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Cycling

Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 9:42 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport 9:42 pm, 2nd September 2013

That is exactly the right response, and I hope that it will become common practice across industry and across the country.

I want to respond to some of the comments made by Members. In the previous cycling debate, Ian Austin called for the Prime Minister to lead and take action. The hon. Gentleman was very nice to me today but lamented the fact that I was, he implied, dealing with this without support. That is not the case. There is support from all my colleagues in the Department for Transport and from different Departments across Government, and the Prime Minister himself made a statement in August. That clearly indicates the importance that the Government as a whole attaches to the matter. If any colleagues across Government were not taking it seriously, I am sure that the Prime Minister’s appearance in August will ensure that they take it more seriously than they did previously.

There have been a number of suggestions that we should have a cycling champion. Jim Fitzpatrick talked about that. I am very sorry that he is no longer on the Front Bench, by the way. He has been a very good Minister in his time, and a shadow Minister as well—not just the Member for Poplar but a popular Minister. He asked whether I am the national champion for cycling. I hope that I am a national champion for cycling, but so are my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, my other colleagues in the Department for Transport, and the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. We want to make sure that this is owned across Government by all Departments. The danger of having one person identified in the role is that others do not feel the need to participate in the same way. I am not particularly keen to use the word “tsar”, by the way. The history of tsars at the end of imperial Russia is not a happy one, and we can probably do without it.

I am grateful to Dr Wollaston for drawing attention to the health benefits of cycling. We used the World Health Organisation economic assessment tool in assessing the cycle city and national park bids and the grants we subsequently gave. She mentioned 20-mph speed limits. I hope that she will welcome, as others have, the fact that this Government have made it easier for local councils to introduce 20-mph limits, which I campaigned on for a decade before they finally became reality under this Government. She asked about enforcement, which several other Members properly raised. The hon. Member for Wimbledon and I had a meeting with Suzette Davenport, who is a lead member on this for the Association of Chief Police Officers. She has agreed to rewrite the guidance for ACPO on the enforcement of 20-mph limits, and I hope that that will appear before long.

I have to say that there were a couple of churlish comments. Chi Onwurah complained about the Government’s approach. I should point out that she has had £10 million in two local sustainable transport tranches, £5.7 million through a cycle city ambition grant, and £1.24 million for cycle safety funding. That is £17 million for Newcastle and she was the most ungrateful Member here today. The second most ungrateful Member was Caroline Lucas, who said that the Government were doing nothing and forgot to mention that the scheme at Brighton station that she identified—the cycle rail fund—and the cycle lanes on Old Shoreham road and Lewes road are paid for from the Government’s funding.

I am delighted that this has been such a good debate and that so many people have turned up to contribute. I confirm that the Government takes this matter very seriously, and we will make further progress. In the spirit of coalition unity, let me say that I have something in common with Norman Tebbit—we both want people to get on their bikes.