Examination of Witnesses (Questions 740
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
MP AND SIR
740. Come on!
(Sir Richard Mottram) I am answering your question.in
relation to demand. So the answer is if the Government wishes
abandoned cars policy to be tightened upand quite clearly
that is what the consultation document saysthen DVLA has
the capacity to do that, but it will cost more money and it will
need more people to be employed. That is an issue which will need
to be addressed in the next spending review, is the answer. It
is not a question that they say "We cannot do it". Incidentally,
Chairman, could I just say that our number is at least one million
unlicensed vehicles, and many of them we think are also uninsured
and many of the drivers do not have licences.
741. All of them will be uninsured. Do you not
think you are going about this completely the wrong way? We know
that it costs about £100 for every council to deal with an
abandoned car. As the Secretary of State said, there is no value
to these cars. Therefore, by paying £50 to somebody who wants
to abandon their car, surely, you will deal with the problem very
quickly and very easily. You have just got to give it a value,
and then people will not abandon their cars.
(Sir Richard Mottram) That is an option that has been
looked at, yes.
742. Is the End-of-Life Directive coming from
Europe going to help with cars, or is it going to get even more
(Mr Byers) I am not sure it is going to help enormously
on abandoned cars.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It potentially makes it worse.
743. Which is it? Does not help or makes it
(Sir Richard Mottram) It makes it worse
(Mr Byers) It does not help!
(Sir Richard Mottram) It makes it worse if we do not
have a policy! We are thinking about abandoned cars. Our abandoned
cars policy is being thought about in the context that we know
the End-of-Life Directive is coming.
744. Obviously, railways have made the headlines
in the last few weeks, but for my constituents who regularly use
public transport buses are more important, and they always seem
to be a forgotten subject, yet we see costs rising, frequency
of, particularly, off-peak services declining, buses getting older
since deregulation and essential services often removed just before
2 days' notice. Is this not the forgotten part of public transport
that we need to refocus on now?
(Mr Byers) I think you are right to say that this
is a crucial area of public transport for very many people. I
accept the criticism that perhaps we have not paid enough attention
to it. That has got to change. What is interesting is that there
is a considerable amount of additional funding going into buses
and we are not seeing a return for it. I think we need to look
very carefully at the structures that are in place and the levers
that we have got to deliver a quality improvement as far as bus
services are concerned. If that means we have to move to more
of a contracting situation where we know what we are getting,
we know what we are buying and we know the level of service, and
we then pay for that, then that is something we have got to be
prepared to do.
745. The last Transport Act identified quality
partnerships as maybe the way forward, and saw franchising as
almost an after-thought of last resort. Is a signal being given
now that if PTAs and county councils come forward with constructive
and well-thought-through franchising arrangements for their areas
that the department will look at those sympathetically?
(Mr Byers) We will give it very careful consideration.
746. How many per cent is it of the public that
(Mr Byers) I am not sure, offhand.
747. How many use trains?
(Mr Byers) About eight per cent.
(Sir Richard Mottram) It is much bigger for buses.
I do not know the figure.
748. Maybe you could give us a note on it.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Of course.
749. Mainly women and the indigenous, I think
you will find, Sir Richard.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Not in London. Obviously, London
is the biggest bus market but there is a big difference between
passengers and ridershipif there is such a wordin
London and in some other parts of the country. The obvious case
is the north-east where numbers are falling off as car ownership
rises. In London ridership is rising and is widely spread across
750. You are looking carefully at the arrangements
between the bus companies and those who are funding the buses
in London, are you not?
(Sir Richard Mottram) We are, yes. It is not our direct
responsibility. Obviously there is a big problem over costs in
relation to buses, which I think is driving this issue.
751. How much extra money do you think is going
to be needed for the NATS 10-year investment plan?
(Mr Byers) We are doing a lot of detailed work with
NATS in the light of the downturn since September 11. There were
problems there before September 11.
752. Do you accept their figures on the downturn?
(Mr Byers) We will want our own advice. We do not
just take any figures that someone produces for us.
(Sir Richard Mottram) They have given us a range of
figures, on different assumptions, and we are talking to them
about that range.
753. Does that mean that you accept their range
or not? You obviously accepted that they should delay the building
of the NATS centre in Scotland on the basis of figures that they
have already supplied to you.
(Sir Richard Mottram) That is correct, yes.
754. Therefore, do you think the figures they
have given you are right?
(Sir Richard Mottram) What we have been discussing
with them is the range of outcomes where, as in all these cases,
there is a so-called "best case", which will definitely
mean forecasts which are lower than those which were envisaged
pre-September 11, and then there is a case which is even worse
than that. The argument is about that range. It is not really
an argument because it is a perfectly amicable discussion, but
there is an issue about the fact that none of us know how many
people are going to be travelling in five years. Therefore, we
need to have an approach to solving this problem which recognises
755. They are asking for you to give them a
(Mr Byers) I will come to that, but the Scottish centre
has been deferred, and the reason why we agreed to the deferral,
with great reluctance, was actually to sort out the situation
and to do the work first, and then to take the decisions that
will be necessary, and that ties in with the point about the financial
756. On the financial circumstances, is it right
that you are considering paying back to the airline group some
of the money that they expected, and on the basis of thatwell,
that is what has been reported in some of the newspapers.
(Mr Byers) Yes, but you know as well as I do that
you should not believe what you read in the newspapers.
757. Could you then answer my simple question
on principle, which is that I thought the idea of moving it out
of the public sector was to transfer the risk, but have we not
actually been asked to carry the risk?
(Mr Byers) I think you make a very important point,
758. To which the answer is?
(Mr Byers) There will be some people who would like
the Government to take on the risk because they have a financial
interest in getting us into that position.
759. Your answer is that the Government is not
taking on the risk?
(Mr Byers) My answer is that Members of the Committee
will know the arguments that were deployed at the time of NATS
and those arguments apply equally today as they did then.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Of course, the Government is
a minority shareholder in that company. That was the basis on
which this was done.