Last Friday, I hurriedly submitted written evidence to an inquiry which had been launched by the Transport Select Committee on the Bus Services Bill. I’d only discovered the day before that it was taking place, and the deadline was that day.
I can think of better ways to spend my summer, but buses are an important part of civic life to me. They have been woefully neglected as part of the fabric of society outside London. If, like me, you can’t drive (I had to surrender my licence because of my neurological condition Chiari Malformation), you can come to rely on buses pretty heavily. Which means that if the service is pretty woeful, you are stuck.
I’m not going to bore you here about the contents of my submission. Suffice to say, there is something wrong with our democracy if we have allowed our buses to get into the position they are, and if the piece of legislation going through our Parliament right now misses a lot of the central points that it should be dealing with on the matter.
Even more of a failure is the fact that the Transport Select Committee’s Inquiry has been launched AFTER it can have any real impact on the nature or content of the legislation – a bit of a waste of time.
I’ve done a written submission nonetheless – I doubt many other people have, given they probably hadn’t heard of it, and if they had, the precise guidance for submitting such written submissions probably put them off. We must find ways of making these inquiries and consultations more user-friendly. There are pressure groups campaigning on the issue, such as the Campaign for Better Transport’s Save Our Buses, and We Own It, specifically raising the issue that local authorities should be able to own and run their own services, but they must find it difficult too.
The issue is important, but probably more important is the quality of our politics right now. First, we need to do something about the quality of our opposition parties – I’m in despair. Second, the House of Lords – for me, an issue like this demonstrates the need for a set-up in the shape of a Sortition – another elected chamber just wont cut it. A chamber drawn at random from people on the electoral roll, in the same way as jury service would ensure we have a chamber that considers issues like bus services deliberatively – and might ensure that those considering the issue might even use buses regularly!