My Lords, Transport for London recently contacted the House of Commons regarding the possible installation of a Barclays Cycle Hire docking station on the Parliamentary Estate. While we cannot permit a station for public use in the secure area of the Estate, we are looking at whether an alternative location can be found outside the secure area. The nearest docking station to the House of Lords is in Smith Square.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that encouraging reply. I declare an interest as a subscriber to the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. I have tested the walk to Smith Square and it takes the better part of 10 minutes. Would the noble Lord agree that it would be for the convenience of Members of this House and their staff to have greater ease in using this facility? I realise that some may see this as an additional option in achieving a reduction in the membership of this House, but I assure the House that that is not my primary intention.
I would not like to comment on the second part of the noble Lord's question, but as I said in my original Answer we are actively looking, with Transport for London, at the possibility of finding a station. However, it will have to be outside the Parliamentary Estate since, for obvious reasons, it cannot be within the secure area. One hopes that we will succeed in finding one in the neighbourhood.
My Lords, the noble Lord must have made some examination of the numbers of Members of your Lordships' House who might like to use the pool. There is not much point in going much further if it is just the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and myself who will cycle. If there are a significant number, it would be sensible to bring one of the pool docking stations nearer. As someone who cycles every day on my own bicycle, I know that it is very health giving. In asking the noble Lord whether he also cycles, I can say that it is a very good way of controlling one's weight and-with reference to the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Butler-possibly does add to one's longevity. It is jolly good fun and makes you feel better.
My Lords, clearly, looking at my weight, I do not use a bicycle in London, but significant numbers of Peers and staff do. Of course, most of them own their own. This scheme operates only within zone 1 in London. Seventy-seven bicycle spaces are available to Members of the House and the staff. They are not currently used to capacity, but they are available and there is no shortage.
My Lords, far be it from me to suggest a reduction in the government car pool. I understand that it has already been substantially reduced, making it in my opinion doubtful to want to be a Minister.
My Lords, a taxi rank takes us a little way away from the original Question on the Order Paper, but there are facilities at Peers' Entrance for summoning taxis which I hope noble Lords find satisfactory.
No, my Lords, I cannot give that assurance. If there was a possibility of having a docking station in the vicinity, it might be either on part of the Commons estate or part of the Lords estate. However, it would probably be excessive to have one on each.
My Lords, we respect the Chairman of Committee's reservations about the proposal, but does he recognise that the Government and Opposition are as one in seeking to encourage cycling? Therefore, this proposal is constructive. I wish him well in his efforts to find a docking station somewhat closer than the existing one. I say for the benefit of the House that there is a most discreet and effective docking station right next to the National Gallery. I cannot think of a more enjoyable trip by bike than that between here and the National Gallery on a very wide and safe road.
I am glad that the noble Lord supports the scheme and that he has time during a busy working day to bike between the National Gallery and here; generally, I have not. However, as I said earlier, we are pursuing this. I will make certain that Transport for London and, obviously, the House authorities take note of the enthusiasm expressed at this Question and will redouble their efforts to try to find a docking station.
My Lords, as we are encouraging cyclists to wear helmets when they are on the back of a bike, how can we encourage people to do so, or how can we provide helmets for those who rent bikes in order to facilitate transport around Parliament?
My Lords, I have studied a number of questions recently in this House on the Barclays cycle scheme and I know that the subject of the wearing of helmets has come up frequently but, answering as I am for administration of the House, it is not a matter for the administration of the House whether Members should wear helmets or not. I think that most noble Lords are probably grown up enough to make their own decision about that.