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Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): Devolution in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and London has been accompanied by electoral reform. May I ask, as one Yorkshireman to another, for a debate on the type of electoral reform that should accompany any possible devolution in England?

Mr Hague: My hon. Friend may recall that we had quite a big debate three years ago called a national referendum, in which the entire country took part. Many millions of people voted and the result was emphatic. If a 55% result in Scotland is meant to be for a generation or a lifetime, which I hope that it is, a 67% result on electoral reform—I think that that was the outcome—might also last for a generation or a lifetime.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): May we have an urgent debate and a statement about the application of existing laws on illegal Traveller encampments? Harlow has been under siege, with illegal encampments all over the town during the past year resulting in clean-up costs to Harlow taxpayers of £41,000. More than 1,700 residents have signed my petition calling for action. Will my right hon. Friend urge the Home Secretary to contact the chief constable of Essex and ask for a zero-tolerance approach to help to put an end to this intolerable situation?

Mr Hague: This is a serious issue, and not only in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Operational decisions on the use of police powers are, of course, a matter for chief constables, as must be the case, but I will bring the issues he raises to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. My hon. Friend and others might also want to send representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government because it is consulting on a series of changes to planning policy for Traveller sites, including with regard to unauthorised development.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): May we have an urgent statement on safety between junctions 1 and 4 of the M6? Many serious accidents take place on that part of the motorway, and its closure on numerous occasions has caused gridlock in my constituency as people have taken to A and B roads to get to the rest of the motorway network.

Mr Hague: On Thursday next week there will be questions to the Secretary of State for Transport, so my hon. Friend will have a chance to raise that issue with Transport Ministers then. The Highways Agency continually monitors the safety of the network, and the schemes that are being pursued between junctions 2 and 3 have come from the safety monitoring, but I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will wish to continue to pursue the matter with Transport Ministers.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Yesterday, Mr Speaker, you, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and a veritable multitude of right hon. and hon. Members attended our annual Diwali celebration, which I had the privilege to co-host with the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time that we had a debate in the House on the tremendous contribution that is made

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to Britain by British Hindus? Will he join me in wishing Hindus, Sikhs and Jains a very happy, peaceful, prosperous and healthy new year?

Mr Hague: Yes, I absolutely join my hon. Friend in wishing Hindus, Sikhs and Jains a healthy and prosperous new year. I enjoyed the event enormously, as I am sure you did, Mr Speaker, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) for ensuring its efficient organisation—a tremendously enthusiastic event which reminded us of the immense contribution to this country of all the people represented and all their families and friends. I am not sure we need a debate as I do not think we would disagree about that, but my hon. Friend has done the House a service in reminding us of this.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Yardleys school in my constituency has been closed for three weeks as a result of asbestos contamination from the site next door, where there was a fire in a warehouse. It is an academy school on a private finance initiative site with the local authority as a partner and it is unclear who is responsible for declaring and ensuring that the site is safe. May we have a debate on patterns of responsibility for schools so that we can ensure that the interests of the children are put first and representatives of the school are involved in meetings about the safety of the school?

Mr Hague: Well, we can have a debate if my hon. Friend pursues a request in the normal way. This is a matter for Birmingham city council and the school to resolve, but I will draw the attention of my colleagues at the Department for Education to the fact that he has raised the matter, and it is open to him to pursue a debate on it.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): May we please have a debate on the method of electing police and crime commissioners, given the astonishing news that the Liberal Democrats were apparently unable to find a single person willing to stand as their candidate in the present by-election for a new PCC in south Yorkshire, despite the fact that that area contains the Sheffield, Hallam constituency represented by their own party leader? We can then debate changing the system of electing PCCs to the tried and trusted first-past-the-post method, which people understand and which might help increase voter confidence and turnout.

Mr Hague: It may be too early to change the voting system for something that was established only a few years ago, and the alternative vote system used in those elections predates the referendum that I mentioned a moment ago. I am not sure whether the absence of a Liberal Democrat candidate in south Yorkshire will make a huge difference to the outcome of the election, whatever it is going to be in south Yorkshire, although some of my hon. Friends may disagree with me on that. It may not make a vast difference. [Interruption.] I know I am in government with them but they do not mind being teased now and again—at least, I enjoy

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teasing them, whether they mind it or not. I am sure that in due course we will have to look at the voting system for these elections.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): My right hon. Friend was quite right to mention one of the most significant political and economic developments that has affected our country in the past 100 years—namely, the largest annual fall in unemployment. This is a hugely significant fact. I am amazed that much more is not being made of it by our national news and media outlets. In Kettering, unemployment has fallen from 2,088 when this Government came to power in May 2010 to 1,275—a fall of 813 or 39%. May we have a full day’s debate on the Floor of the main Chamber to discuss this hugely significant issue?

Mr Hague: There is a good case to be made for that: record levels of people are now in work; there are more people in private sector employment than ever before; we have seen the largest annual fall in unemployment on record; unemployment is down by 538,000 since the election; and we have seen the largest fall in unemployment in the G7. It is a remarkable record. It shows that the benefits of pursuing a long-term economic plan will be there. There is quite a lot of legislation approaching us at the moment, which will make it difficult to have a full day’s debate, but I think that my hon. Friend makes a good case.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): The transatlantic trade and investment partnership has the potential to bring huge opportunities for British businesses to trade more easily with our biggest trading partner. May we have a statement from the Government to bang the drum for the agreement, update the House on where we are with it and nail some of the dodgy myths that have been put about in recent weeks?

Mr Hague: A lot of myths have been put about, including the suggestion that it would somehow endanger public services, and it is important to demolish those myths. There is an opportunity for another major step forward in free trade that could raise the prosperity of all nations. Although I cannot offer an immediate statement or debate, I can tell my hon. Friend that hard work is being done on this in the Government, the European Union and the United States. When there are important developments, I know that my ministerial colleagues will want to update the House.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): Returning to the question of Ebola, may we have a statement on direct flights between the UK and Sierra Leone? This week the last remaining direct commercial flight was stopped. I understand the reasons for that, but I point out that, as a result, people travelling between Sierra Leone and the UK are coming via transit points, which makes them more difficult to identify. I have been approached by British businesses and Sierra Leoneans from the diaspora living in the UK who think it would be much better to have arrangements for direct commercial or charter flights between the UK and Sierra Leone that could be properly monitored at both ends and enable them to go to and from their country.

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Mr Hague: The Health Secretary set out for the House on Monday all the precautions we are taking. My hon. Friend is right that there are now no direct flights between the United Kingdom and the countries most affected by Ebola—Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Of course there is a balance to be struck in these matters, and it is important for our aid workers to be able to access the region and so on, but I cannot offer him the hope that direct flights will be restored at the moment. There is a case to be made for that, which he has done, but at the moment there would also be great risks. However, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is heavily involved in these matters, is here and has heard his remarks.

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ISIL: Iraq and Syria

11.48 am

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on Iraq and Syria. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in expressing sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Alan Henning. Mr Henning arrived in Syria armed only with kindness and compassion. His appalling murder, like that of David Haines, the two American hostages and many thousands of others, has revealed the true, barbaric face of ISIL.

The scale and unity of the international response to the challenge of ISIL is impressive. It involves Muslim countries of the region and the wider international community. The UK is proud to play its part. Working closely with our allies, under a US lead, we have a clear strategy to take the fight to ISIL—a strategy with military, political and wider counter-terrorism components; a strategy that we recognise, at least in parts, will need to be sustained over the long term. We are under no illusion as to the severity of the challenge to regional stability and to our homeland security.

At the heart of our strategy is the political strand. ISIL will not be overcome until Iraq and Syria have inclusive Governments capable of marginalising its appeal and mounting a sustained and effective response on the ground to the military and ideological threat it poses.

Let me first address the situation in Iraq, which I visited this week. I did so to show solidarity with the Iraqi people and the new Government of Prime Minister al-Abadi, to tell them that they do not stand alone in confronting the ISIL threat, and to encourage them as they put together an inclusive Government of national reconciliation. I recognise the concern in this House—shared, I have to say, by many in the region—as to the difficulties of achieving this more inclusive approach. I recognise too the enormous challenges that Prime Minister al-Abadi faces and the understandable scepticism as to his ability to deliver a genuinely different approach from his predecessor. At the same time, however, I am impressed by the commitment of all three leaderships—Shi’a, Sunni and Kurd—to ensure that this time is, and must be, different. All agreed that this is effectively Iraq’s last chance as a nation state.

In talks with Prime Minister al-Abadi, Vice-President Nujaifi, and Foreign Minister Jaafari, each of them reaffirmed their understanding of the need for, and their personal commitment to, a more inclusive approach; decentralisation of power to Iraq’s communities; and equitable sharing of Iraq’s natural resource wealth. I assured Prime Minister al-Abadi that Britain will do all it can to support reform and reconciliation. He, in turn, assured me that he expects to complete the formation of his Government by appointing defence and interior Ministers over the next few days.

In Erbil, I met the Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Massoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and other Ministers. They likewise assured me of their commitment to work with Prime Minister al-Abadi, and said that Kurdish Ministers would be taking up their positions in the Baghdad Government this week. There was considerable optimism, both in Erbil and Baghdad, that this will allow a much-needed

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deal to resolve the long-standing issues between the Iraqi Government and the KRG, including oil exports and revenue-sharing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the history, there is a deep, and mutual, lack of trust among the different communities in Iraq and between Baghdad and some of its neighbours in the region. However, it is now vital that all parties, having looked at the alternatives, put the past behind them and have the courage to build bridges to each other—in particular, to appeal to the Sunni populations, who are living under, and in some cases acquiescing in, ISIL’s brutal reign, and who must be brought back into the political fold if ISIL is to be defeated in Iraq. For our part, we will do all that is in our power to encourage the different communities and countries involved to reach out to each other in rebuilding an Iraq capable of rolling back ISIL and the poisonous ideology it represents.

Turning to the military dimension of our engagement in Iraq, Britain, alongside the United States, France, Australia and others, has assumed a key role in carrying out air strikes and mounting the sophisticated reconnaissance that enables them. We are in the process of re-deploying some of our Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the middle east to add to our surveillance capabilities.

The security situation on the ground remains very serious, with ISIL maintaining control of significant swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria. ISIL has made advances in Anbar province in recent days, including taking control of the city of Hit and attacking the provincial capital, Ramadi. At the same time, however, Kurdish forces have pushed back ISIL in the north, re-taking several strategically important villages. There will be tactical ebb and flow, but the coalition air campaign has stabilised the strategic picture, and the assessment of our experts is that Baghdad is not in immediate danger.

Approximately 20% to 30% of Iraq’s populated territory could be under ISIL control. Liberating this territory from ISIL is a medium-term challenge to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks. The horrific effects of ISIL on governance, security and the social fabric will be felt for even longer.

Prime Minister al-Abadi outlined to me his plans to reform the Iraqi security forces. He is clear-eyed about the scale of the challenges he faces and the resistance he will face in meeting them. However, reform will be essential if the ISF are to develop the capabilities necessary to defeat ISIL on the ground. The United States and others have committed to providing the necessary training. Britain has funded bomb disposal training for the Kurdish forces, as we did for the Iraqi security forces earlier in the year, and on Monday evening I saw for myself members of the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment training peshmerga to operate and maintain the heavy machine guns that Britain has gifted to them.

In Syria, we need to reaffirm clearly, lest there be any doubt, that Assad cannot be part of the solution to the challenge of ISIL: the depravity of his regime was, after all, a driving factor in creating ISIL. Indeed, while the international coalition has been trying to save Kobane, Assad has been continuing his attacks and aerial bombardments on the moderates, including around Aleppo and Damascus. Those close to Assad should be in no

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doubt that he must be removed to clear the way for a Government in Damascus who enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of the Syrian people, credibility with the international community and who can take effective action against extremism. For as long as he remains in power, there will be no peace in Syria.

Britain will continue to provide strong support to the moderate opposition, including technical assistance and non-lethal equipment. We have recently increased our funding to areas under opposition control and to regional allies, to increase their resilience against the effects of the Syria conflict. Our support, along with that of our allies, is helping the moderates to deliver good governance and strong public services in the area they control, thus relieving the suffering of the civilian population.

Air strikes are being carried out in Syria by the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan. The UK strongly supports this action. No one who has watched a television screen over the past week or so can have failed to be moved by the plight of the defenders of Kobane. Their situation has at times appeared hopeless, yet, supported by coalition air strikes, they are holding on and in some areas pushing back. The moderate opposition has held back ISIL in other parts of northern Syria. Air strikes have targeted ISIL’s headquarters, command and control, and military forces in the eastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, degrading their capabilities. They have also hit the economic infrastructure that ISIL has been exploiting to generate revenue from illegal oil sales.

The UK Government expect to make a significant contribution to the US-led programme to train the Syrian moderate armed opposition, which is fighting both Assad’s tyranny and ISIL’s extremism. Details of how that contribution will be delivered are currently being scoped.

ISIL represents a threat to Iraq and to the region, but it also represents a major threat to us here at home, particularly at the hands of returning foreign fighters, and to our citizens worldwide. The UK has led the coalition on a number of wider counter-terrorism initiatives, which aim to cut off the flow of finance and fighters to ISIL in both Syria and Iraq.

Through our membership of the United Nations Security Council, we have been instrumental in securing the listings of 20 individuals, including 16 directly linked to ISIL or the al-Nusra front, and two al-Qaeda-related organisations, since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2170 on terrorist financing. We are also working closely with partners to disrupt ISIL’s access to external markets for illicit sales of oil and other goods. Domestically, we are seeking to strengthen the powers of the Charity Commission to counter terrorist abuse of the charity sector. On terrorist recruitment, the UK co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2178 sets out a framework to dissuade, prevent and disrupt travel, to work with communities, to strengthen border controls and to manage the challenge of returning foreign fighters. We will now actively pursue that agenda throughout Europe and the middle east.

As co-chairs of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum’s working group on countering violent extremism, we are looking at new ways to strengthen the ability of partners overseas to counter the terrorist propaganda that contributes to radicalisation, and to the recruitment and mobilisation of individuals into terrorism.

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The advance of ISIL and the Assad regime’s continued attrition against its own population have caused a humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria no less grave than the political and military one. More than 170,000 people have fled from Kobane, and more than 30,000 people have been displaced from the town of Hit in Anbar province as a result of recent fighting; many of them have ended up in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The need to winterise refugee accommodation is increasingly urgent as the wet weather and then the cold weather approaches. The Kurdish leadership made very clear to me the scale and urgency of the humanitarian crisis it faces in accommodating nearly 1 million refugees—perhaps half Iraq’s total population of internally displaced persons—at the same time as defending its 600-mile front line with ISIL. The humanitarian challenges go wider. In Syria, nearly 14 million people need assistance, with 6.5 million IDPs and 3 million refugees.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development recently announced £100 million in additional funding, bringing the UK contribution to the Syria crisis to £700 million. Our support is reaching hundreds of thousands of people across Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. UK aid is providing water for up to 1.5 million people, and has funded more than 5 million monthly food rations. In addition, we are supporting the Governments of Lebanon and Jordan to manage the impact of the huge influx of refugees to those countries on their host communities. Britain was one of the first donors to respond to the worsening situation in Iraq this summer, and has allocated a total of £23 million to Iraq since 13 June to meet immediate humanitarian needs and to support the UN and other agencies in their response. Aid has been focused on need, mainly in the Kurdish region. DFID has already responded to the urgent needs of the Syrian Kurdish refugees who have recently fled to Turkey, and it is ready to react swiftly to further developments.

We have a wide-ranging and ambitious strategy to confront an evil that is a direct threat to our national security. I pay tribute to the members of our diplomatic service and international development teams in the region, who are working in very difficult circumstances, and, above all, to the men and women of our armed forces who are once again putting their lives at risk as Britain takes its place at the heart of the international coalition in waging a struggle against a barbaric force that has no place in human civilisation in the 21st century. They will always have our wholehearted support. I commend this statement to the House.

12.3 pm

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement, and for advance sight of it, although I regret that, unlike under his predecessor, it was sent only a few moments before we had to head to the Chamber. None the less, let me of course echo him in expressing our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Alan Henning. He went to Syria to help the Syrian people in their most desperate time of need, and his callous murder by ISIL both confirms the brutality of an organisation that glorifies terror and defies decency and humanity.

I join the Foreign Secretary in paying tribute not only to our armed forces for their outstanding work, but to the dedicated diplomats and aid workers who are today

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contributing to the UK’s efforts in the region. Let me of course pay tribute as well to the law enforcement officers and agencies in the United Kingdom, who endeavour each and every day to keep our borders safe.

I welcome the steps that the British Government are taking to address the huge humanitarian needs within the region, but I urge them to make further efforts to ensure that the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs appeal is fully funded by the international community, notwithstanding the significant contribution that I am proud to say the United Kingdom has made.

As well as the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the region this week, President Obama held a video conference with the Prime Minister, President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy to discuss the campaign against ISIL. On Tuesday, the United States hosted a summit with senior military commanders from across the international coalition to discuss the fight against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Curiously, those discussions did not merit a mention in the Foreign Secretary’s statement. What did feature was the Foreign Secretary’s assessment that the coalition air campaign has “stabilised the strategic picture”. That seems to be a somewhat complacent assessment, given that the air strikes initiated in recent weeks have failed to prevent ISIL from conquering almost all of Anbar province and coming close to overrunning the Syrian town of Kobane. It is reported that ISIL also drew to within 15 miles of Baghdad international airport only last weekend.

The backdrop to the authorisation that Parliament granted for UK airstrikes in Iraq was the expectation that, within Iraq, the Iraqi military and the Kurds would provide resistance to ISIL’s advance on the ground. The United States has also committed significant resources to supporting the Free Syrian Army in Syria. However, only one of those forces—the Kurdish peshmerga—has so far resisted ISIL effectively. Incidentally, that force has historically not been armed or trained by our friends and allies in the United States.

Against that challenging backdrop, I ask the Foreign Secretary the following questions. Reports in recent days have suggested that in Iraq’s Anbar province the Iraqi army abandoned a key base under cover of darkness, leaving 30,000 families defenceless and the way clear for ISIL to advance on Baghdad international airport. Only last month, General Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, stated that nearly half of the Iraqi military—24 out of 50 brigades—were incapable of fighting ISIL. In the light of his discussions in Iraq this week, can the Foreign Secretary offer more clarity on our Government’s assessment of the capability of the Iraqi armed forces? Will he also set out what consideration is being given to further material requests from the Kurdish peshmerga for training, equipment and support?

In Syria today, the sight of hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of them Kurds, fleeing in terror from their homes in Kobane is a stark demonstration of the peril and persecution that so many citizens still face across the region. Reports overnight indicated, however, that the international coalition has made some progress in helping to secure parts of the border town. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm his assessment of those reports?

The Foreign Secretary spoke on his visit to Iraq about a growing role for the UK in training and supporting local forces. Rather delphically, he has just told the

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House: “The UK Government expect to make a significant contribution to the US-led programme to train the Syrian moderate…opposition”. He went on to say that details of that contribution are currently being “scoped”. Will he therefore set out not the details, but the parameters of the potential UK contribution?

Curiously, the Foreign Secretary chose to mention Turkey in his statement only in relation to humanitarian assistance. Given Turkey’s huge strategic significance, will he confirm whether he, personally, has raised the prospect of its contributing to the military coalition against ISIL with the Turkish Government directly?

The long-term success of any approach will be measured by the role that is played by a broader alliance against ISIL and, in particular, by regional leaders, armies and communities. It is clear that the role of the Sunni communities and leaders across the region remains fundamental. In Iraq, the Sunni tribes who revolted against ISIL’s earlier incarnation in 2007 will undoubtedly be required to play a significant role once again. Across the region, leading Sunni countries must make tangible commitments to defeating ISIL, beyond simply writing cheques. Will the Foreign Secretary give his assessment of what progress is being made not only on halting the flow of fighters from within the region, but on disrupting the flow of finance to ISIL from countries within the region? Will he say whether it is realistic to expect that we will secure a significantly greater regional military contribution to the coalition campaign?

Ultimately, the need for an integrated regional, military, diplomatic, humanitarian and political campaign against ISIL is common ground across the Chamber. Notwithstanding today’s statement, our view is that the severity of the threat that ISIL poses is not yet matched by the effectiveness of the national, regional and international response. I certainly welcome the optimism of the Foreign Secretary’s statement after his visit to Iraq, but the risks remain real and we remain concerned that recent weeks have seen more setbacks than progress on the ground.

12.9 pm

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. If he received a copy of my statement only a few minutes before I rose to deliver it—as far as I am concerned, it was delivered to him a good 45 minutes before I stood up—I shall investigate what happened and write to him. Although I am optimistic about the commitment being shown in Baghdad—he mentioned the optimism of my tone—I thought I was frankly rather realistic about the challenges that lie ahead, particularly the time scales. His remarks and questions suggest that he is looking for a degree of instant gratification in response to the international coalition’s engagement that, I am afraid, is unlikely to be delivered.

Let me go through the points that have been raised. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there was an important conference of chiefs of defence staff to discuss the operation of the coalition forces, and that President Obama convened a video conference. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to give the House a running commentary on the outcome of either of those discussions, but I can say that the conclusions of the read-outs I have seen were very much in line with what I have said this morning. The coalition

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intervention has stabilised the strategic picture, and ISIL is no longer making rapid advances, which we saw earlier in the summer. It has been forced into a defensive posture in many areas, and forced to change its tactics and resume the characteristics of a terrorist organisation, rather than operating as a conventional military force. The intervention of the coalition has had a significant impact, but, as I said, that in no way attempts to conceal the fact that there will of course be tactical ebb and flow. Towns will be taken and towns will be lost as the situation stabilises.

The key question, which the right hon. Gentleman correctly identifies, is the capability of the Iraqi security forces. We have always been clear that although airstrikes are an important component, they can never deliver victory against ISIL on their own. That victory will be dependent on boots on the ground, and in southern Iraq those boots must be provided by the Iraqi security forces. In the north the Kurdish peshmerga are doing a good job, and we will continue to support them with training and additional equipment. It is clear—I had this discussion with President Barzani on Monday evening—that the peshmerga will not operate very far outside the Kurdish region. They may be prepared to take part in limited operations in the north outside the Kurdish region, but they will not be operating in the south or west of Iraq.

We are dependent on rising to the challenge of rebuilding, restructuring, re-equipping and retraining the Iraqi security forces, after a period of years in which their capability was degraded by the blatant sectarianism of the Maliki Government, who appointed Shi’a officers, on the basis of tribal allegiance rather than military competence, to command posts that they were not necessarily suited for. There is a major job to be done, and we should be under no illusions about the technical challenge and political hurdles that Prime Minister al-Abadi will face—including resistance from his own Shi’a block in Parliament—to making the necessary changes. The reason for optimism is that the leaders at least understand that that has to be done, and that this is Iraq’s last chance to show that it can operate as a nation state.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about suggestions that 50% of ISF’s brigades were effectively undeployable and inoperable. That is an absolutely fair assessment, and I have heard higher assessments of the percentage of heavy equipment that has either been lost to ISIL or destroyed during fighting. He mentioned the role of the international coalition in Kobane, and I am pleased that the intensification of air strikes appears to have allowed the Kurdish resistance fighters in Kobane to retake some ground and consolidate their defence. Again, we should be under no illusion that we will be able to use coalition air power alone to save Kobane. We can support the forces on the ground, but it is that fight on the ground that will determine the outcome.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about training the Syrian moderate opposition, but I cannot give him detailed plans because the programme is still at an early stage. It is clear that the training will be done outside Syria in friendly regional countries, and that the forces to be trained will be paid on a regular basis from funding that the United States is providing. This will be a trained, disciplined and organised force returning to the fight in Syria under proper command and control.

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The right hon. Gentleman detected what he thought was perhaps reticence on my part to talk about the role of Turkey, whose role in this battle against ISIL is indeed complex. Turkey has complex relationships with Iraq and Syria, and the presence of a large Kurdish population spanning the borders of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey is a significant factor in how Turkey relates to this challenge. Turkey has made it clear that since the release of its hostages by ISIL, it is ready to engage with the coalition, but the exact form of that engagement must be sensitive to the historical context in which it sits, and to historical relationships between the Kurds and the Turks, the Kurds and the Iraqis, and the Iraqis and the Turks. To answer the right hon. Gentleman’s specific question, I spoke to my Turkish opposite number on Friday, following discussions earlier last week in the United States on the specific question of Turkey’s role in the coalition. The UK National Security Adviser is in Turkey today for further such discussions, and they are at the forefront of the coalition’s agenda as we take the debate forward.

Finally, let me respond to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about Sunni countries in the region and the regional powers. From a western perspective, we are looking at a Muslim region, and we are asking and expecting Muslim countries in the coalition to do more to lead this fight. I was in the Gulf on Tuesday and I detected a clear willingness on the part of the Gulf Arabs to commit to the fight and to address issues of funding flows, and much has already been done. Again, however, we must be sensitive to the historical and cultural context in which these questions sit. Prime Minister al-Abadi has to take a Shi’a majority in Parliament and a Shi’a majority population with him in the fight against ISIL. In working out how best to utilise the willingness of Sunni Arab countries to become engaged in this fight, he must ensure that he is respectful of the sensitivities of his own Shi’a population, and ensure that this is a fight that we can all deliver together, without trampling on historical sensitivities along the way.

Sir Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the tone and approach of his statement, but may I press him a little further on the role of Turkey? Will he verify the truth of rather astonishing reports that the Turks bombed Kurdish PKK camps in the last few days, rather than ISIL camps? Can he confirm that the Turks have said that they will not intervene on the ground in Syria unless the opposition is armed? He has spoken about further support for the moderate armed opposition, but will the further support that he says is under consideration include the supply of lethal equipment?

Mr Hammond: The UK’s position at the moment is that we will not supply lethal equipment to the Syrian armed opposition. We are supplying non-lethal equipment and we will provide training in due course. Although the discussion with Turkey about the role it will play is ongoing, I have not heard any conditionality proposed by the Turks around arming the Syrian opposition as a precondition for Turkish involvement on the ground. There have been discussions on various other issues, but I have not heard that one.

My right hon. Friend asked me about the reports in the media that Turkish forces have attacked PKK bases within Turkey. I, too, have read those reports. There is a

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historic pattern of conflict between Turkey and armed PKK locations. I cannot verify those particular reports, but it is important to emphasise that the reports relate to PKK positions in south-eastern Turkey rather than in Syria. I hope those responses are helpful to my right hon. Friend.

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): As a former Minister with responsibility for the middle east, may I express my disappointment at the Foreign Secretary’s failure to answer the pertinent questions put by the shadow Foreign Secretary? In particular, does not the situation around Kobane symbolise the complete failure of this Government’s policy towards dealing with Syria and the wider conflict that it has spawned around ISIL? The truth is that the Turkish Government are unwilling to intervene to stop ISIL—its tanks are literally parked looking down at Kobane—until Assad has gone. Assad is not going to go, however much we all want him to, because he has too much firepower standing behind him, including the Russians and the Iranians. Until there is a serious strategy of engagement and negotiation to bring about the transition, we will continue to pursue this futile policy and we will not be able to defeat ISIL. Does he not agree?

Mr Hammond: The right hon. Gentleman says that he speaks as a former Minister with responsibility for the middle east, so he will know, perhaps better than most, the complexity of this area. We can only guess at the complex motives and motivations of Turkey in its individual actions, but I am not sure that his analysis of why the Turks have not intervened in Kobane is correct. Frankly, I think this has more to do with intra-Kurdish politics than it has to do with the regime in Damascus, but it is a complex situation. There are many different conflicts wrapped up within this overall battle, many of them deeply historic and with very complex roots.

In the debate a couple of weeks ago on intervention in Iraq, the right hon. Gentleman made very clear, to his credit, his view that we should be further forward- leaning still—that we should be prepared to intervene in Syria. What I would be very interested to hear, and did not hear from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman’s speech, is an indication whether that is now the Opposition’s view.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): I personally find it increasingly difficult to justify the distinction in our policy between Iraq and Syria. If the town of Kobane falls, the outcome for its inhabitants, based on previous experience, could be apocalyptic. In those circumstances, is there not a case for the United Kingdom to join in the air operations in Syria under the authority of not only the right of humanitarian intervention but, perhaps more pertinently, the duty to protect?

Mr Hammond: I hear what my right hon. and learned Friend says about the distinction between Iraq and Syria. He is absolutely right that in military terms this is a single theatre of operations. The Government continue to review our position with regard to Syria. As we have said before, if we come to the conclusion that there is a military case for Britain taking part in air strikes in Syria, we will come back to the House of Commons and there will be a separate debate on that. What I would say to him is that my meetings in Washington last

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week left me with the clear understanding that there is no shortage of air power capability in Syria. The targets that are being identified are being prosecuted. What is needed is not more strike power; it is more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in order to generate targets. That does not require UK participation in strike operations.

I want also to respond to my right hon. and learned Friend’s comments on Kobane. Of course it would be a very negative development if Kobane were to fall, but he should be aware that the great majority of the inhabitants have already left that town, many of them crossing the border into Turkey. As we understand it, there is a very small number of civilians left in the town.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): The Foreign Secretary referred to the 170,000 people who have left Kobane, but the city has not fallen. It has not fallen because the brave Kurdish Syrian PYD fighters are resisting, but they are outgunned. When he says that we should be supporting the moderate Syrian opposition, is there any suggestion that that should include the Kurdish Syrian opposition, who are fighting hard to protect the civilian population in that part of Syria?

Mr Hammond: Yes. We would look to work with all opposition groups in Syria who are committed to a democratic future for Syria, but the hon. Gentleman will know, returning to the theme of the complexity of the historic conflicts in this area, that the Turkish Government regard PYD as a terrorist organisation and have said in terms that they regard it as on a par with ISIL. The Turkish Government see what is happening in Kobane as two terrorist organisations fighting each other.

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): I completely agree with my right hon. Friend that ISIS cannot be defeated by air power alone, and that success on the ground will be required. Frankly, if we cannot get the Sunni tribes in Anbar province to take up arms against ISIS, this is simply not going to happen. What are our Sunni Arab partners in the coalition doing to try to bring those tribes into this situation so that they can provide some of those ground forces? Will he also tell us what our allies in the Arab world believe the endgame to be, politically? Many now believe it is inevitable that the final outcome will have to be a federal Iraq that gives Sunnis the guarantee of some autonomy, having seen how they were utterly betrayed by the Maliki Government?

Mr Hammond: To answer my right hon. Friend’s last point first, yes, I think there is a widespread realism in Baghdad, not just among the Gulf Arab countries, that a viable future Iraq will have to involve considerable devolution of autonomy to the Sunni areas, as well as to the Kurdish region. The recognition of that by Prime Minister al-Abadi is an important step forward, but he still faces huge challenges in delivering it because not all of his own Shi’a block in Parliament understands the existential need to devolve power within Iraq if the country is to remain together.

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My right hon. Friend asked me about the Sunni tribes in Anbar. He is of course right. There are three potential forces in Iraq to fight ISIL: the Kurdish peshmerga; the Iraqi security forces, once they are reorganised and retrained; and the Sunni tribes in Anbar and other western provinces. A significant programme of outreach to tribal leaders is going on, partly led by Sunni Gulf countries that have tribal links to them. Also, we, and our American partners, have significant links to these tribes from our own time operating in Iraq and through key individuals who developed significant personal relationships with tribal leaders and have access to them.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): I, too, was surprised at the lack of reference in the Foreign Secretary’s statement to the role of Turkey. May I get a response from him on one point? Will he prevail on the Turkish Government not to attack legitimate civilian protest in locations as far apart as Van, Mardin, Diyarbakir and Istanbul? Up to 9 October, 33 civilians have been killed by Turkish police and paramilitaries, and 336 people, I believe, have been injured, allegedly by Turkish forces chanting, “Long live ISIL”.

Mr Hammond: We regret the outbreak of violence in domestic protests in Turkey—something we had hoped we had put behind us—and, as always, we deplore the use of violence in protests and the use of violence by the authorities in dealing with those protests. We make our views known consistently to our Turkish allies.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): May I urge caution on those who advocate increased military intervention, whether in Iraq or Syria? Our track record in understanding the nuances of the region has been poor over the past decade, whether in Iraq in 2003, the disastrous morphing of the mission in Afghanistan in 2006, Libya or, indeed, our differing positions on the Syrian civil war only recently. However, may I turn the Foreign Secretary’s attention to the politics in Baghdad? The layer below the immediate leadership has essentially remained the same, which makes the adoption of a more inclusive form of politics far less likely. That will be an uphill struggle. What are we going to do about it?

Mr Hammond: I made specific reference to that in my opening remarks. It is true that Prime Minister al-Abadi faces a significant challenge in persuading those on his own side, including a bloc of Shi’a representatives in Parliament led by former Prime Minister al-Maliki, to acquiesce in what will be some very difficult decisions for the Shi’a community to accept. This moment demands great leadership, and we will offer Prime Minister al-Abadi all the support we can to do that. If I wanted to identify a reason to be optimistic, it would be this: the advance of ISIL earlier this summer has shocked the political elite in Baghdad, as well as the Iranian Government, who hold significant influence over the Shi’a bloc in the Iraqi Parliament. There is awareness in Baghdad that something has to change and that if something is not done, the battle will be lost.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s support for the peshmerga and the ongoing support of the UK Government, and he was right to recognise the bravery

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of the defenders of Kobane. However, what detailed conversations is he having about opening up a humanitarian corridor to ensure that the people, including women, who have taken up arms to defend their families are supported and protected and that we avoid the apocalypse mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell)?

Mr Hammond: I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is talking about Syria or Iraq. In Syria, under the authority of the UN Security Council resolution, of course we are seeking humanitarian access to communities under pressure, and we will continue to assert our right to deliver humanitarian aid and the regime’s obligation under international law to allow the aid to be delivered. As she will know, we are also focusing a lot of aid in the Kurdish region of Iraq. I have not been able to verify this personally, but I was told on Monday by the Kurdish President that many of the Kurds who left Kobane and crossed the border into Turkey have now made their way into Iraqi Kurdistan, because of the relative safety there and the relatively good level of humanitarian provision being delivered under UN auspices.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking the brave aid workers at ShelterBox? It is providing ShelterBox tents and tented medical clinics to the vast numbers of people that, according to those I have spoken to at ShelterBox, are making their way to the relatively safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan. In the last two weeks, more than 540 tents have been distributed and set up, and I understand that another 1,300 are awaiting distribution.

Mr Hammond: I am happy to endorse the efforts of ShelterBox, an organisation my hon. Friend obviously knows something about, and commend its efforts. The urgent need in Kurdistan now is for winterisation. Camps have been set up and are accommodating just under 1 million internally displaced persons within the territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, but as winter approaches, they will face a dire situation if that accommodation is not effectively winterised against the very harsh conditions in that mountainous area.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): On the point abut winterisation, will the Secretary of State comment on media reports that British Army equipment abandoned in Afghanistan could, if moved to Irbil, save the lives of up to 20,000 Iraqi refugees?

Mr Hammond: As far as I am aware, unless policy has changed in the three months since I left the Ministry of Defence, there is no British equipment of any value being abandoned in Afghanistan; the overwhelming majority of Britain’s equipment is being brought back, reconditioned and taken back into use by the British Army.

Sandra Osborne: What about tents?

Mr Hammond: I do not think we have any shortage of tents. I will talk to colleagues in the Department for International Development, but my understanding is that we have plenty of physical equipment. The problem in the Kurdish region is with logistics, rather than the

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physical infrastructure of tents and so on, and now the challenge is to make the accommodation appropriate for the harsh winter conditions.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. I ask hon. Members to focus on crisp, single questions to the Foreign Secretary, whom I am sure will give crisp and short answers, so that we can get everybody in and still have time for the debates later.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): First, may I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend’s serious endeavours to get to grips with some very complex problems? He said that having boots on the ground was essential. To ask a crisp question, what are the prospects of getting the Iraqi army retrained—

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Or others.

Sir Gerald Howarth: Or others, as my hon. Friend says. It was a matter of extraordinary surprise, after the investment made by British and American troops in training the Iraqis, that they collapsed in the face of the enemy.

Mr Hammond: We need to do two things to make this work. First, we need to retrain the basic manpower of the Iraqi army. It can be done, but it will take some time and, in the meantime, we will have to use air power to hold the line. Secondly, we need significant change in the senior command and control structure, including the replacement of essentially political appointees under the previous regime with competent military people. That will be a challenge, because these people will have their vested interests and their constituencies behind them, but it is the challenge that Prime Minister al-Abadi faces.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Returning to the humanitarian issues that the Foreign Secretary raised, I acknowledge the work of DFID, the UN, the non-governmental organisations and the international community, but in the areas of Iraq and Syria under ISIL control, the response to the humanitarian crisis is dependent wholly on local organisations. What help can we give them?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his expression of support for DFID and the international community that is trying to deliver aid. He is absolutely right, of course: in the areas controlled by ISIL, informal support to local NGOs is one strand of the work that DFID and the international aid community are doing. The aid community is acutely aware that it needs to work with the grain of the local situation, and where it provides support in ISIL-controlled areas, it has to work with who it can. That will not always be ideal, but it will get as much aid to those areas as possible.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): I wonder whether I could press the Foreign Secretary further on the role of Turkey. It is a concern that foreign fighters are still crossing the border from Turkey into Syria to join ISIS. It is also a concern that the Turkish authorities are still equivocal about the use of the Incirlik air base by

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coalition forces. Will my right hon. Friend say what representations he has made to the Turkish Government on those two matters?

Mr Hammond: As I mentioned earlier, the national security adviser is in Turkey today and will be talking to the Turkish authorities. For operational security reasons, I do not propose—and, I do not propose as a Government—to give a running commentary on which bases in which countries are being used for which operations. What I can say to my right hon. Friend is that control along the Turkish-Syrian and Turkish-Iraqi border has significantly improved over the last few weeks. We have close contact with the Turks on the movement of British-originating potential fighters across that border, and although there is still more that can be done, we are generally very pleased with the advances that have been made over the last few weeks.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Is the Foreign Secretary not concerned about the apparently very close relationship that exists between some elements of the Turkish Government and forces and the ISIL forces? Does he not think that in the long run there has to be a political settlement? That must include the right of self-determination for the Kurdish peoples all across the region, who have frankly been wronged ever since the end of the first world war on the question of their own identity. It is an issue that will simply not go away.

Mr Hammond: The hon. Gentleman’s intervention just goes to underline how complex the situation is. We are not dealing with a conflict; we are dealing with a number of conflicts that interact with each other and mean that some of the participants have multiple considerations that they are dealing with when they decide how to act. Progress was being made—has been made—in Turkey over the last couple of years in resolving differences between the Turkish state and its Kurdish population. Significant progress has been made. I am afraid that what is going on now across the region is not helpful to that process and is not taking it forward. I think it is probably premature at this stage to speculate on the end outcome, but clearly the relationship between the different Kurdish groups in the four different countries is a crucial part of the overall conflict.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has used strong language in his statement. He says that Islamic State is “an evil which is a direct threat to our national security.” He says that it is possessed of a “poisonous ideology”. He says that it is “a barbaric force that has no place in human civilisation in the 21st century”; and he says that it “represents a major threat to us, here at home, particularly at the hands of returning foreign fighters”. Given that, with the assent of this House, Her Majesty’s armed forces are now engaged in military action against Islamic State, given that we have all witnessed on television the beheading by a British jihadist of British and American aid workers, and given that the offence of treason still exists, but has not been used since 1946, will the Foreign Secretary ensure that British jihadists who return from Iraq and Syria are prosecuted for the offence of treason? Their actions are treachery against Her Majesty, and

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aiding and abetting enemies of Her Majesty is one of the greatest offences a British citizen can commit. The message should go out from this House—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. The hon. Gentleman has been in the House a long time. He knows that this is not an opportunity to make a speech. He has made his point very powerfully and I am sure the Foreign Secretary will respond equally powerfully.

Mr Hammond: My hon. Friend makes his point with great passion. He will know that there are a number of offences under English law with which returning foreign fighters can be charged. We have had a discussion about the allegiance question. We have seen people declaring that they have sworn personal allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. That does raise questions about their loyalty and allegiance to this country and about whether, as my hon. Friend rightly says, the offence of treason could have been committed. I will certainly draw his remarks to the attention of the Home Secretary, who ultimately will be the person who needs to look at this.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): There are indeed many historic and political reasons for Turkey not to take a more active part in fighting ISIL, but will the Foreign Secretary assure the House that Turkey is not putting anything in the way of those who do wish to take part, in terms of access to air space or land routes, and also say to what extent any negotiations that the United States is having with Turkey at the moment over access and activity include the United Kingdom?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Lady will know that the Turkish Parliament has recently passed a law that allows Turkish air bases to be used by international forces, allows the stationing of international forces on Turkish soil and allows the passage of international forces across Turkish soil and through Turkish air space, so the framework is now in place to permit a high level of collaboration. What we, the Americans and the French are still talking to the Turks about is how best they can deliver their contribution to the coalition in a way that recognises the historical sensitivities, but none the less makes a significant contribution to the effort against ISIL.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): The women and men of our intelligence and security services are doing the most incredible job at this difficult time. Will my right hon. Friend pass on the thanks of this House and confirm that if they need anything—whether support from this place or further budget and financial support—it will be given?

Mr Hammond: I am probably long enough in the tooth to know that questions asking for categorical assurances of further additional budget resources are ones for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, it is the case, as my hon. Friend says, that the intelligence and security services are making a huge contribution to the fight against ISIL. Much of the fight has to take place in the intelligence and security space. It is about stopping foreign fighters getting out there, tracking them while they are out there, intercepting

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them if they try to come back, cutting off funding flows and stopping the supply of illicit equipment and materials. The services have reprioritised—something they do incredibly effectively when they need to—to make this their main effort and they are providing a huge input to the fight.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Further to the contribution from the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), 30 British jihadists have died since the current fighting started, and all the evidence is that the more who die, the more who want to go and fight. Although I obviously accept the package of measures that the Foreign Secretary has set out to the House today, what more can be done to stop people going in the first place—not just to stop them crossing borders, but to stop them boarding those flights?

Mr Hammond: It is probably worth noting that, as well as the reported 30 dead, there have been media reports of an even larger number of jihadis who, having seen the brutality of ISIL, want to escape from it and return, but are reportedly unable to do so. The kernel of the right hon. Gentleman’s question is about how we stop people getting out there. We have to take a multi-tiered, multi-layered approach. We start by trying to explain to them the reality of what ISIL is about, undermining its narrative and ideology, and explaining to them that it is incompatible with any reasonable and sensible interpretation of Islam. If we do not succeed in dissuading people, we will try to intercept them, and we have an increasing number of tools available to us. If we fail to intercept them leaving the UK, we have the opportunity, through our collaboration with Turkey, to intercept them when they seek to cross the Turkish border. At all those stages, we will do everything we can to prevent foreign fighters from reaching Iraq and Syria.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): We have heard about the gallantry of the Kurdish ground troops, often led by women, who are defending Kobane, but is there any possibility of a humanitarian corridor through Turkish territory to give humanitarian aid and support to its besieged inhabitants?

Mr Hammond: Looking at a map, that would exactly be the logic. My understanding is that the Turks are allowing humanitarian supplies across the border, but they are not currently allowing military reinforcements across their border.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): ISIL swept across northern Iraq and the middle of Iraq in its brutal and bloody campaign of genocide. One thing that concerns many people within and outside the House is the kidnapping and abduction of women, children and families. What steps have been taken to return those members of families to their loved ones, and what can be done to help them?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Gentleman is right: there have, sadly, been industrial-scale organised kidnappings—perhaps not so much kidnappings as enslavement of large numbers of people, particularly of women but people of communities and faiths that ISIL does not recognise or approve of. Sadly, there is little that we, from outside, are able to do to trace what has happened

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to those people on the ground. Some of them have escaped and turned up as refugees, and their heart-rending stories have been published in some of the newspapers, which the hon. Gentleman will have seen. I am afraid we have low visibility when it comes to what has happened to many of these people.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): What is the rationale for proving only non-lethal support to the Syrian moderate opposition?

Mr Hammond: The Government’s decision to date has been that we do not wish to move to the provision of lethal support to Syrian opposition groups while the opposition remains as fragmented as it is and the intentions of all the groups in it are not as clear as we would like. Some of the groups that might have been considered eligible for support as members of the moderate opposition two years ago have subsequently shown themselves to have little in common with our view of the democratic future of Syria.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary has talked a number of times about stopping the flow of fighters going to join ISIL. Is any specific work being done on the very disturbing reports of young women, who are actually children, being radicalised and travelling from this country to the region to become brides of ISIL fighters?

Mr Hammond: There is. It is an absolutely central strand of the work that the Home Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government lead. The trafficking of any people who are not adults for any purpose is deeply to be deplored—and for the purposes outlined by the hon. Lady, even more so. It is, as I say, an essential strand of the work going on.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): In answer to an earlier question from the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the Foreign Secretary seemed to say that there were no grounds for extending British military activities into Syria. If I am right, and on that basis, will he today rule out any such extension of British military action across the border into Syria?

Mr Hammond: No. To make the position clear, we have always said that we have not ruled out the possibility of extending British military action in the form of air strikes into Syria, but that we would need to see a clear military case for doing so. In other words, we need to be able to make a contribution that would add some significant value to the coalition effort. What I said was that my understanding of the current situation is that there are plenty of strike assets available for use in Syria. The US as coalition lead is not short of ability to strike targets in Syria; what it is short of is properly reconnoitred targets that we can strike safely without fear of creating collateral damage or civilian casualties. The need at the moment is for more ISR—intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance—not more strike assets.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): Returning to the humanitarian crisis in and around Kobane, the Foreign Secretary is right that an estimated 178,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey, but many were seeking sanctuary in Kobane and are left there

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under threat. Given the sensitivities in the relationship between the Kurdish community and the Turkish authorities, can the right hon. Gentleman reassure us that he or other Ministers have had conversations with the Turkish authorities to ensure that they will be up to the problems created by a humanitarian crisis, should it occur?

Mr Hammond: I understand that an estimated 20,000 civilians remain in Kobane. The Turks have an excellent record of accommodating refugees crossing their border. They have accommodated hundreds of thousands of refugees, and the great majority of the population of Kobane has already evacuated the city, mostly across the border into Turkey. Should the remaining population choose to leave the city, I have no reason to suppose that they would be unable to do so via Turkey.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): From the words and tone of the Foreign Secretary’s remarks, it seems that those who have fled the conflict to protect their lives might now find themselves in jeopardy if there is inadequate preparation for the onset of winter. How confident is the right hon. Gentleman that the extensive efforts going on will ensure that people who have saved their lives from conflict do not lose their lives through winter?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Gentleman asks the right question. People who will have moved to a place of safety, if not one of comfort, now face the real challenges of a mounting winter. I am confident that between the bilateral efforts, the international agency presence and the significant work being done by the Government of the Kurdistan region, we are not talking about placing lives in jeopardy as a result of the onset of winter. I do not think the situation is at that level of extreme, but I do think we face the risk of some real suffering during the winter if we are unable to deliver all the winterisation equipment required before the onset of the really cold weather.

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Point of Order

12.56 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 9 September, I secured an Adjournment debate entitled “North Wales Police and Anonymous Blog Site”. During the debate, I highlighted information presented to me by a private investigator who identified a Mr Nigel Roberts and a Mr Dylan Moore as being involved with the site. Mr Roberts subsequently admitted his involvement, but Mr Moore strongly denied it. Following a long meeting with Mr Moore, I formed a view that the conclusion raised by the private investigator with respect to Mr Moore was incorrect. While Mr Moore accepted that I acted in good faith, it is important to me to correct the record. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. The record will show his comments.

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[Relevant Document: Third Report from the Transport Select Committee, Session 2014-15, Cycling Safety, HC 286]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Before I call Ian Austin to move the motion, let me clarify that there will be an eight-minute time limit on Back-Bench contributions to this debate, which is heavily subscribed. I ask Mr Austin to take no longer than 15 minutes. I will prompt him, but I am sure it will not be necessary after 15 minutes.

12.58 pm

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan, sustained funding for cycling and progress towards meeting the report’s recommendations.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate, providing us with another opportunity to discuss the “Get Britain Cycling” report, produced by the all-party cycling group, which I chair jointly with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). The Backbench Business Committee kindly agreed to two debates in the past, both of which saw unprecedented numbers of Members participating. We asked for this debate because we wanted to discuss the Government’s so-called cycling delivery plan—their long-awaited response to our inquiry and the report we published.

I would like to record our thanks to everyone who took part in our three-month inquiry and to all the organisations that supported it, including British Cycling, the CTC, Sustrans and the Bicycle Association among others. I particularly want to thank Chris Boardman, a phenomenal advocate of cycling in Britain, and Phil Goodwin and Adam Coffman who pulled the report together. I also thank News International, now News UK, for sponsoring the inquiry. Its involvement was the result of a campaign by The Times. Those on The Times have done a phenomenal job in promoting cycling in Britain: it is a great tribute to their colleague Mary Bowers, who was severely injured while travelling to work in 2011.

The Committee heard from hundreds of witnesses, and our report contains some important recommendations. A central recommendation is for long-term, dedicated funding of £10 per head per year, rather than limited funding for eight cities for a couple of years. We want 10% of journeys to be made by bike by 2025—the figure was less than 2% in 2011—and we call for lower speed limits in urban areas. We want more effective enforcement of the law, we want children to be taught to ride at school, we want more segregated cycle lanes, and we want cycling to be considered properly as part of the urban planning process. We also call for top-level, committed leadership, because cross-departmental collaboration is essential if we are to improve cycling conditions in Britain.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): The hon. Gentleman mentioned enforcement of the law. A matter of concern, certainly in my constituency, is the need for the employers of lorry drivers to recognise

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their responsibility not to put drivers under pressure to drive for too long, so that they do not risk being unable to concentrate and to avoid cyclists who are also on the road.

Ian Austin: The hon. Gentleman is right. It is also important to note the improvements that can be made. Mirrors, sensors and alarms, for instance, can be fitted to lorries to ensure that it is safe for them to use the roads at the same time as cyclists.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said about lorry safety. Does he share my disappointment that the plan published by the Government today is notably lacking in any commitment to address the issue? Lorries are responsible for a fifth of cycling fatalities in Britain, and there have been fatalities in Bristol recently.

Ian Austin: I am disappointed by the plan that was published today, for all sorts of reasons, about which I shall say more shortly, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right to give that example.

A study published today by academics from the universities of Leeds and Cambridge and commissioned by the CTC shows the benefits that investing in cycling would bring. We face an epidemic of illnesses linked to inactivity and obesity, but investment equivalent to £10 per person to boost the proportion of trips made on bikes from 3% to 10% could save the NHS budget nearly £1 billion a year. The wider health benefits could be worth £6 billion by 2025 and £25 billion by 2050. Investment in cycling would prevent heart disease, reduce the number of strokes, and cut diabetes and colon cancer rates. As The Times says in an editorial today,

“Meeting this demand is not to ask for preferential treatment... the requested level would take total funding up to £600 million a year—3 per cent. of the transport budget for 3 per cent. of the trips taken.”

A report entitled “Benefits of Investing in Cycling”, written by Dr Rachel Aldred and commissioned by British Cycling, also shows that such investment would make a massive difference to society. It demonstrates that cycling can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on everyone, whether they cycle or not. The possible benefits range from saving the NHS £17 billion to increasing the mobility of the nation’s poorest families by 25%. Getting more people cycling would enable more people to get the exercise that they need, and would make Britain healthier. Traffic delays in London cost £1.5 billion a year. An increase in cycling would tackle congestion and pollution, and would make our roads safer and our transport system more efficient. It would enable people on low incomes to travel more easily, would make our town and city centres more pleasant places, and would support local economies.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. I know that many more people in my constituency would like to cycle. The biggest barrier is safety. Why does the United Kingdom have so few segregated lanes in comparison with the countries that I visit in mainland Europe?

Ian Austin: My hon. Friend is right to raise that point. The best way of making cycling safe is to get more people on their bikes, and we will do that by improving the facilities that are available for cycling.

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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He has spoken about safety and about funding. Does he agree that we need funding for revenue as well as capital? We need money to go to cycle groups and local councils so that they can invest in safety as well as in cycle lanes.

Ian Austin: The hon. Lady is right, and I shall discuss that point at some length in a few minutes.

Promoting cycling would be good for our transport systems as a whole, for local economies, for social inclusion, and for public health. People who think that investing in cycling is somehow anti-motorist, or against the car, should ask themselves why the AA has joined the campaign to boost cycling. It has done so because cycling is an obvious way of reducing congestion, which has been estimated to cost the UK economy £4.3 billion a year. Research from Denmark has shown that a nation makes a 13p profit for every kilometre cycled, but an 8p loss for every kilometre driven.

As I said earlier, this is our third debate on cycling in the last three years. The first was triggered by the campaign run by TheTimes. More than 70 Members took part in that debate; even more, well over 100, took part in the second. Sadly, I think that fewer will take part today. We asked for this debate so that we can discuss the Government’s response to the recommendations in our report. We had been promised that response for months, but the Government kept delaying its publication amid numerous reports of wrangles and disputes between the various Departments involved. Because it was not clear when it would be published, cycling organisations and the media were unable to promote the debate and encourage their members and supporters to lobby MPs to take part in it. It turns out that the document—1 do not think that it could be credibly described as a delivery plan—was published this morning. As a result, we have been left far too little time to subject it to proper scrutiny, although it is already clear that it is a very disappointing piece of work. We waited a year for this report, but it makes no real commitments at all.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): Is it not clear from the cycling delivery plan that this was a rushed, botched job, and that the Government rushed it out just to have something on the table so that they could respond to the debate?

Ian Austin: Given the delay, I am not sure that we can say that it was rushed, but it was certainly botched. I do not think that many people will take the report very seriously, and I think that they will be very disappointed by its contents. The Prime Minister promised a cycling revolution, and the report talks of achieving Scandinavian or Dutch levels of cycling, but that is impossible without real commitments to increase funding levels.

The Government have promised that

“cycling will be at the heart of future road developments”,

and say that they are

“committed to turning Britain into a cycling nation to rival our European neighbours."

If the Minister answers just one question in this debate, I hope that he will tell us how those two promises can be taken seriously when the Netherlands spends £25 per

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head on cycling while the UK spends about £2, and when the highways budget in the UK is £15 billion while the funds announced for cycling are about £150 million, with no dedicated funding stream that allows local authorities to plan for more than two years.

Despite all the promises, today’s report speaks only of an “aspiration” to “explore” the possibility of investment. The Government are spending £64 billion on road building and HS2, but they cannot commit the funds that are needed to boost cycling in Britain. In the Netherlands 27% of journeys are made by bike, and at least £25 per head is spent on cycling. That is followed by Denmark, with 19% of journeys made by bike and spending of at least £20 per head. At the current rate, we shall not reach Dutch levels of cycling until the 23rd century. England languishes towards the lower end of the European league table, with less than £5 per head spent on cycling, and even that is set to decrease.

No budget was set for cycling in the Government’s 2010 spending review. All that we have seen are stop-start injections of cash, and the announcement of competitive bids when the Department for Transport underspends its budget. Such a fragmented approach is no way to “Get Britain Cycling”. Spending on cycling, it has been said, is smoke and mirrors: Ministers have top-sliced Bikeability funding from the local sustainable transport fund, claimed credit for funding allocated by the last Government, and counted Cycling England’s budget in its figures although they abolished it. The LSTF has provided £600 million for sustainable travel, but there is no way to determine how much of that has been spent on specific cycling schemes. The Government claim spending has doubled, but half of all local authorities have been forced to reduce their spending on cycling and over a third have had to cut staff. For a cycling and walking delivery plan to be meaningful, it must contain a commitment to long-term consistent funding.

As we heard a moment ago, there also needs to be a real commitment to consistent revenue funding. A key element of the LSTF has been inclusion of both capital and revenue elements to enable streets and routes to be transformed, alongside programmes to support and encourage people to walk or cycle. Further commitment to both types of funding for active travel is urgently needed, particularly given the scarcity of revenue funding for transport in local authority budgets, but the local growth fund, which replaces the LSTF and which is overseen by local enterprise partnerships, is purely capital funding.

In response to a recent parliamentary question, the Government calculated that the spend on cycling in England is equivalent to £5 per person per year. Of this, 80% is directly or indirectly attributable to dedicated funding from Government, the largest component of which is the LSTF, but with the LSTF coming to an end in 2016, bringing to a close six years of dedicated funding for cycling and walking, there is now no guarantee that money will be spent on cycling and walking, and in fact no budget line for cycling and walking at all.

Analysis of major scheme bids to the local growth fund shows that less than half of local enterprise partnerships have put forward any projects for walking, cycling or public transport, with road building making up three quarters of the bids from some LEPs. Without sustained and substantial committed investment from Government, total spend on cycling and walking will

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fall sharply after 2015-16, to a fraction of current levels and far below the £10 per head per year target. Commitment is the vital ingredient missing from this plan that has simply an aspiration to explore funding opportunities.

The Government have also failed when it comes to taking cross-departmental action, especially in getting the Department of Health to commit to revenue funding which, as I said earlier, would produce such huge health benefits. There is also no mention whatsoever of the role the Department for Communities and Local Government has to play, which is absolutely unbelievable given that so much of the work to improve facilities and safety for cyclists has to be done by local authorities.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): We know the reason for that. The Communities Secretary said that cycling was a middle-class obsession that did not bother ordinary people.

Ian Austin rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman to keep an eye on the clock? The 15 minutes are ticking by.

Ian Austin: May I ask how long I have left, as I have not been following that?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I did offer to put that on the clock for the hon. Gentleman, but he declined that. He started at 12.58, and therefore has under a minute, but he has taken a lot of interventions. If he could take no more than another two minutes, we would be grateful.

Ian Austin: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker,

My right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) is right about the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. He seems to believe that without the car culture, the high street would die, but when New York city introduced segregated bike lanes recently there were widespread predictions of economic hardship, yet trade rose by 24%, so on that, as on so much else, the Communities Secretary is completely wrong.

I will now draw my remarks to a conclusion in light of your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker.

With just a few months until the election we need a massive effort to make cycling a bigger political issue so we can get the parties committed to increasing the funding for cycling and have lower speed limits in urban areas, better enforcement of the law, children taught to ride at school, more segregated cycle lanes and cycling considered properly as part of the urban planning process.

We need everyone involved in cycling to write to MPs and candidates so we can get Britain cycling and change our country for good.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Thank you very much, Mr Austin, for leaving more time for others to speak. I am sure they will be very grateful.

1.13 pm

Sir George Young (North West Hampshire) (Con): I congratulate the all-party group on securing this debate, which is the third such debate in this Parliament. I was

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precluded by ministerial office from contributing to the earlier two, although I attended them, but I am now unconstrained.

I pay tribute to the work of the all-party group on cycling, The Times, British Cycling, Sustrans, Living Streets, CTC and all the other cycling organisations that have helped to propel cycling up the political agenda. A substantial number of cyclists in North West Hampshire have e-mailed to ask me to support the campaign, which I do.

I also pay tribute to the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who is replying to the debate and who himself travels regularly on two wheels—as, indeed, I do. I commend him for the way in which he has responded to the campaign and engaged with the key stakeholders. Within the Lycra suit of public expenditure constraint, no one could have done more than him. I also commend the progress made by the coalition Government in recent years under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I am delighted that they are both present. They have both been pedalling hard and I urge them to press even harder on the pedals in the remaining months of the Parliament. For example, we have an autumn statement coming up soon, and it would be helpful if the Chancellor were able to mention cycling in that statement and how it might be supported in the future.

I want to make a brief contribution by putting in perspective this ongoing campaign by MPs to get a better deal for cyclists. On 11 July 1975, nearly 40 years ago and before some contributors to this debate were born, I initiated an Adjournment debate on cycling, along with our former colleague Anthony Steen. The two of us took over the APPG, which had been free-wheeling for many years, in order to raise the profile of cycling. The debate took place at 4 pm on a Friday—that was when we had the Adjournment debate in those days—and I quoted Ernest Marples, who said in 1968:

“there is a great future for the bicycle if you make the conditions right. If you make them wrong there isn’t any future.”

I presented the Minister who was replying, Denis Howell, with a cyclists charter: a bicycle unit in his Department; cycle lanes through the royal parks; more proficiency courses for children; a direction from the Department that, in all new development, provision should be made not just for the cyclist of today, but to encourage the cyclist of tomorrow, by separating his journey from that of the motorist; the identification of cycle priority routes; a 10-second start at traffic lights; and more provision for bicycles on trains, with more covered parking spaces at stations.

Unlike what is going to happen today, the response from the Minister was disappointing. My suggestions were described by the then Minister as “interesting”. This was before the time of “Yes Minister”, but I knew enough about Whitehall to realise that “interesting” meant “absurd.” The very first point he made was that cycling was dangerous, and I am afraid that that coloured the whole response to the debate.

I was told that differential timing at traffic lights would be a costly operation, and the Minister did not know how the motoring public would take to it. Although British Rail was a nationalised industry at the time, the Minister washed his hands of the idea, saying that he

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hoped I would do better with my campaign than Ministers. On cycle lanes—or traffic lanes, as he called them—I was told it was difficult to provide them in the middle of Birmingham, Manchester or London. On a cycling unit, he said:

“I cannot accede to the request that my Department should set up a separate cycling advisory unit…We already have a traffic advisory unit.”—[Official Report, 11 July 1975; Vol. 895, c. 1026.]

Undeterred by this response, Anthony Steen and I set up a parliamentary bicycle pool, years ahead of Boris. For £5, Members could join and borrow a bicycle for their journey around the capital. We had a good response, particularly for the photo opportunity in New Palace Yard which launched the scheme. Jo Grimond was good enough to join us. Members who had not been on a bike since they did a delivery round took again to two wheels.

It was not an unqualified success. At midday, Members would take out a bicycle and cycle off to their lunch. Owing to the generosity of the hospitality extended by their hosts, on a few occasions they did not return by bicycle, and my fleet had to be retrieved from London’s finest eating establishments. In 1979, when there was a change of Government and I became a Minister, I could not find anyone to run the pool. So, in the first of the Thatcher privatisations, we sold the pool to the Members.

We have some way to go before we reach the status of Holland, which I visited along with the APPG a few years ago. There, a typical cyclist was a mature lady in ordinary clothes bicycling slowly—the exact opposite in every respect of a typical cyclist in London, although that is beginning to change.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) said about joined-up government and the benefits to other Departments of a regeneration of cycling, including on climate change, obesity and cutting the cost of travel.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I very much agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says about encouraging people who might not see themselves as Lycra cyclists to take part. Although we all want dedicated cycle areas and tracks, lone cyclists can feel very vulnerable along some of those made from back lanes or railway tracks. Does he agree that in the cycle delivery plan we need to examine strategies for increased visibility in those areas, so that young women in particular do not feel afraid of using them?

Sir George Young: The hon. Lady makes a good point; better lighting is important not only for the security of the cyclist, but so that they can see what is on the path ahead of them. I am sure the Minister will focus on safety in his reply.

From the modest acorn we planted 40 years ago, today’s all-party group has grown and gone from strength to strength. Today’s debate is better informed and better supported; only three Back-Bench speeches were made back then. I commend the campaign and the support it has received from all sides, and I can think of no better Minister to respond than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the former pairing Whip.

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Ian Austin: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir George Young: That was a peroration, but I give way to the chairman of the all-party group.

Ian Austin: Before the right hon. Gentleman finishes, I wanted to thank him, on behalf of the group and all Members here, and to recognise the enormous contribution he has made in Parliament to cycling throughout his time as an MP. He has achieved a huge amount, his work has been an inspiration to the rest of us and we are very grateful for it.

Sir George Young: I blush and I sit down.

1.21 pm

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I am honoured and humbled to follow the right hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young). The bicycle has been my main form of transport for at least the past 20 years, as it has his. It has been the only form of transport I have owned for that period. Having cycled as a child, it was logical for me to use the bike as my main form of transport, given the growing congestion in our towns and cities. The revelatory experience for me—the eureka moment—came in the mid-90s, when I was sent by “The World This Weekend” to my old primary school in Norfolk. I cannot remember what the news piece was about—whether it was about stranger danger, the safety of roads or even growing obesity—but I arrived at my old primary school to find that the bike sheds had gone. That was a shocking experience for me. Not only had the sheds gone, but in place of children coming and going by biking or walking at the beginning and end of the school day, there was traffic congestion, belching fumes, noise and chaos outside the school gates. From that moment on, I have not felt as passionate about many issues, across all public policy, as I do about this one.

Things do not have to be like they were at that school. I am glad to say that in Exeter we have bike sheds again at our primary and secondary schools. Thanks to the investment we received as part of the previous Labour Government’s cycling demonstration town scheme, we have had a massive increase in the number of children cycling and walking to school—one of the biggest increases anywhere in the country—and a huge increase of 40% in cycling levels overall. I ask those who still do not believe that we can replicate Danish and Dutch cycling levels because ours is a hilly country to come to Exeter, one of the hilliest cities in the country. We have done it. We know how it can be done, although we have a lot more to do.

The problem is that under successive Governments—I do not want this to be a party political debate—the approach taken to cycling has been a piecemeal hotch-potch; we have had a bit of funding here, a bit of targeted funding there and a grant that has to be applied for. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, progress has been bedevilled by the fact that there has not been sustained, real investment and sustained political leadership from the top.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): I hesitate to interrupt my right hon. Friend, who is making an excellent speech. I recently visited a Bikeability scheme

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at a local primary school in Bristol, where children are being trained and encouraged to feel safe on the roads. Does he share my concern that we are not putting enough money into Bikeability schemes and that doing so would be a huge step towards encouraging more people to cycle?

Mr Bradshaw: Yes, I do share that concern. I agree with my hon. Friend, who has put her finger on another important element—education, getting people cycling early and giving people the confidence to cycle. I am fortunate that in my constituency we still have a local authority that is committed to Bikeability, but, again, the service around the country is patchy because there is no sustained funding. Heaven knows, we all know what funding pressures local government is under at the moment.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend’s city has very good cycling facilities and routes, and needs to be commended for that. Does he accept that there is a slight problem, in that primary school children can be excited about cycling and encouraged to enjoy it—some primary schools do good work on that—but in secondary schools cycling becomes impossible because of bad facilities or longer journeys, or simply because it is “uncool”? We lose a lot of cyclists in the crucial teenage years and they do not come back, so somehow or other we have to do a lot more to get young teenagers and teenagers in general to keep on cycling.

Mr Bradshaw: I am sure my hon. Friend is right in what he says, although it has not been my experience in Exeter. Helped by the fantastic success of our professional cycling teams in the Olympics, cycling is now very cool and there has been a big upsurge in cycling among teenagers in my constituency. However, that is mainly because there are safe routes to the schools and facilities for people to lock their bikes and store their stuff when they get there. I am sorry to say that that is not common across the country.

It was in that context, after all the years of hard work by people such as the right hon. Member for North West Hampshire, that the all-party group, supported by The Times, decided to carry out its investigation and report in 2013. We spent days listening to evidence from experts across the field on how to get to the sort of cycling levels enjoyed in most of our neighbouring and similar continental countries. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, this is not rocket science; it comes down to sustainable commitments for funding and sustainable, persistent cross-departmental Government leadership.

What do we get today? A year late, we get a report that has been rushed out in time for this debate. I wanted to try to be kind about the report, which I had time to read before coming into the Chamber, but I cannot help agreeing with CTC, which has described it as “not a delivery plan” but a “derisory plan”. Once again, it is a hotch-potch of aspiration, which puts a lot of the responsibility on hard-pressed local authorities, on local enterprise partnerships—we have already heard that the record of LEPs is feeble at best, and they are also under a lot of pressure—and on business. That is deeply depressing and dispiriting, following all the debates we have had in this House, and the growing support

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among Members from all parts of this House and among the public for meaningful action to be taken on cycling. Seeing the report was one of the most depressing moments I have had in this House during this Parliament.

Surely we do not need to remind the Government of cycling’s benefits for health, the environment, and tackling congestion and pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) reminded us about the health benefits alone. If we met the targets that our report set for 2025 of 10% of journeys by bike, up from a derisory 2% in England at the moment, we would save £8 billion in health expenditure. If we reached continental levels of 25% of journeys made by cycling by 2050, which was our other target, we would save £25 billion for the health service.

Those are just the health benefits; they do not even take into account the additional benefits of tackling congestion and emissions. I do not understand what is wrong with the economists in the Department for Transport and the Treasury who do not recognise the logic of that. The Secretary of State, who I am pleased to see in his place, is a reasonable man. He was extolling the fantastic rail renaissance that we enjoyed in England in recent years. We could be having exactly the same renaissance in cycling if only there were the political will and a tiny bit of investment. All it would need is a fraction of the Department’s budget that is going on roads or on HS2 to be earmarked for cycling, and we could achieve that £10 per head per year figure, which would begin to deliver the cycling revolution we all want.

Let me be perfectly frank: whatever one thinks of this Government report, the timing of its publication—in the last few months before a general election—probably means that the political parties’ manifestos for next May and who then forms the Government will matter much more. I want to make it clear, including to my own Front-Bench team, that there are a lot of cyclists out there and we should not underestimate the power of the cycling vote. Many towns and cities, from Brighton and Hove to Norwich, Cambridge, Oxford, my own city of Exeter and Bristol, will have hard-fought contests in marginal seats at the next election.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The right hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way, especially as he has just mentioned Brighton and Hove. It gives me the opportunity to say that in Brighton and Hove we have the fastest growing cycle-to-work scheme outside London. Does he agree that what we need in today’s plan is far more focus on cycle-friendly design standards or guidance? We should be sharing such standards, and yet there is nothing in the plan to do or promote that. Therefore, current guidelines are very jumbled up, inconsistent and contradictory.

Mr Bradshaw: Yes, the hon. Lady is absolutely right. There is a good plan on the shelf in Wales, which the Department for Transport could simply use. There are far too many different plans, which need to be brought together in one single plan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): May I draw the right hon. Gentleman’s attention to page 8 of the plan in which it talks about sharing best practice? It says that we will

“create a single point of information about the best practice for creating and designing cycle-friendly streets.”

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That is in the plan and we are determined to ensure that best practice is shared among local authorities, which have ownership of the roads.

Mr Bradshaw: That was not the view of the cycling organisations this morning in their initial response to the plan.

Let me finish with this message to my Front Benchers and political parties across the spectrum. There are millions of cyclists out there, and they are waiting for real and meaningful action on cycling to deliver safe cities and a healthy environment, tackle obesity, increase happiness and boost the economy. It is a no-brainer for very little money. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) will take that message back to the shadow Secretary of State, who I know is a committed cyclist, and to his shadow Treasury colleagues.

1.31 pm

Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): I congratulate the all-party parliamentary group on securing today’s debate and the Minister on his cycling delivery plan, which he has published today.

The hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) struck rather a sour note to start this debate. I think the House will want to applaud the Minister for his new report. He makes it clear that he wants to double the level of cycling by 2025. His aspiration, in difficult financial times, is for funding for cycling to be the equivalent of £10 per person per year. That is a key recommendation from the all-party report.

It is absolutely right that we have this debate. From my work around the Olympic legacy, I know that the London 2012 Olympics inspired a generation to think about sport, and nowhere is that more true than in the case of cycling. The extraordinary achievements of individuals such as Sarah Storey and David Stone at the London 2012 Paralympics demonstrated that cycling can be one of the most inclusive of sports, too.

The Olympics, Paralympics and Tour de France have all done their bit in driving up pedal traffic by almost a quarter. An extra 400,000 people cycling every week since we won the Olympic bid is an extraordinary part of the Olympic legacy. That has been achieved despite the pressures on budgets, which Opposition Members sometimes fail to acknowledge.

Ian Austin: We are asking not for more money to be spent on transport but for a small part of the existing transport budget to be spent on cycling. The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that the report contains aspirations, but without any financial commitment attached to them, they are just an ambition, not a commitment. That is the point that we are trying to make.

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman needs to study the Minister’s report a little more closely. A consultation paper will shortly be published on the £976 million a year highways maintenance fund, to ensure that a fair share goes to cycling and walking, which is exactly what he is talking about. I appreciate that he has not had

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much time to read the report, but I urge him to look at the detail, because he will be pleased with the content.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are words in the report about the maintenance budget, and we certainly welcome that, but that is not the same as a new infrastructure, which is desperately needed.

Maria Miller: I agree that cycling infrastructure is important. It is an important way of communicating to people that cycling is a safe option. I will address that later in my comments.

I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than on my bike with my son on the lanes and off-road cycle routes around Basingstoke. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and I both know, Hampshire is blessed with 750 miles of off-road cycle routes and urban cycle paths. Cyclists are getting everywhere. This year, for the first time, St John Ambulance is using cycle responders at festivals across Hampshire. In Basingstoke, our local police effectively use mountain bikes for town centre patrols and to help police work around parks and other public areas.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Maria Miller: I should like to make a little more progress, as I fear that I might run out of time.

As a result of more people cycling, the figures show a decline in the risk of having an accident when cycling. But the absolute number of accidents and tragic fatalities remains a real concern for anyone who cycles regularly, or who has a friend or family member who has been in a cycling accident. There is still so much more to be done to make cycling safer and a real option for more people.

I wish to focus on two areas of the all-party group’s report, namely road design and education, which are key to achieving the Minister’s ambitions. We need to design cycling into our everyday lives. Like many successful towns, Basingstoke faces the big problem of road congestion. I thank the Minister and his Department, especially the Secretary of State, for the investments that they have made recently in our local roads in Basingstoke. More than £30 million has been spent on improving the roundabouts for which Basingstoke is so famous. I must say though that that investment should have been put in place a decade and a half ago when the Labour party set high housing targets for Basingstoke. That money is there not to allow cars to move around more easily, but to reduce traffic congestion. Encouraging more people to cycle and indeed to walk is part of achieving that strategy.

The Prime Minister himself has made it clear that all new big road developments will incorporate the needs of cyclists, which was underlined in the Government’s delivery plan today. Like many other communities, we have a persuasive group of cycling campaigners. In particular, I pay tribute to my constituent Ms Heather Rainbow for her tenacity and campaigning zeal. For any campaign to work, we need practical changes in the roads. Nationally, two-thirds of non-cyclists think it is just too dangerous to cycle on roads; indeed almost half

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of all cyclists think that too. Changing road design will help change that attitude and encourage more people to cycle. We cannot allow new road designs simply to reflect the current pattern of use.

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con) rose

Maria Miller: If my right hon. Friend will forgive me, I will make a little more progress.

The all-party report is right that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians must be considered at an early stage of all new development schemes. It is of course for local authorities to lead the way on local road design—it is not for central Government to micro-manage. Under the national planning guidelines, local authorities have to consider how bikes and bike use can be designed into new road works from the start, which is very much in line with the all-party report.

There is one area in which the Minister can help. The Highways Agency is part of his Department and responsible for some of the most important road redesign schemes. In my constituency, the Highways Agency has already started work on a £10 million upgrade of the Black Dam roundabout to ease congestion. The new design is the result of considerable consultation with local residents, but because the pre-existing road layout made cycling difficult, few cyclists regularly choose to use that junction.

I hope the Minister agrees that if we are to change habits we need organisations such as the Highways Agency to be not only reactive to current travel patterns, but proactive in promoting cycling. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that when he makes his contribution later.

Let me turn now to education, which, along with road design, is absolutely critical and part of the all-party group’s report. Edmund King is president of the AA, which, I am proud to say, has made its home in Basingstoke. In the 1990s, he and I first worked together on the successful road safety campaign “Children should be seen and not hurt”. He is right to describe cycle training as a “skill for life”. It is interesting to note that only one in four AA members who regularly cycle has received such skills training. As adults, we often do not feel confident enough to get on our bikes. It is that sort of training that can be vital. I pay tribute to Breeze in my constituency, which is helping more women into cycling, and to Hampshire county council, which funds two hours of free cycle skills training for all Hampshire residents.

Many of us will fondly remember cycling to school, of course after taking our cycling proficiency test, today’s equivalent of which is the Bikeability programme. That modern-day version of cycling proficiency is made available to all Hampshire schools through the Hampshire schools cycling partnership. I hope that more local authorities will develop such a partnership to encourage more children to understand the pleasures of cycling from a young age.

One of my earliest memories of cycling is not a good one. My grandmother cycled to work every day. She was a fit and energetic woman, but one day she was hit by a car. Of course she was not wearing a helmet—few people did in the early ’70s—and she had severe concussion and her injuries stayed with her. That dreadful incident

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has meant that I have always worn a cycle helmet and ensured that my children understand the importance of doing so.

For a number of years, I have worked closely with an organisation called Headway in Basingstoke. It was founded in 1982 by an inspirational lady, Evelyn Vincent, and her mother. Headway supports head injury victims, and the individuals with head trauma whom I have met make a compelling case for the wearing of cycle helmets. Headway, as a campaigning organisation, has succeeded in making the case for cycle helmets to be a legal requirement for children in Jersey. Other countries have done the same, and I would make the case that the Government should have a clear plan to keep the evidence around wearing cycle helmets under close review. There is clear evidence from the Transport Research Laboratory and the Australian Government that, along with road design and education, the wearing of cycle helmets can make a real contribution to road safety. It makes common sense, too, and although some say that it deters people from taking up cycling, I have seen no evidence that makes that case specifically for children. We all have a duty to ensure that cycling is safer, so the Government should keep the matter under careful review in the coming months and years.

1.42 pm

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), who made powerful points about not only her constituency, but general cycling matters. As I look around the Chamber, it is apparent that we are talking to the converted. I think that I have seen almost every Member in the Chamber riding their bike into Parliament, so I do not think that there will be a lot of controversy in the debate. Those watching our proceedings—many from the cycling community may well be—might be a bit disappointed that this is one-way traffic, but we need to be able to argue the case for cycling, so perhaps that is not a bad thing.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the debate to take place and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), the co-chairs of the all-party group, on their work. They and the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), who has also signed the motion, have shown great leadership on promoting cycling, and the cross-party group is ably supported by Adam Coffman. Many Members are in the Chamber to support the debate. I also welcome support from right across the media, especially from The Times. There was a great fact sheet by Kaya Burgess in this morning’s drop-in briefing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North mentioned Mary Bowers, who was knocked down in my constituency. Sadly, she still has not recovered, and I know that the whole House will want to wish her and her family well.

Dr Huppert: I agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman says about The Times and Mary Bowers. He might be amused to know that The Daily Telegraph recently published a list of the seven most absurd Liberal Democrat policies, one of which was supporting funding for cycling, so there is clearly some way to go.

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Jim Fitzpatrick: As a buyer as well as a reader of The Daily Telegraph, I am disappointed to hear that, although perhaps not entirely surprised, as there have to be some differences among people. Despite the hon. Gentleman’s qualification of what I said about media support, there is now generally a much more welcoming attitude in the country to cycling, and I hope that the debate will help to nurture people’s interest.

Sir Nicholas Soames: The hon. Gentleman has never seen me arrive at the Palace of Westminster on a bicycle, although I shall try to repair that. I agree with him about the support that is given, but does he accept that the trouble in a constituency such as mine, which has three small to medium-sized towns, is that there simply is not the money to provide the facilities for bicyclists that should be in place, because it all tends to go to the big towns? We need to devise a formula that will enable that to be fixed.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The right hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point about the key issue of funding, which I think has cropped up in every speech that we have heard. When I said that I thought that I had seen almost everyone in the Chamber on a bike, I did not want to point to the right hon. Gentleman that he was the one exception who occurred to me. However, I am encouraged that he has not given up on this, so in the six months between now and the general election, perhaps we can encourage him to join us on two wheels. I am sure that the all-party group would welcome that.

The delivery plan is disappointing. The all-party group’s report was well received by the Department for Transport. It is a shame that the Secretary of State has just left the Chamber, but the fact that he has listened to part of our debate demonstrates his interest in the matter. We know that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), and the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), are great champions of cycling and no criticism is levelled directly at the Department, although I shall return to the big question of funding later in my speech. However, given that the Prime Minister promised us a cycling revolution and that the Department for Transport is clearly supportive of cycling, as has been the case for almost 20 years, the fact that there is no commitment on funding, which the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) mentioned, is hugely disappointing. While the Minister and the shadow Minister are great champions, we need a nominated person to give leadership from the front. The all-party group’s report was well received by the Transport Committee and all the main cycling groups, but I am sure that the Minister acknowledges that the responses of CTC, Sustrans and British Cycling to this morning’s Government report are not so welcoming.

Safety and the perception of it are key to getting more people involved in cycling, but before I speak about that, I want to spend a couple of minutes on parochial matters by talking about London. There have been huge changes in London, with an explosion in the number of people cycling, Boris bikes and cycle super-highways. It is welcome that Transport for London is consulting on upgrading the cycle super-highways because some of them are pretty basic, being no more than a lick of paint in the road.

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Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman welcome TfL’s recent call for a London-wide ban on heavy goods vehicles that drive without side guards and mirrors? Does he agree that that recommendation should apply nationwide, not just to London, and that the Government should take it up?

Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman makes a strong point. TfL has led on promoting cycling in many ways, and anything that enhances cyclists’ safety must be welcomed.

I received an e-mail this morning from Owen Pearson of Tower Hamlets Wheelers. He said that his local cycle campaign supports

“the proposals put forward by Transport for London to upgrade Cycle Superhighway 2 between Aldgate and Bow”,

which is a dangerous stretch of road. The e-mail acknowledged the local concerns of the council and others, especially with regard to Whitechapel market, but said that the group believed that

“with adjustments to the TfL plan these issues can be overcome.”

I have some concerns about what I call the Mayor’s plans, although they are probably primarily the tsar’s plans—Andrew Gilligan’s plans—especially with regard to the stretch from Tower Hill to Westminster. The key criteria for cycle lanes is to get people out of cars and to improve the environment by reducing congestion. However, the proportion of cars on that stretch of road is already less than 9%, and many of those 9% are private hire vehicles or minicabs. There are few people to be taken out of cars as the vast majority of the traffic on that main artery through London is made up of public transport, taxis, coaches and commercial traffic, such as white vans delivering to businesses and HGVs. TfL plans to prevent 80% of that traffic using the road. I do not know where it will go. For the 20% that will be allowed to use it, there will be a 16-minute delay. That simply does not seem workable, and it will give the cycling community a bad reputation, because it is just bad planning.

My understanding is that the Mayor’s plans will be subject to an extensive consultation, which would be very welcome, as would publication of all the background data, including environmental impact assessments, the economic assessment, alternative routes and alternative designs.

There is also a problem with the waiting times for pedestrians, because in some areas they will have to wait up to two minutes before getting a green light, and in London people will simply not wait that long to cross the road. Also, having to cross three lanes of traffic and four lanes of cyclists, with a fast lane for the Lycra brigade—we know that they take no prisoners—will be pretty difficult. Another observation about the plan that the Department for Transport published this morning is that its title makes no mention of walking, which is a big element of the promotion, so there are questions to be answered about the route from Tower Hill to Westminster.

We all want to see cycling become mainstream. As a cyclist myself, I know that we are not above criticism. The tiny minority who cycle without lights at night, ignore pedestrian crossings, ride on pavements or cruise through red lights greatly annoy the rest of us, because they give us a bad reputation and irritate the rest of the

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public. The Transport Committee heard in evidence that when the Metropolitan police blitzed London’s roads earlier this year, following the spate of five deaths in November 2013, they issued 14,000 fixed penalty notices for transgressions at major junctions in London—10,000 to vehicle drivers and 4,000 to cyclists. That demonstrates that there are drivers and cyclists who break the law.

However, what we need is enforcement. CTC makes the point that the reduction in the number of traffic officers in all constabularies across the country is moving in the wrong direction. As I mentioned earlier, cyclists are the most vulnerable. The Transport Committee’s third report of the Session, entitled “Cycling Safety”, makes recommendations for improving safety for cyclists.

Right hon. and hon. Members have made the case well for cycling and cycling safety. The Minister is very much pro-cycling. It is even more disappointing, therefore, that we have not heard a commitment on funding. The Prime Minister promised a cycling revolution and the Department for Transport is promising to support cycling, so No. 11 is the roadblock. Somehow we have to get underneath No. 11, turn the Chancellor around and then use the autumn statement and the Budget to commit to that funding. All parties can use their manifestos next year to commit funding for cycling, because without funding it simply will not happen.

1.52 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I begin by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to schedule this debate. It is the third such debate we have had, so it is now becoming an annual tradition. I understand that means it must now happen every year for ever, and I look forward to that. It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), who speaks persuasively, as ever, on this matter. It is also a pleasure to swap roles with the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), with whom I have worked on cycling for over four years now, along with all the other members of the all-party group. I pay particular tribute, as other Members have done, to Adam Coffman for his work promoting the benefits of cycling for transport, leisure and sport. I am delighted that our “Get Britain Cycling” report has been welcomed so widely, having been formally supported by the House last year and in the speeches we have heard today.

On Monday morning the traffic in Cambridge was atrocious. It was far worse than usual because it was raining and some of the people who normally cycle to work—although, far from all of them—decided to drive instead. The system simply could not cope with the added demand. Imagine what would happen if our current rate of cycling—in Cambridge, up to a third of trips for work or education are by bike—went down. We would have far worse congestion every single day. Imagine what would happen if we could boost the amount of cycling or walking. We would see greater benefits for those who drive.

When we talk about the benefits of cycling, we are talking about benefits not only for those of us who cycle, but everyone else. As James May from “Top Gear” has said:

“The benefits to driving if people ride bicycles is that there is more space for driving. I would say that the roads belong to everybody”.

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I do not know what Jeremy Clarkson’s response to that was, but I know that the president of the Automobile Association, Edmund King, has said that cycling investment

“would bring tangible business and economic benefits by reducing congestion, absenteeism, NHS costs and by producing a more creative and active work force”.

It is true that there are benefits for cyclists, and of course many people cycle, walk, drive and take trains and buses at different times, but cycling is also a reliable, cheap and fun way to get around. It keeps us healthier and is far easier to fit into a day than a trip to the gym.

There are also wider benefits, such as the environmental and economic benefits. John Allan, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, has told us that getting more people cycling would help

“both the health of the high street as well as the nation”.

There are also huge financial benefits, such as £128 million a year in reduced absenteeism, and a 20% increase in cycling levels could save a few hundred million pounds in reduced congestion and a slightly smaller amount of about £100 million through lower pollution levels.

There are massive benefits for health. Getting people cycling or walking has huge benefits for our NHS. If we get more people engaged in active transport, obesity levels go down, life expectancy goes up and pressures on the NHS go down. The recent study from Lovelace and Woodcock—the hon. Member for Dudley North referred to this—in Leeds and Cambridge respectively, estimated that if we achieved our “Get Britain Cycling” targets, we would save around 80,000 disability-adjusted life years per year in 2025, and about 300,000 per year by 2050. That is a huge factor. That is 30,000 years from reduced heart disease alone, and more from reduced strokes, diabetes and cancer. Let us not forget mental health, because cycling also reduces depression. That is how we get to figures that equate to somewhere between £2 billion and £6 billion a year in benefits by 2025. If we get to the Dutch or Danish level, that will equate to a benefit to the NHS of around £17 billion a year.

There is therefore a really strong case for investing in cycling. That is why we called for an investment of £10 per person per year, rising to £20. It seems a pretty easy case: invest half a billion pounds a year in England and get between £2 billion and £6 billion a year in health costs, plus billions in other benefits. That is why we have business support. John Cridland, director general of the CBI, has called for a

“major effort to expand a dedicated cycle network”.

It is not just a handful of people speaking about this. It seems obvious. The case has been made by so many organisations. I pay tribute to The Times for its “Cities fit for cycling” and its support for our inquiry and report. I also pay particular tribute to Chris Boardman, an excellent national cycling champion.

Why has it not happened? There has been some extra investment in this Parliament, which is welcome, even though it is in the form of specific pockets of money, rather than the sustained investment that is needed. The local sustainable transport fund has been helpful as far as it goes. However, our key call is for sustained investment. That is what we were looking for in the cycling delivery plan published this morning.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): Oxford, like Cambridge, is a very congested city. It is filled with cycling enthusiasts and many community

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groups that campaign for change in that area. Indeed, over 4,000 people signed the petition for the cycling route along the B4044. Does the hon. Gentleman share their concern that this is about not only the absolute amount of money available for investment, but ensuring that the money is accessible to community groups and local councils when they need it?

Dr Huppert: The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight that point, and indeed that cycle route, which I have been to see—I know how much it is needed, because it is not a very nice road otherwise. The money has to be available for community groups; it cannot simply be driven from the top down.

There are good things in the plan. There are some encouraging words and good proposals—solid stuff that responds to our recommendations. The Government’s ambition to double cycling by 2025 is welcome, although it does not go as far as we would like it to, or as Parliament has voted for. I welcome the Government’s statement of its commitment to giving people a realistic choice to cycle, which is an important principle.

However, the report does not provide the money needed to actually make a difference. It states:

“The government’s aspiration is that—working with local government, and businesses—we can together explore how we can achieve a minimum funding equivalent to £10 per person each year by 2020-21—and sooner if possible.”

That mentioned our starting figure of £10, but I am afraid that it is still pretty thin. It is an aspiration to explore funding, not even to ensure funding. We are not asking for much. The Department for Transport’s 2014-15 budget, counting revenue and capital together, comes to a total of £21.5 billion. Of course, much of that is accounted for, for example in schemes such as Crossrail, but £500 million is not a huge fraction of that and could make a huge difference to transport, health and the wider economy. It is a few per cent., or roughly on a par with the proportion of people who currently cycle, which is already too low. There is huge rail investment from this Government, which I welcome as the right thing to do, with billions of pounds properly invested, not just an aspiration to explore. There is £28 billion in road schemes—again, invested, not an aspiration to explore.

Jeremy Corbyn: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that some continental cities such as Basle and Copenhagen have very good interchange facilities between cyclists and railway stations; in Britain, the situation is awful to poor. Does he think that any plan has to include a serious plan about proper, secure cycle parking and more efficient use of cycle parking space at stations?

Dr Huppert: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. In Cambridge we are beginning work on a 3,000-place cycle park at the station because it is such an important thing to do, and the Government have supported that financially.