England’s Bus Services Bill is close to becoming law, but time is running out following the prime minister’s decision to call a general election in June

 

 

The Bus Services Bill faces a race against time after prime minister Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap general election on June 8.

The Bill, which covers bus services in England, is one of 10 that are currently ping-ponging between the House of Lords and House of Commons in search of final agreement. In these circumstances, the government normally seeks as much agreement as possible, dropping controversial parts of the legislation to get the rest through – a process known in Westminster as the “wash-up”.

At time of going to press, the Lords were expected to consider Commons amendments to the Bus Services Bill on April 24, enabling Royal Assent later that week. The big outstanding issue on the Bill is whether local authorities should be prohibited from setting up their own bus companies, which the Commons supports but the Lords opposes.

If the Lords decides to dig in on this issue, the limited time available could strengthen its hand. Transport secretary Chris Grayling could be forced to choose between ditching this element of the Bill or holding it over for the next Parliament.

Even if the Bill does not get Royal Assent before Parliament is prorogued it can, technically, be revived in the new parliament and carry on from where it finished off before the election. The issue then is whether the new government would want to revive it and I think it would

One Westminster observer told Passenger Transport this week: “Even if the Bill does not get Royal Assent before Parliament is prorogued it can, technically, be revived in the new parliament and carry on from where it finished off before the election. The issue then is whether the new government would want to revive it and I think it would.”

Andy Burnham, Labour’s candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester, has pledged to use the Bill’s bus franchising powers if he is elected on May 4.

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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