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Part of Backbench Business — Private Members’ Bills – in the House of Commons at 7:01 pm on 2nd September 2013.

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Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Conservative, Totnes 7:01 pm, 2nd September 2013

First, the good news: if people start cycling in middle age, they will have a fitness level that makes them effectively 10 years younger. Hon. Members should think what that would achieve for everybody in the Chamber. Not only that, but the life expectancy of those people will increase by two years, so the benefits-to-risk ratio is around 20:1. Therefore, whatever else happens in this debate and our discussions about reducing the risks and improving the safety of cyclists, let us not forget the benefit and the joy of cycling, and persuade as many people as possible to get cycling.

If we are to get Britain cycling, we have to consider the persuasive arguments and the benefits. For instance, problems with obesity are currently costing the NHS around £5 billion a year. Even if cycling does not necessarily make people skinny—I am speaking from personal experience—it is better to be fit and a little bit flabby than not fit and a little bit flabby. However, this is not just about the physical health benefits; it is also about mental health benefits and the effects that have been shown on brain ageing among people who manage to keep fit. The health economic assessment tool, or HEAT, which is adopted by the World Health Organisation, shows a £4 benefit for every £1 spent. Will the Minister say in his response whether such an assessment has been made for, say, High Speed 2? I cannot help thinking that we would leave a far happier, more lasting and healthier legacy for Britain if we spent just a fraction of what we are spending on HS2 on this issue—or possibly even on both.