Examination of Witness (Questions 660
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
660. You would support the use of the funds
for that purpose?
(Ms Wallace) I think I have said all I can on it.
They are not funds I am responsible for, but the rules make it
perfectly possible for them to be spent on that.
661. What should be done to address the higher
than average levels of road casualties experienced by certain
ethnic and social groups?
(Ms Wallace) Again, we have not done the work so I
do not have the answer.
662. Can I give you a few examples? Research
by the DETR shows that Asian children, for example, are twice
as likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents as the average
child in the United Kingdom. Children in poorer social classes
are far more likely to be injured or killed by motorists. That
is an indication that there is some kind of relationship between
certain ethnic groups and also certain social groups and higher
levels of injury from accidents as a result of walking.
(Ms Wallace) I am certainly aware that there are higher
rates of road accidents amongst poorer groups. I do not know if
there is a separate ethnic minority effect or whether, if you
live in poverty, you would be more likely to live in an area where
there may be fast traffic or poor facilities or whatever. That
is one of the research questions we need to look at. In terms
of policy proposals, that is several months down the road.
663. It is something you intend to look at in
terms of your research and possibly, resulting from that, bring
forward some proposals?
(Ms Wallace) Over the next month, we will be deciding
the questions we need to answer but I cannot see any reason why
this would not be one of them.
664. Do you support calls for restriction of
traffic on residential roads to reduce speeds?
(Ms Wallace) Again, this is something on which we
do not have a policy yet because we are only starting our work.
I think all I can do is talk about the government's general policy
on home zones and things like that, where clearly there are experiments
665. Most of the areas where people do not want
to walk are perhaps on some of the badly maintained housing estates.
That is perhaps because there is insufficient money within the
housing revenue account to be able to maintain them properly.
Do you think local authorities will be able to get specific moneys
in regeneration to assist them in this task?
(Ms Wallace) I am not sure about your premise that
most of the areas people do not feel happy to walk in are badly
maintained housing estates. We do not yet know whether that is
true. That is something we will look into. We are bound to look
into issues of, where there are problems, what are they? Why are
they caused? If it is a funding problem, that is something we
are bound to look into.
666. Do you think there is a link between walking
and health in tackling social exclusion?
(Ms Wallace) I think it is well established there
667. If it is well established, what have you
been doing in your unit to develop that?
(Ms Wallace) We work on a project basis and this is
the first time we have been asked to look at transport, so we
are looking at it now.
668. You have been looking at urban renewal
policies. Have you not thought about this in that context?
(Ms Wallace) The government's approach to urban renewal
we have been involved in and we have been involved in doing things
such as creating the fund that I was just talking to Mr Donaldson
about, the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and the New Deal for Communities,
that gives quite a lot of flexibility at local level to spend
money on the five key goals of neighbourhood renewal, one of which
is health. There is quite a lot of flexibility about how to do
it. The Social Exclusion Unit has not come up with specific prescriptions
on that area, but there is a lot of flexibility in the general
framework, which I think is helpful.
669. Under that category of health in neighbourhood
renewal, what sort of things do you think you could contribute?
(Ms Wallace) Quite a lot is going on through the things
that the Department of Health is doingfor example, its
work on prevention and health inequalities, health improvement
programmes with local authorities. There is an awful lot going
on to promote walking. Whether it is enough or not I do not know
and I suspect that is one of the things you are going to comment
on in your inquiry.
670. Are you saying that this is something you
have not thought about when you were making your own contribution
to neighbourhood renewal?
(Ms Wallace) We have not been asked to look at walking
specifically. We have only been asked to look at transport specifically
now, so we are doing the work now.
671. Have you thought about this despite not
being specifically asked to think about it?
(Ms Wallace) We work on the things that we are asked
to and we identify the barriers that come up in that.
672. You are not forbidden to look at other
things, are you?
(Ms Wallace) Our time is tightly constrained by the
projects we are asked to do by the PM.
673. If we take the question of health, you
are concerned about health amongst people who are socially excluded
and yet we know that if people walk substantially more each day
it has a dramatic improvement on their health, particularly in
reducing heart disease. If you are looking at health in people
who are socially excluded and tend to have a higher incidence
of heart disease than most groups, ought it not to have been one
of the things and is not prescribing walking cheaper than a lot
of other treatments you might give for heart disease?
(Ms Wallace) The areas the unit focuses on are ones
that involve several departments and where work is not already
going on. We are not asked to duplicate the entire work of the
Department of Health or the entire work of the Department for
Chairman: This is just an example of where there
is a cross-department, where there is a health element and where
there is an environment element. Surely, it is one of the areas
that you should have been looking at?
Mr Donohoe: Just say yes.
674. There is a difficulty, is there not, because
the government got a report from Lord Rodgers which talked in
great detail about the interrelation of many strands of government
policy. You presumably are in a position where, as a unit, you
are going to look across. This is presumably your function. You
are telling us, "I do not double guess the work of an individual
department. That must mean, by implication, that my role is to
look at the role of different departments, to add together where
they overlap and exchange and where they are not doing the work."
Alternatively, you are telling us that you are entirely project
based, that you operate in a vacuum, that you do not look at what
the departments are doing and you do something on your own. That
cannot be true, can it?
(Ms Wallace) There is a false dichotomy there. We
are project based. We are asked to look at issues that are related
to social exclusion and that have proved resistant either to the
work of one department or to the work of several departments working
675. In other words, you are looking right the
way across the board at the work of various departments. You are
not seeking to duplicate their individual work; you are seeking
to work out where the gaps are and what has been done about them.
The point that you are being asked is a very straightforward one.
What consideration therefore do you give when you are beginning
on a task like transport to the implications of something like
walking on health and the environment?
(Ms Wallace) We work on a project base on projects
that are chosen by the Prime Minister following consultation with
colleagues and they are publicly announced. It is a matter of
public record what we are working on on any occasion. I think
what several of you are saying is that walking is something that
may have a bearing on neighbourhood renewal and on urban policy.
Interestingly, I have appeared before this Committee before on
that subject and I am not sure that it came up in our discussions
then so perhaps we are both realising that it is something that
needs to be built into that.
676. What we are saying is that walking is related
to health. Health is related to social exclusion and neighbourhood
renewal is trying to deal with all of those things. We are trying
to find out if you have thought about this in making your comments
on neighbourhood renewal. It appears not.
(Ms Wallace) We looked at the issue of walking and
whether people are able and feel comfortable to walk around neighbourhoods.
That came up in all sorts of ways. There were all sorts of recommendations
that had a bearing on this and removed some of the barriers. For
example, one of the policy action teams on neighbourhood renewal
promoted the idea of neighbourhood wardens to reduce crime so
that people feel safer walking round these neighbourhoods. I do
not know whether anyone actually identified that as a pro-walking
policy, but it clearly is. I am not saying it has not been thought
about; what I am saying is it has not been picked out in an individual
way that we are now picking out transport.
677. In any of the other studies that you have
already carried out, have you identified a linkage between social
exclusion and the lack of access to a car?
(Ms Wallace) We have identified the fact that, for
a whole set of reasons one of which may be access to a car, people
who are socially excluded find it difficult to get to services.
678. You have not finished this study yet but
can you foresee a situation where your study might recommend that
access to a car is imperative for addressing social exclusion?
(Ms Wallace) I cannot guess at what answers we are
going to have. We are going to do the work first and come up with
679. Let us assume that perhaps the report did
want to recommend that. How do you work as a unit in terms of
reconciling that sort of recommendation with perhaps other government
policies in terms of reducing the amount of road traffic?
(Ms Wallace) Any recommendations that the Social Exclusion
Unit comes up with will be backed by evidence and will have some
kind of effective business case attached to them. What problem
do we think we are solving? Why do we think that problem matters?
What do we think needs to be done? What are the pros and cons?
That is the stage, several months down the line, when we need
to look at the interactions between this and other government
policies. What happens is we debate it with other departments
and, if there is still disagreement, we debate it at ministerial