3. When he next plans to meet representatives of the Passenger Transport Executive Group. (903165)
There are no arrangements in place at present. However, while it has been some time since my last meeting with the group, I have met representatives individually in the intervening period. I would therefore welcome the opportunity to meet PTEG or indeed with representatives of any of the local government organisations from Newcastle.
There is quite a lot to discuss—for example, quality contracts—but of immediate concern is the impact of the new combined authorities on the existing joint boards. Can the Secretary of State say anything today that would reassure the employees of the existing joint boards, who are uncertain about their future?
The proposals for the combined authorities would see the passenger transport executives continuing to provide an executive function on transport issues across the board. The exception to that is west Yorkshire, where the local authorities have decided to dissolve their PTEs in addition to the integrated transport authority. The powers and duties of the PTE will be transferred to the new combined authority. I am more than happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss his worries.
When the Secretary of State next meets representatives from PTEG, they will no doubt tell him that bus fares are rising year on year and that routes are being cut. Should not operators such as Stagecoach, which make a huge profit off the back of the taxpayer subsidy, start behaving more responsibly, rather than threatening legal action at the prospect of a quality contract in Tyne and Wear?
We want to see good co-operation between the passenger transport executives, the combined local authorities and the bus operators that provide the services in their area. They need to work together to give the best services to local people. Bus services are incredibly important to people and are vital in enabling them to go about their daily business and to get to work and to their leisure activities.