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Mr. Damian Green (Ashford): I take the hon. Lady's remarks to mean that she is urging the Government to renationalise. If she is not, surely she is guilty of attacking her own Government as well as the previous Government.

Angela Smith: What a sad intervention that was. I had hoped for an apology for what had happened to that£895 million. Yet again, I find the Opposition's complacency absolutely staggering.

We should be used to hearing no apologies from the Conservatives as they never apologised for bus deregulation. Hon. Members will remember the great bus wars, when people would arrive at a bus stop and bus after bus would turn up competing for business. Opposition Members are looking anxiously at the clock to see whether they have sufficient speakers for tonight's debate--

Mr. Mackinlay: The hon. Lady is blushing.

Angela Smith: Let me stress that my hon. Friend was referring not to me, but to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait).

The Tories told us that the great bus wars would lead to increased choice and better services and that the competition between existing and new companies would provide better services and more buses. We all know that the result was nothing of the sort.

Mr. Ian Bruce: I have been listening to Labour Members saying how terrible the buses are and what a disaster railway privatisation has been. Why are they not proposing a return to regulation and nationalisation? I do not understand it.

Angela Smith: Conservative Members ask us what we propose to do about that. We are trying, through the integrated Transport Bill, to put policies in place to deal

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with the problem. The Conservatives wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers' money and we are trying to put the problem right.

I have lost count of the number of constituents who have complained about inadequate and expensive bus services. They are right to complain. Local authorities are trying hard to finance the provision of bus passes to pensioners who complain that there are too few buses.

Some people come to Members' surgeries and complain about the transport system, but others do not complain. Instead, they get into their cars and drive. According to a MORI poll, 49 per cent. of respondents said that they would use their cars less if bus services were better; 51 per cent. said that they would be willing to take a bus even if a car were available, and 60 per cent. agreed that the bus was better environmentally than the car. Yet, despite knowing all that, the Tories deregulated the buses, with the result that passenger numbers fell by one third. We are still waiting for an apology. That is how we arrived at our present position, which results from Tory failure.

The Opposition have accused us of being anti-car. I am certainly not anti-car. I represent many Ford and Visteon workers and I am proud of their contribution to the economy of my constituency, but car manufacturers recognise that the status quo is not an option. The most anti-car policy would be to do absolutely nothing about congestion.

I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) did not refer to his statements when he was previously in the House. He said that

Opposition Members may think that congestion is the sign of a flourishing city, but most people sitting in their cars on those congested roads would not agree. Nor is itan option to do nothing about the environmental consequences of traffic and the huge economic and social costs of congestion. The pro-car policy is an integrated and effective transport policy that meets the needs of those who have cars and those who do not. I do not accept the theory of Opposition Members that, because the Government have been so successful in reducing unemployment, everyone now has a car. Some people do not have cars because they cannot afford them or because they prefer not to have them.

The problem is not that we have too many cars--other countries have greater car ownership, but less car usage. The average number of kilometres--I much prefer miles, but this is very modern information--travelled by a British car is 17,000 per year. The Dutch travel 16,000 km per year by car; the French 14,000 km; the Germans 13,000 km; the Italians 12,000 km and the Japanese just 9,000 km. Those countries cannot be accused of being anti-car, but they have a more balanced attitude to car use and offer travellers public transport alternatives. In Britain, 71 per cent. of people use their cars to get to work. How many of them would choose to take public transport? The MORI poll and other evidence shows that more than 50 per cent. would choose alternative forms of transport.

I return for a moment to bus deregulation and raise an issue that I would like my hon. Friend the Minister to address. Bus companies often claim that they are unable

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to cross-subsidise bus services--in other words, they are not allowed to use profitable routes to subsidise unprofitable routes, even within the same company. According to the Library, there is nothing in transport legislation to prevent bus companies from cross- subsidising. However, it may be that the problem lies in company law. I understand that some bus companies do cross-subsidise, but others feel that cross-subsidising routes and using the profitable routes to subsidise the non-profitable routes may be acting against the interests of shareholders, because it does not maximise profits. That is something that we should look at.

It is a quite unpleasant notion that bus companies can choose the profitable routes to run, but come running back to the Government and local councils for help to run non-profitable routes that provide services for people in their area. We need to investigate that and see why profit cannot be channelled into public service. The problem is that, for too long--until this Government were elected--transport was looked at in purely financial terms. The economic costs of congestion are well documented. There is no doubt that businesses suffer from congestion--deliveries can take longer and staff can be delayed. However, all that can be quantified in purely financial terms. Of equal importance are the social and environmental costs.

I am delighted to report that Essex county council's popular Village link bus services have been honoured by the bus industry awards. This innovative transport scheme received the highly commended award for its achievements in improving public transport in rural areas of Essex county.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow(Mr. Rammell)--who has taken a great interest in rural bus services--passed me this quote:

Clacton is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Henderson). The surprising thing, given that the scheme was opposed by the Conservative party, is that the quote came from a constituent of the hon. Member for North Essex(Mr. Jenkin).

I am not anti-car, and I enjoy driving. I was a member of the House of Commons racing car team last year, with the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce). I saved his skin, because I was last and he was not, so he was not embarrassed. We were conserving fuel and not being too wasteful. We must look at the environmental advances that the car industry has made. I drive a Ford Fiesta, and it would now take 50 of my Ford Fiestas to produce the same exhaust emissions as when the Fiesta was launched. The car companies are playing a role in this area, and I congratulate the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders on the Stop Fuming campaign.

Recently, the Minister for Science, visited Ford in my constituency, and we were able to look at the innovative work being done to improve the environmental impact of the company's cars. Progress is being made in that regard. I have also had the opportunity to test drive a liquid petroleum gas Ford Focus car, and I urge Ministers to look at the opportunities--as well as the tax incentives--to increase the use of LPG, which can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent.

The health implications of carrying on as we are and accepting congestion--so praised by the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea--are frightening. I am sorry

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that more time has not been spent tonight addressing the health issues. The Department of Health suggests that air pollution accelerates the deaths of between 12,000 and 24,000 vulnerable people each year, and that between 14,000 and 24,000 hospital admissions and readmissions each year may be associated with short-term air pollution. Reported asthma cases have trebled in the past 20 years. The House will agree that those statistics are alarming, and I am appalled that the Conservative party views them so dispassionately. The Opposition's contempt for public safety is well illustrated by their attitude to traffic calming measures. I fully support 20 mph zones outside schools, and I fail to understand how anyone could reject a measure that could save the lives of children.

The Tories' record on transport is disgraceful, and their policies have led us to where we are today. Where we go from here is crucial to the future. Nobody wants to sit in stationary traffic, watching people walking by. If we carry on as we are, we shall grind to a halt. We must provide a decent public transport system that is properly funded and will encourage people to get out of their cars and on to public transport.

There was a joke that we used in my constituency at the last election. It worked for us, and I hope that it will work in this case. It was that there are no problems in life--only challenges and opportunities. The previous Government left us enough challenges and opportunities to pick up and run with. but I have confidence that the Secretary of State can deal with these problems.

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