Active Travel — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:46 am on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Minister of State (Department for Transport) 10:46 am, 9th July 2019

I will just make some progress, if I may. Given all the contributions, I want to address the points that have been made.

We have made good progress in delivering the commitments set out in the strategy, and the overall number of cycling and walking stages increased in 2017. We recognise, however, that there is some way to go. We also face challenges in attracting higher levels of activity, particularly among certain socioeconomic groups and broader ethnic groups, and we want to work on that too. Those are challenges that we must address.

In the limited time available, I want to move on to the all-important issue of funding, which a number of hon. Members raised. This debate comes at a crucial time in the delivery of the cycling and walking investment strategy, as the Government prepare for the next spending review. As my hon. Friend the Member for Witney mentioned, that will be the vehicle for identifying the funding required across Government to meet the strategy’s 2025 aims and targets.

The Government recognise the scale of the challenge. When the cycling and walking investment strategy was published in 2017, it identified £1.2 billion of funding projected for investment in cycling and walking between 2016 and 2021. Since then, local authorities have added their part and allocated an additional £700 million to safe infrastructure and other active travel projects. Between central Government and local government, that is almost £2 billion being invested in cycling and walking over this Parliament. That is a good investment. Spending on cycling and walking in England has doubled from £3.50 per head to around £7 per head in this four-year spending review period alone. I will always accept that there is more we can do and that there is more to be done, but doubling investment is a good achievement.

Many of the decisions on the allocation of those funds will be made by the relevant local body, in line with the Government’s devolution and localism agenda. We do not want to centralise everything from Whitehall; we want to let local authorities make those decisions where possible. That is an important point in the context of this debate, and one that I will return to shortly, but I want to say something else about additional funding, beyond the £2 billion I have already mentioned.

The transforming cities fund of £2.5 billion is helping to improve local transport links, including cycling and walking routes, which will make it easier for people to travel between often more prosperous city centres and frequently struggling suburbs. Some £220 million of capital and revenue funding is available through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs clean air fund from 2018 to 2020. That can be used by eligible local authorities to support measures such as improving cycling. There are funding streams coming from different quarters.

In 2019 alone, we have announced £21 million for Sustrans, which Ronnie Cowan mentioned, to deliver a range of activation projects to upgrade the national cycle network across England. We have also provided £2 million to support the Big Bike Revival and Walk to School programmes, launched a £2 million e-cargo bike grant programme and published refreshed cycle to work guidance, which clarifies the position in respect of employers providing cycles and equipment costing more than £1,000—we are helping them to do that for their employees. There are a number of schemes across Government, with different funding streams and pockets of funding that have been allocated—vast sums of money, and rightly so, going in this direction.

As we have heard during the debate, cycling and walking deliver a range of benefits, including for health and the environment. That is why Ministers and officials at the Department for Transport work closely with many other Departments to ensure that our policies are properly joined up—hon. Members have mentioned working across Government, and that does happen. I want to ensure that cycling and walking feature prominently in strategies such as the sports strategy, the childhood obesity plan and the “Prevention is Better Than Cure” approach involving the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and MHCLG. We want to work together.