asked the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from Scotland in the last three months concerning the likely effects of the new policy on bus transport; and if he will make a statement.
I have received representations from several organisations and members of the public in Scotland.
Does the Minister not understand that there is virtually unanimous opposition in Scotland to the terms of the Bill, not least among the old and the disabled, whose interests will be jeopardised severely by the privatisation of bus services? Does the Minister understand also that the Government have no mandate for the Bill and that there is opposition not only in rural areas in Scotland but elsewhere throughout the United Kingdom?
I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is correct in referring to widespread opposition to our proposals. That opposition is based largely upon misinformation, much of which has been distributed widely by the hon. Gentleman's parliamentary colleagues.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the manager of the Gosport depot of the National Bus Company, Mr. McQuade—
Order. The question relates to Scotland.
Mr. McQuade came from Scotland, Mr. Speaker. Is my hon. Friend aware that Mr. McQuade has made representations about guarantees for the ex-employee pensioners of the NBC after privatisation? Is he yet in a position to make a statement on this issue?
Like Mr. McQuade's family, my own and many others spread from Scotland south of the border. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to pensions, which is an area of some unease. The company will have to make proposals to the Government. We accept fully that the position of the staff has to be protected.
Does the Minister realise that transport was municipalised in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom after private ownership many years ago, which utterly failed the people? That is why it was municipalised and, ultimately, nationalised. That was done in the interests of the people.
The hon. Gentleman portrays the Labour party's ongoing approach, which is to look back instead of looking to the future. It is not prepared to face the challenges of the present and to recognise that past systems have failed and that the industry has been in a state of chronic decline. That decline is well demonstrated in Scotland by the fact that in the past 12 years no less than 43 per cent. of jobs in the Scottish NBC have been cut. If the hon. Gentleman wants to continue to defend a system which is declining as rapidly as that, he will not find much support.