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HEMMING APOLOGY CALL AS BROWN "TAKES THE PISS"

04-02-2010

Outspoken Yardley MP John Hemming has called on Gordon Brown to apologise for “taking the piss” out of Brummie bus users. Hemming was angry after being mocked for raising the issue of the Number 41 route at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

As we reported earlier this week, a public meeting at Fox Hollies on Monday to discuss the proposed axing of the service had to be cancelled because too many people turned up – putting the venue above its fire safety limit.

Despite this clear evidence of public concern, when Hemming attempted to open up a debate about the failures of the current deregulated bus system in the Commons yesterday, he was mocked, with Brown joking that he would have to “call an emergency Cabinet meeting” about the issue – provoking much merriment among Labour MP’s.

“It’s OK if you’re the Prime Minister and can get into a chauffeur driven car, but to show such lack of respect for such a vital service shows just how out of touch this government is” Hemming said.

“There are many ordinary Brummies who rely on the bus, and this is a vital service going to two schools and a health centre. It will mean some people having to make two changes to get to the hospital.

“When I raised it, I thought I’d get a nice worthy quote about a matter of local concern which also has national ramifications – but instead Labour took the piss”.

Hemming attempted to put the issue into the context of bus deregulation, dating back to 1985, which he believes puts too much power into the hands of private operators such as Travel West Midlands.

He would like to see the current system replaced by London-style “sector tendering”, whereby contractors bid to run a cluster of linked routes in return for a temporary monopoly in a designated area.

It means they can be forced to subsidise less profitable routes from more profitable ones – and prevents them withdrawing services without consultation (as has now happened with the 41).

“I’ve now tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Prime Minister to apologise” added Hemming.

“This is about an important local service. There are a lot of people without a lot of money in Yardley. When Labour were making fun of me, they were making fun of every bus user.”

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