It isn't just about enabling rural communities to get about, because buses are also a means of getting to the countryside, as Ros noted yesterday evening...
Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD)
My Lords, I added my name to this amendment with great pleasure. I have no particular interest to declare with regard to national parks except as someone who visits them and loves them, and I want to make sure that everyone else has those same opportunities as far as possible. I was thinking on the way here about the Peak District National Park, which has, within an hour’s travelling time, very many millions of people who live close to it and for whom access to it is an important part of their lives. I would hate to think about that being an opportunity that is available only to people with cars. That would be a great inequality issue. If we are sensible about this, we should remember that there are people who live in cities who would rather not have a car, so it helps cities too. It would be ridiculous to punish people by not providing access to a treasure that is on their doorstep.
In particular, we have to remember that national parks are not museums. They are areas of the countryside where people live and work, and there is a really interesting tension for the national park authorities themselves between wanting to encourage visitors and managing the impacts of that, such as congestion; we have all seen problems where people park and cause damage and so on. There is a very difficult balancing act for national park authorities. On the whole, they do it extremely well and they act as very good brokers between the people who live there and the people who want to visit. It could only make their job more difficult if they were to be ignored and not consulted when some of these important decisions about local transport are made. They know their area best.
The other point about national parks is that they do not entirely conform to the same rules as some other areas. Bus services on Sundays, for example, are often seen as unimportant, whereas in a national park Sunday is the most important day that you need to provide transport for.
Finally, there is the question of jobs. The briefing that I received said that something like 68,000 jobs are dependent on tourism to national parks. We want people to have access to the jobs as well, and if people without cars want to have access to them, we need to manage public transport too. I hope the Minister will look favourably on this, because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that it is much more powerful to have something like this in the Bill rather than in guidance.