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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can answer yes to both questions. Certainly we are receptive to any suggestions from the bus industry or from local authoritiesand very often from both of them togetherfor new ways of increasing bus ridership. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, is of course right on her second point.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, can the Minister clarify the Secretary of State's announcement yesterday that a czar for transport is to be appointed? What will be the czar's role? How will he be more successful than all the other czars the Government have appointed in the past few years?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have a personal difficulty with the word "czar" which takes me back before 1917 and in a direction in which I would not wish to go. No, I do not have anything to add to what the Secretary of State said yesterday.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the disparity between the increase in bus patronage in London and the much slower increase or even decrease elsewhere may have something to do with the fact that politicians in this House and in another place show little interest in the subject because they very rarely use buses except in London? Does he
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thought that my noble friend Lord Berkeley was a cyclist, not a bus userand very brave, too. However, one of the reasons why bus ridership is increasing in London rather than in the rest of the country is that Conservative governments privatised bus services outside London. They did not quite dare to do that inside London. Regulated bus services are indeed more efficient. There are other reasons, of course.
Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld: My Lords, I must first declare an interest. I am a consultant to the Confederation of Passenger Transport and chairman of the Bus Appeals Body, the consumer body for the bus industry in this country. Does my noble friend agree that the picture is much more patchy than is suggested by the 1.5 per cent figure and that there has been a marked growth in bus ridership in areas where there is close co-operation between local authorities and bus operators in bringing forward Quality Partnerships? Is there not a case for placing Quality Partnerships on a statutory basis so as to achieve an overall improvement in bus usage?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is entirely right. Quality Partnerships are working remarkably well in ensuring passenger growth. In Cheltenham, the five services covered have had increases of between 2 per cent and 9 per cent. In Greater Manchester, with more than 50 partnerships, there has been 8 per cent passenger growth in the Bolton-Leigh corridor. I could produce similar figures for Harlow, Nottingham, Tyne and Wear, the West Midlands and elsewhere. Although statutory procedures cannot be ruled out for ever, the voluntary arrangements are working very well at the moment. We are keen and we have the resources to extend those partnerships.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, Kick Start is a proposal to pump-prime the private sector during a 10-year contract to take over the running of marginally profitable bus services outside London. We must concentrate our attention on those services as they are losing passengers rapidly. Have the Government considered the proposal and is there any answer?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, the Government are considering the proposal. Clearly, this is potentially a useful way forward. In rural areas car ownership is still rising. To that extent, bus services are, so to speak, swimming upstream.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, why was the European aspect of the matter not brought out? Surely what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is saying is that he objects to the flexi buses that have been introduced in London that appear to be working rather well. He must object to them because they come from Europe. I am very fond of double-decker buses. As a member of the GLC transport committee in the 1980s I was instrumental in ensuring that the Routemasters were not scrapped for ever. I am glad to see that they are still with us.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, speaking as a parliamentary Cross-Bench London bus rider, does the noble Lord perhaps agree that people in the country have to carry more parcels on buses? Bus use is declining because people need cars in which to carry their parcels. In London you can do less shopping more often.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure. That makes some sense. I quite see that rural bus passengers use buses for shopping, but my experience as a London bus user is that people use buses for shopping in London as well.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I used to use the word "ridership" when I was on the GLC. I am sorry to find myself using the word "patronage". That is like talking about customers rather than passengers, which I think is deplorable.
The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised the issue in July with Beijing and with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (SARG). My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and my honourable friend Bill Rammell have discussed with senior members of the Special Administrative Region Government their proposals for legislation. We have
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the United Kingdom is very much involved in the guarantees that were given to the citizens of Hong Kong with regard to their civil liberties and rights both in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and in the Basic Law promulgated in July 1997? Is she aware that the consultative document put out by the Hong Kong Security Bureau contains a proposal that organisations banned, or whose financing is banned, on the mainland could be banned, and their financing stopped, in Hong Kong also, and that those organisations banned on the mainland include church organisations, Falun Gong, pro-democracy movements and, indeed, many newspapers and pamphlets? Does she agree with Amnesty International that the level of civil liberty detentions has increased sharply in China in the past yearthat is also stated by Asia Human Rights Watchand will the Government take any further steps to ensure that the liberties enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, with great benefit to themselves, to us and to China, can be guaranteed effectively in the next few months?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that the British Government have very special responsibilities in this respect. I reiterated the British Government's adherence to those responsibilities when I addressed the Hong Kong Trade Development Council yesterday evening. The noble Baroness raises a particular point among the matters of concern in possible impending legislation which the British Government addressed specifically in the statement we issued only last weekon 18th Novemberunder the name of the Consular General in Hong Kong. We now hope that the SAR Government will provide full and detailed public consultation on draft legislation. It is very important that we now see this draft legislation so that more informed comments can be made on what may be proposed.
Lord Elton: My Lords, is it not the case that what is being published is a blue Bill, not a white Bill, and that consequently amendment of it will be very restricted once the Bill is published? There will not be the opportunity to remedy any defects once it is published. Can the noble Baroness therefore say what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to ensure that those aspects of the Bill which are clearly outside the provisions of the Joint Declaration are removed before it is published?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we hope that we shall have opportunities for further consultation whether that is through a white Bill or some other mechanism. As I indicated, we issued a statement last week that mentioned not only the point raised by the noble Baroness in relation to proscribed organisations but also other matters of concern
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