1. What assessment she has made of recent trends in the level of bus fares in England; and if she will make a statement. (103764)
As I set out in the recent paper “Green Light for Better Buses”, bus fares outside London fell by 4% in real terms between March 2009 and March 2011—the most recent figures available. Bus fares are set by local bus companies or in some cases by local councils, so they vary across the country.
In my constituency, bus fares have jumped by a minimum of 10p since the Government subsidy cut. A basic return journey from Saltburn to Guisborough is now £5.10 for an 8-mile journey. Will the Minister explain why on ConservativeHome this week, a Lib Dem special adviser argued for means-testing free bus passes, as well increasing the age at which a pensioner would receive that bus pass? Are we to take it that that is now Government policy?
I have no idea what the hon. Gentleman is referring to. That is not Government policy and it is not Lib Dem policy either. I am sorry that he seeks to make a political point about something as serious as bus fares. I hope he will take some comfort from the answer I gave, which was that bus fares have fallen in real terms by 4%—unlike under the previous Government, when between 1997 and 2009, bus fares increased by 24%.
I was not aware of that development, but I am interested to hear of it. It is becoming clear that under the new localism and devolution proposals advanced by the Government, different approaches are being adopted by local government. Some councils are responding sensibly and creatively to their new freedoms, while others are responding less well.
Inside London, bus fares have gone up under Boris Johnson. This is a tax on people’s jobs, as constituents like mine who have to travel long distances to work now have to face this additional daily cost. Ken Livingstone, the Labour candidate for the mayoral elections, has identified a recurring £330 million sum in Transport for London’s budget; should that not go back to those hard-working people through a reduction in their daily bus fares?