Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 700 - 719)

WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002

RT HON STEPHEN BYERS, MP AND SIR RICHARD MOTTRAM KCB

Mr Donohoe

  700. The question is not?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) No. The way it is framed is not.

  701. Parliament should.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) That is not a question for me.
  (Mr Byers) We will need to double-check but I think we hand it over to the Electoral Commission.

Chairman

  702. Will you give us a note?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We will.

Helen Jackson

  703. On electoral matters, what consideration has been given to the cost of the boundary revision and the potential for reducing the number of councillors in large urban areas?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Is this the number of parliamentary seats?

  704. There is a Local Government Boundary Review taking place at the moment. What are the cost aspects of that Local Government Boundary Review?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I am afraid I do not know, Chairman.

  705. A note might be helpful.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.

Mr Wiggin

  706. How does the Government propose to monitor car manufacturers' progress towards the voluntary agreement on redesign to promote pedestrian safety?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We have an agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency, who are in close touch all the time with car manufacturers about how they are implementing both voluntary and compulsory European standards. So it would be through them.

  707. So how much do the reductions in pedestrian casualty targets rely on that successful implementation?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I do not know the answer to that off the top of my head. I can give it to you.

Dr Pugh

  708. Why have you discontinued the cycling target in the PSA?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We have not discontinued it.

  709. There is no target for 2001 to 2004.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) What we had on cycling was a long-term target, which I think is by 2012 (speaking from memory, but I will check), to quadruple it. That target superceded another target which was—and I cannot do this one from memory—to increase it by some certain number, either by this year or last year, and we certainly have not met that target.

  710. So it does away with the interim target?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We have not done away with it—

  711. The targets are so distant we will forget them by the time they are not achieved.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) Absolutely not. That target we are thinking about. We do not have further milestones on that target. We certainly have a focus on how we are going to deliver that target, which as the Committee, I think, has discussed on previous occasions, is going to be very difficult. We still have that target and it is a target we are committed to.

Chairman

  712. Could you just clear up the whole question on targets. I understood the new target for the department was to have less targets.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I have a horrible feeling I have done this before, Chairman, and got into terrible trouble! What happened was that in the 2000 Comprehensive Spending Review the Government was introducing many more targets, and the idea, essentially, was that you got money in return for commitments to outputs. This was all done in a bit of a hurry, I think, and produced far too many targets—many of which were process-based. If you look at the targets in our annual report, for instance, a lot of them in the 2000 Spending Review are process-based. I am sorry, that was the 1998 Spending Review. In the 2000 Spending Review it was recognised we needed a smaller number of better focussed—what are called Smart—targets, and the number was reduced. In this Spending Review I would expect the number might be reduced again, but the department has about 80 targets that I am responsible for.

  713. Is the cycling target a Smart target or not?
  (Sir Richard Mottram) The cycling target is a Smart target, yes.

Christine Russell

  714. I wonder if you would consider having a Smart target for the reduction in the number of motorised trips, because the EU average of motorised journeys is eight out of ten but in the United Kingdom it is nine out of ten. Would you consider having a target for reducing the number of car journeys?
  (Mr Byers) I think there is a better way of approaching it, which is not to have a target to reduce the number of motorised journeys but to have a target to include other forms of transport and give people a genuine choice. I think that would be a far better way of approaching it.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) We have targets both for congestion and pollution, and so, as the Secretary of State says, we are actually focussing on the impact of transport of all kinds rather than just one mode.

  715. Do you think choice is the best way to change behaviour?
  (Mr Byers) I do, actually. It is more of a challenge to us because there are ways in which you can force people off the road, if you adopt certain policies, but I think that would be the wrong approach. I think the far better approach—but more difficult for government—is to see a real change, a real improvement, in the standard of public provision—whether it is rail or bus.

  716. A quarter of all trips in Britain are walking. Have you done any analysis on the effect on walking in the 10-year plan?
  (Mr Byers) The figures that I know, which are quite significant, are in relation to school children walking to school. You will be aware that it is the short school run which involves great use of the car, which we have been looking at. The latest figures that I have seen show, for the first time, that we have seen an increase in the number of children walking to school, because there has been real attempts to try to develop safe routes—cycling routes as well as walking—and so on.

Chairman

  717. Are you sure that is not because of the deterioration in school transport in terms of buses?
  (Mr Byers) No, there is a fall in the numbers of people driving as well. There would appear to be a correlation between the two.

  718. The former Pedestrians Association, Living Streets, certainly said that an unfair and disproportionate amount of expenditure envisaged in the plan is going into walking. Do you think that is a valid criticism?
  (Mr Byers) That too much is going into walking?

  719. No, too small a proportion.
  (Sir Richard Mottram) I do not know the answer to the first point you made about our model. I can go away and look at what assumptions our model makes about walking. I am afraid I do not know the answer to that. On your second point, the key here, I think, is that the Government is investing very much more heavily in Local Transport Plans. If I think about, certainly, the areas I have seen in the country where I live, if you look at the way in which councils are now spending the additional money they have been given for Local Transport Plans, a significant part of that is actually about making our streets more pedestrian-friendly. I always forget the statistics, but the proportion of car journeys, for instance, that are less than a mile is a big number, and what we want to do is encourage people not to use cars for those purposes but to walk. If you create a better environment for them to do that, then that seems to us to be the right way of doing it. So there is both local transport money—and that is a matter for local authorities to decide to spend some of that—and there is all the advice and guidance that we and others have put out about improving the local environment. In the next spending review we are also looking at public spaces generally, and that, too, may impact upon people's propensity to walk around rather than to use transport.


 
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