest is that I am a female. That being so, I want to talk about safety, a topic which has not yet been mentioned. The male Conservative Members present do not have sufficient imagination to understand what it is like to travel alone, late at night, in a lonely area. They do not know what it is like to sit alone in a bus station late at night. They do not know what it is like to be afraid and to be wondering constantly how long it will be before the bus arrives. A woman on her own may be confronted by drunks fighting or by one man making a pest of himself. It is sad that women live with these fears daily. They often do not have cars of their own, so they must rely on public transport.
Some hon. Members might wonder what my remarks have to do with privatisation. The answer is simple. In the drive for profits, services are cut and the staffing of stations is reduced. Travellers are less safe when there are fewer staff at stations, and that will be the result of the quest for profits. Everyone in Scotland knows that. The Conservative parliamentary women's committee has been formed presumably so that it can deal with issues that concern women, and it is sad that no Conservative Member on the committee is present to protect the interests of women travellers.
Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : Will the hon. Lady accept my assurance that in my constituency, where there has been deregulation, we have seen many new operators with minibuses? Women say how safe they feel when they are close to the drivers, who have a supervisory role. The instances of attacks on women and muggings of young men have decreased greatly since deregulation.
Mrs. Fyfe : I shall not give way again because time is short. The fact is that women feel a lack of security and are afraid to travel alone at night in lonely areas. Only a few months ago a woman was murdered on a train-- [Interruption.] I do not know why Conservative Members find that funny. It is not funny to travel alone and to be frightened. The response of Conservative Members shows their insensitivity.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) talked about the Bill and linked it with popular capitalism. He has failed to notice that privatisation is not the least bit popular in Scotland, especially in the form contained in the Bill. The great majority of the Scottish population do not want it.
When a family is able to run a private car, it is usually used by the husband for his journeys to and from work. His wife will get around by using public transport, along with her children, whatever the inconvenience may be. In the search for profits, companies will cut services, alter
Column 1025routes and remove buses from routes. Women with children to look after, or elderly parents, will suffer all the inconvenience, while others seek to make a fast buck.
When the public are dissatisfied because of a lack of service, who will be accountable? Conservative Members have failed to answer that question. The type of complaints about private sector bus services in my constituency is almost unbelievable. A bus was removed from service on a route that served a hospital. Passengers have had to wait three hours in some instances when travelling from one place to another. It is impossible to travel by bus to some local hospitals. In my constituency a young boy travels from his home to his secondary school and he has been refused access to a particular company's buses because one driver claimed that his behaviour was unacceptable. Oddly enough, the boy's behaviour is acceptable on every other bus he travels on. When his father protested, the bus company did not have the courtesy to answer-- [Interruption.]
To finish my point, that boy's father has written to the bus company three times, but it did not have the courtesy to answer. He came to me and asked me to take up his case. All I could do was write to the company and hope that it would respond to me.
When the Secretary of State for Scotland announced the privatisation, he referred to the consultation with Quayle Munro, the accountants. I asked him whether he had ever discussed safety and convenience for women and children passengers. He said that he had not done so, because he did not believe that that had any relevance. He had better wait and see, because the complaints will be legion and I will deliver to him every complaint from the women of Scotland as I receive them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) on his strong support for our decision on Vatersay, which will be very important for the Western Isles. However, I take issue with him on one of his earlier points. He said that safety had suffered as a result of deregulation. The evidence does not bear that out and, despite the increase in vehicle miles run by buses since deregulation, there has been a fall in the number of casualties in accidents involving public service vehicles between 1985-86 and 1986-87. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that vehicle quality has deteriorated.
The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North said that bus services should be provided in the social interest. Of course the subsidy arrangements provided in the
Column 1026Transport Act 1985, following deregulation, allow regional and islands councils, quite rightly, to subsidise any bus services that they consider to be socially necessary. Councillors have the necessary powers to maintain the rural bus network and fill the gaps in the commercial network where they consider that there is a social need.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) also raised the question of socially necessary services. I assure him that the need for regional councils to subsidise bus services is taken into account in the rate support grant calculation, both in reaching decisions on expenditure provision and in grant distribution. That will certainly continue in future. He omitted to say that, when I made representations to him after the withdrawal of bus services from my constituency, he acceded to a large part of my representations.
Mr. Darling : Of course I did, because I believe in providing a public bus service as a service. I was happy to accede to the hon. Gentleman. I was also happy to tell his constituents why it had all come about. Will the Under-Secretary of State tell me why the leader of the Conservative group on the Lothian regional council, Mr. Brian Meek, believes that one of the elements of high spending in Lothian regional council is the amount of money it spends subsidising the bus service? Is he saying that Brian Meek is wrong?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman should be clear about the fact that there are socially necessary services. He and I both recognise that, and I have no regret about approaching him. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) raised the question of rural bus services. Research on the effects of bus deregulation shows that rural bus networks have been largely maintained both in extent and in frequency.
I wish to answer many of the points raised, but first I shall briefly explain the Government's objectives. First, we want to complete the dismantling of control over the Scottish bus industry so that it is free to respond to the needs and demands of consumers. Deregulation was the first step in that process and, two years on, the bus network remains and the number of vehicle miles provided has increased. Where bus operators have seen opportunities to provide more services, they have been free to do so and there has been a net increase in the number of vehicle miles. Where services have been lost, it is because local authorities felt that it would not be justifiable to provide, at public expense, the continuation of such services. Where services were considered to be socially necessary, they have been retained at a reduced cost overall. New services have been provided.
In a freer bus market it is anomalous for the dominant position to be held by a publicly owned bus company with more than half the total market. It is also anomalous for such a company to be centrally controlled in a market designed to encourage local responsiveness, because the whole purpose of our policy is to do just that. The Bill provides powers for a freer amd more responsive market. The Scottish Bus Group will be divided into 11 units, with nine local operating units. Our aim is to create new, locally based companies that will not only be for the benefit of the bus traveller, but will boost enterprise in Scotland. The enthusiasm of management and workers to take part in that process shows that there is a spirit of enterprise.
Column 1027Our second objective is to make suitable arrangements for the continuation of the important lifeline ferry services on the west coast of Scotland provided by Caledonian MacBrayne. Every Scottish Member will be aware of the verse :
"The earth is the Lord's and all it contains
Except for the Islands, and they are MacBrayne's."
It is unthinkable that we should be other than totally committed to the continuation of at least the present quality of service. Our careful examination of CalMac's operations show that, for the most part, its routes are and will continue to be loss-making. For that reason, it is not a straightforward case for privatisation and it will be transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has his facts right--it certainly does not spring from what I am saying. CalMac is providing a lifeline service to the islands, which will most certainly continue.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will set up a new board for CalMac and give it a clear directive to examine how its operations can be provided in a more cost-effective way while maintaining at least the present standard of service. During recent years there has been substantial investment in CalMac and future arrangements will ensure that our commitment to improve support for ferry services will continue to be honoured.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) raised the question of pensions, about which there has been some concern. It is a complex issue and discussions have already started. I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Scottish Transport Group has appointed an expert pensions adviser who is already holding discussions with the unions. Suitable arrangements will be made to safeguard pension rights and to provide for their continuation. It will be for the privatised companies to establish new pension arrangements for their employees.
When making bids, prospective purchasers will be asked to state their proposals for pensions. The terms of new pension arrangements may be different from those of the Scottish Transport Group. The group will provide transitional arrangements to ensure continuity of pension provision until new schemes are provided in the privatised companies. Arrangements will be made to secure in full the rights of existing pensioners and accrued rights under deferred pensions. That means that all existing pensioners will continue to receive the same pension as they would have had if the Scottish Transport Group had continued.
For existing employees all accrued entitlements up to an employee's date of leaving the STG pension scheme will be fully protected in accordance with existing provisions with regard to future pensions increases. Employees will have a choice either to opt for a transfer value to be paid into their new scheme or to have deferred pension rights under their existing accrued entitlements.
New pension arrangements will require to be established also for those employees of Caledonian MacBrayne who are currently within STG pension arrangements.
Mr. David Marshall : I am grateful to the Minister for his answer on employees who have already earned a pension entitlement and left the industry. Is he saying that existing employees, after their transfer to a new company and after a transitional period, could well have their pension scheme changed to a scheme inferior to the one they enjoy or to no scheme?
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I said that employees will have a choice between opting for a transfer value to be paid into the new scheme or to have deferred pension rights under existing accrued entitlements, depending on which is more favourable to the employee concerned. It is important that an expert pensions adviser is now in touch with the trade unions on that point and is following it up. A further important issue which has been raised is
management-employee buy-outs. My hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) provided strong support for that, as there has been throughout Scotland. We wish to encourage such buy- outs and preference will be given to bids incorporating a real degree of employee participation. The Secretary of State has already announced the financial assistance that will be available. That is a maximum assistance of £48,750. Seminars will be held with managers on the general principles of these buy-outs as well as video presentations--
Mr. McKelvey : It disturbs me that the Minister says that consultations will be held with managers on manager-employee buy-outs. I should have thought that, in a democracy, we should talk to the workers.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman is right. Seminars will be held with managers on the general principles and a video presentation will be given to the work force at all depots. I shall show the House how strong is the feeling in favour of management-worker buy- outs. The general manager of Strathtay is reported in The Scotsman as saying :
"We consulted with the staff throughout the company, held meetings at all the garages and the view came back loud and clear that they wanted to attempt to mount a bid."
Lowland's general manager said :
"We are absolutely delighted that Mr. Rifkind has accepted our strong argument that Lowland Scottish should be allowed to stand alone. Now we must convince him that a management-employee buy-out would work."
The general manager of Northern Scottish Omnibuses said that the intended to lead a management-employee buy-out. Mr. James Moffat, general manager of Highland Scottish Omnibuses, said that staff had started a savings scheme with a view to taking part in a buy-out. For Eastern, Mr. Gall said that the company was encouraging its people to support a buy-out bid because it is the best deal for everybody and a sound proposition. The Scotsman reported :
"Mr. Shoat, the Scottish TGWU secretary, said that he hoped that Unity Trust, the trade union bank, might provide help for employees trying to put together buyout packages."