The national bus strategy, published in March last year, sets out the Government’s vision for delivering better bus services for passengers across England. In April, we announced over £1 billion of new funding for the bus service improvement plans, as part of a £3 billion investment in buses during this Parliament.
Well, we are back to buses. My local bus company is really struggling. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 3A, 19, 22, 39, U1, U2, U5 and D2 have all been cut, at a time when we must offer people proper alternatives to car travel. When can my constituents expect bus services to get back to at least pre-pandemic levels?
We have provided huge support for bus services across the country during the pandemic. I would like to remind the hon. Lady that since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 annual support for buses has been 15% higher in real terms than it was under Labour, and that bus fares rose far faster under the last Labour Government. This Government support buses and bus users and we will continue to invest in bus services across the country.
The people of Stoke-on-Trent were delighted to receive £31.7 million from this Conservative Government to bus back better, but sadly, First Bus still thinks it appropriate to cut some services despite this much-welcomed investment. Will the Minister meet me to talk about First Bus’s shameful local record? If that company cannot handle it, maybe there should be franchising in the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
Well, well, well, the Minister and the buffoons on the Back Benches talk of enhancing bus services, but at what cost? Today, Labour party research—[Interruption.] I suggest the Minister listens to this. Today, Labour party research shows that ZEBRA, or zero-emission bus regional area, funding to the tune of £15 million has been awarded to Arrival, which is interesting because that bus company is run by one Mr Denis Sverdlov, one of President Putin’s closest allies. The funding will see Arrival’s buses on the streets of the UK, sanctioned by this Government.
This Government are supposed to have sanctioned everyone connected to the Russian Government as a result of the horrific war in Ukraine, so I have one simple question: why is millions of pounds of UK taxpayers’ money being handed to one of Putin’s nomenklatura? This is not Bus Back Better but buses straight to Russia.
Dear oh dear, the shadow Minister is buffooning back better rather than bussing back better. I am more than happy to raise that issue with my noble Friend the Buses Minister. We will certainly look into the details of that allegation, but at a time when public transport users are beset by strikes that the shadow Minister will never condemn, he should look in the mirror at his own party’s record on supplying public transport across this country.