To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the National Bus Company's disposal programme.
I yesterday approved the sale of the National Bus Company's London Country (North East) subsidiary to Parkdale Holdings plc and Mr. Alan Stephenson, a bus operator. I understand that, subject to the approval of Parkdale's shareholders, the sale is likely to be completed before the end of April. This will mark the conclusion of the privatisation of NBC's bus operations.The substantial completion of privatisation, well before the statutory deadline, is a remarkable achievement. I am particularly pleased that the outcome of the privatisation has so clearly vindicated our decision to sell NBC's operations by means of the separate disposal of individual subsidiaries. Seventy subsidiaries have now been sold, 52 of them local bus operating companies. Some 40 of the companies have been bought by management or employee teams; and many of the sales have included provision for employee share schemes or profit-sharing schemes. NBC privatisation has helped to make a reality of our policy of spreading wealth in the community instead of concentrating it in the hands of the state.Separate sales have also achieved their objective of promoting competition in the bus industry. There are already numerous examples of ex-NBC subsidiaries competing with each other to provide better services for bus passengers up and down the country. Privatisation has thus reinforced and enhanced the success of our policy of bus deregulation.Finally, separate sales have proved good for proceeds. Individual sale prices are not being disclosed for commercial reasons; but I hope to make a statement to the House as soon as practicable on the aggregate proceeds of the disposal programme.In recording the success of the NBC privatisation I pay tribute to the board of NBC and in particular to the chairman of the company, Mr. Rodney Lund; to the board member responsible for privatisation, Mr. Christopher Campbell; and to their negotiating team who have worked so hard and so successfully over the past two years.