WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Mr Andrew F Bennett, in the Chair Mr Hilary Benn Mr Crispin Blunt Mr Tom Brake Christine Butler Mr Brian H Donohoe Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody Mrs Louise Ellman Mr Bill O'Brien Miss Anne McIntosh _________ EXAMINATION OF WITNESSES RT HON LORD MACDONALD OF TRADESTON CBE, a Member of the House of Lords, Minister for Transport, MS BEVERLY HUGHES, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, MR ANDREW WHYBROW, Head of Charging and Local Transport Division, MR PETER MATTHEW, Urban Policy Division, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, examined. Chairman 490. Lord Macdonald, can I welcome you to the Committee. I hope you had a pleasant stroll across from the Cabinet meeting this morning. Can I ask you to identify your team for us, please? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Thank you, Mr Chairman. My name is Gus Macdonald, I am Minister for Transport at the DETR. I have with me Beverly Hughes, who is the Minister very much involved in local government and regeneration. On my right is Andrew Whybrow, who is the head of our charging and local transport section in the department, and also Peter Matthew, who is the head of urban environment and regeneration. 491. Thank you very much. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction or are you happy to go straight into questions? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Just a few brief words, Chairman. I am very grateful to be here this morning and for the Committee for arranging this session. I should say, in opening, that as well as my ministerial interest in the subject of walking I speak as a former president of Paths For All in Scotland, which was dedicated to developing walking opportunities around the towns and cities there. I think it is very important that in addition to the access that people have to the hills, the moors or the mountains we try to make sure that there are opportunities at an urban level as well, because it is surprising how close one can be to the countryside and yet have very little opportunity to walk. I know you have got a much broader perspective this morning and we are aware that inside the grand plans that we have produced there is always the danger that walking might be taken for granted for very obvious reasons. Sadly, walking has been in decline most obviously because most of us now have cars and people chose to drive short distances when it is quicker and more comfortable much of the time, although obviously not as good for exercise. The second reason is just the lack of choice; that people have a dependence on the car, for example, if they are working miles away from home and it is the only practical way to get there. The Government is committed to trying to increase choice, and that is very much the message of our ten- year plan for transport. We want to make it clear that we are not anti-car, we would like to see more people who need cars being able afford cars, but we want to try and follow the example that we see on the continent, where they have a higher car ownership per head but people use their cars less. We want to try and make sure that what we do in Britain as a policy means that people feel able to use their cars less. We are encouraging development, of course, in built-up areas and brown-field sites to give people a chance to live within walking distance of a whole range of employment, not to mention their shopping, their entertainment opportunities and so on. So we are making that massive investment in public transport - œ180 billion in the ten-year transport plan. That, in turn, has been based on a White Paper on transport in 1998 and subsequent documents that have emerged from that, such as the document that we produced Encouraging Walking and, most recently, we have had our local transport plans which we announced in December - œ8.4 billion worth of investment at local authority level for the local authorities in England. So I hope that shows, Mr Chairman, the seriousness with which we take the subject of walking. 492. Perhaps it would not be amiss for you to emphasise how much pleasure people can get from walking in towns, with the problems of getting into the countryside. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I would very much emphasise that, and I was pleased to see that in London there has been talk of trying to develop clearer urban routes which would take people through the most interesting areas and give people a sense that they can walk, maybe, much further than they would have anticipated. As I say, my previous experience in Scotland was very much geared to that, with the Paths For All movement there. For very little investment you can produce splendid results for people who are often most in need of the exercise or the ability to get out and about. I think it is one of those areas where because it does not require, perhaps, very large capital investment it is never properly quantified, and in our local transport plans I was delighted that through the advice we have given councils we had got back from them walking plans for every area of England. The difficulty is - and it is something that I hope our methodology will master - how you can take all these smaller schemes and quantify them in a way that is so much easier when you are dealing with big capital investment projects. Mrs Ellman 493. Lord Macdonald, the Government certainly is encouraging walking; within its advice note to local government it encourages local authorities to do that, but yet the Government is also apparently saying that walking will have a negligible impact on congestion, mileage and pollution. Why do you think that is? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) On the arithmetic that we are given, with the percentage of short journeys that people make, the great majority of people already walk them. Therefore, what you could achieve in persuading them to walk a bit more when it is under a mile would be pretty marginal in the great scheme of things. 494. Are you sure that that is the case for all types of walking in all areas, or is that just something restricted ---- (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I stress that I am very much in favour of it and we would want to encourage it anyway, it is just that we have not been able to make the arithmetic add up in the way that gives us a serious impact on some of the bigger figures that we are talking about. It does not, however, detract from the desirability of bringing any of the measures that would help, because we are not so target-driven that we would, as I say, not introduce the necessary investment or reforms for walking simply because it does not help us meet the target. Walking is a target in itself. 495. In some European cities half of the journeys are actually on foot. Do you think we could reach that in this country? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I think we could but I am suspicious of easy comparisons with what happens elsewhere in Europe, because when you look at Europe - and we have got the Commission for Integrated Transport looking at best practice across Europe - you must be conscious that you are looking at a thousand years of a different history, different cultures, towns that are built differently and, therefore, very often, admirable though their practice might be in these European towns, it is very difficult to see it being easily imported to the United Kingdom. 496. We have had evidence put that some car journeys are much longer than the equivalent walking would be. Would that not suggest that your original assumption is wrong or needs re-examination? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I am very happy to re-examine any of the assumptions that we have made. I am not conscious of this having been raised as an issue with us before, but if there is anything that we can do to change the guidance that we offer to local authorities in the context of the local transport plans I would be very happy to do that. We have stressed to them that while we have created both the ten-year framework for the overall transport investment and there is a five-year framework for local government, we wish to be flexible by the year and make sure that local authorities feel able to flex those plans. Obviously, this is one of the easier areas in which to introduce change in the short-term. 497. So this is something you continue to monitor? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Indeed, very much so. Chairman 498. What about the school run? Surely there are an awful lot of children who are transported to school relatively short distances. We all know how congestion in towns goes down with the school holidays. Are not a lot of those journeys ones you could encourage both parents and children to walk? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Indeed, Mr Chairman, and again we have been working with schools and local authorities to try and create local school plans for travel. It is a sad fact that parents now, for understandable reasons, feel more insecure about their children walking to school. You will all know that our record as far as casualties are concerned with children walking is relatively higher than other countries in Europe. Although overall we are near the top of the league for the safety of children killed or injured in road accidents in this country, at the pedestrian level, again because of the way Britain is built, in part, and also the way that children, perhaps, are trained in this country, we have got a slightly higher casualty rate than in some other countries. When you say "slightly higher" you are talking in terms of over 100 children killed every year, so it is a very serious matter. We are working with the schools. We are looking, of course, as well as at the walking side of this, the possibility of school bus services being improved. I know that Surrey, for instance, have put very ambitious plans in their local transport plan for us. Most recently the Deputy Prime Minister announced that First Group would be piloting the American style yellow buses to take children to school. Again, if we can construct ways in which children walk or cycle to school then we will certainly encourage that. We have set up the mechanisms through which that can be achieved. Mr Brake 499. Just on that point. Can I just have you confirm, Lord Macdonald, that the effort the Government is making in promoting safe routes to schools is purely for safety reasons because you have already stated that there is no point really in promoting walking because it will have no significant impact on congestion? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Clearly most of these issues must be treated at a local level so through the local transport plan it is for the local authority to decide what impact it would have. It may be in a local area, yes it would have an impact on congestion. Clearly with the school run that has been a cause of particular congestion in certain periods of the day. We are committed to reducing the present level of car use for the journey to school. We want to see greater choice in the way that children travel, whether it is through the school bus, through cycling or whether it is through walking. We set up the School Travel Advisory Group - STAG - in 1998 to find ways of encouraging walking and cycling and we are working to implement those recommendations which were published in January of last year. I think the local transport plans reflect the activity that we have put into that. 500. In fact what you are saying is it could have a significant impact but only at a local level? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes but it could creep, one would hope, at a national level though I think it is too early to speculate on how that might take place. Certainly at a local level it is for the local authority to make those decisions based on the local transport plans. Mr O'Brien 501. Minister, the Government Ten Year Transport Plan is welcome because it does set some objectives but it does not go by without criticism. Professor Goodwin, the chairman of the panel of independent advisers, does argue that pedestrianisation and small schemes to promote walking could reduce congestion more cost effectively than the Government's roads programme. What is your view? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I am very happy to talk with Phil Goodwin about that. He has been a valued adviser to the Department in the past. We have our concerns about his methodology and his conclusions on the impact that the Ten Year Plan would have on congestion overall. I have sympathy with the view that says it is difficult as yet to measure the impact that a lot of small schemes will have simply because we are probably more inclined to try and measure the value for money on large schemes through the methodology that is available to the Treasury. So you can look at a Channel Tunnel Rail Link and make a decision on that investment but it is more difficult if you are faced with, say, as we were in the local transport plans 8,500 safety related schemes on the roads from local authorities. I think there are about 4,500 kilometres of new bus lanes being put in and so on. When you get down to the smaller schemes it is more difficult to work out just what the general impact of all those schemes will be but I agree with the implication of your question that it is something we should try very hard to measure because my instinct, as I suspect your's is, is that there is a lot of good that can be done by small investment, it is just more difficult to measure. 502. Following up what the Chairman said to your comments about walking in the countryside. There are a lot of people who do not have the opportunity to walk in the countryside so their means of walking and exercising is in the urban areas. Now what is requested in many areas is more pedestrianisation so the shoppers can walk freely, young mothers can get their exercise walking without fear of traffic and pollution. What are your views on that? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I very much welcome the kind of initiatives that we have seen coming through in the five year local transport plans. I think that the process that we have set in train here of allowing councils much more freedom to dictate their own priorities, in virtually doubling the budget from the œ650 million a year that we had a year ago heading up towards about œ1.3 billion by the end of the SR2000 period means that there is far more money to spend but the local authorities now are in a process which we can monitor at a departmental level, we can also share it across authorities if we see particularly good ideas emerging. We have been encouraging them to develop skills in areas of transport planning, for instance, which I think is lifting the general quality of what councils are able to do and it is also a responsive and I hope flexible process for them. I believe we will be able to get a much better measure year by year now of how well we are doing. If it turns out that an accretion of small schemes is delivering a lot of value in particular areas then we will be able to get that message round to other councils very quickly. Chairman 503. You have told us the problem of measuring the small schemes but the Government actually has plumped for large schemes, presumably because they are easy to measure rather than they are actually value for money? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) They would not be pursued if they were not value for money. Clearly there is a great importance in the expansion, for instance, of our railway system where you have seen the Strategic Rail Authority yesterday announcing its ambitions for œ60 billion worth of investment in our rail network across the next ten years. Now some of those schemes, like the West Coast Mainline Scheme, are very large indeed, that is the biggest railway engineering scheme in Europe. The values of those schemes are, of course, measurable and very thoroughly debated across the Government but we are aware, also, because we work very closely on a piece of joined up Government with our colleagues in other areas of the DETR that the small schemes can have enormous impact at the local level. If I could perhaps bring in my fellow Minister here, she is much better informed on some of these areas than I am. (Ms Hughes) I just want to comment, Chairman, on a number of the questions that have arisen so far because although understandably the Committee wants to question Lord Macdonald on the Transport Policy issues and the relevance of walking to that and whether or not that particular shaft of policy is promoting walking, I would just like to say that this is a very important issue for other aspects of the Department's work whether or not it can be demonstrated in terms of beneficial impacts on macro transport policy so to speak, the whole urban policy arena, regeneration of towns and cities, all that we are doing there through planning. 504. We will fairly quickly want to come on to those issues. (Ms Hughes) Fine. I just want to say it is not only whether it is important in terms of touching some of the macro transport performance measures, it is also important for other things. Mrs Dunwoody 505. If a Government takes a decision on its budget that is what influences policy. That is what we are asking. If you decide to put a lot of money back into the road schemes when previously it has been an agreed policy decision to support things like railways, for precisely the reason that you have put forward, then if you suddenly reinstate the large road programme not surprisingly people will take that as a clear indication of your attitude. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes but I hope that what people will take from the monies that have already been announced is the fact that only about six per cent of our Ten Year Plan monies are going to new road schemes. If you take just the local transport plans, the œ8.4 billion then under a billion of that was going into new road schemes, œ4.4 billion was going into public transport and of the œ4 billion going into roads œ3 billion of it was going into the upgrading and maintenance of local roads. Chairman 506. On those figures, can you tell us how much is going into encouraging walking? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I could not. I could not, Chairman, because it is not quantified in that way coming out of the local authorities. I do believe that we should be working in the years ahead to try and quantify not just walking but some of the other areas of investment at local level because it is very important that now we have created this framework for the first time that we are able to locate inside that framework just how well the smaller schemes are working at local level. Mr O'Brien 507. A great deal of emphasis has been placed on county wide transport plans. What guidance is given from the DETR to help local authorities collectively within the country to provide more walking facilities, more walking policies and better pedestrianisation? What advice is given to the local people? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Could I perhaps ask Andrew Whybrow just to come in here with the detail of it because he is in the front line of dealing with the authorities. (Mr Whybrow) Thank you, Minister. We gave local authorities advice on all aspects of local transport plans around about early last year. That included advice to include in the local transport plan a local strategy for encouraging walking. It was one of a number of aspects of local transport plans where we said we will look for certain things to be included as a minimum requirement and further things as to what would be in a good local transport plan. We issued further advice in the form of a leaflet on elements of a good local walking strategy. We have not given a great deal of advice on detailed design matters but the Institution of Highways and Transportation has published a fairly extensive document aimed at professionals which does that. Miss McIntosh 508. Minister, in PPG13 the Government has said that it wishes to reduce the need to travel and yet the Government in its Ten Year Plan has set specific targets for increased travelling, particularly a 50 per cent increase in the use of rail, a ten per cent increase in bus travel, and a 100 per cent increase in light rail. How do you see these two as being complementary? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In the sense of rail and bus being complementary? 509. No, the fact that in PPG13 you have said that the Government wants to reduce the need to travel and yet in the Ten Year Plan you have set targets to increase each mode of travel. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Well, we believe that the impulse for growth which will come from a stable and growing economy will clearly require increased movement of people to jobs. If you take, for instance, the increase in travel that we have had on our railways, that is not unconnected with the fact that this Government has put an extra million people back into work and they have to get to their work of a morning and get back in the evening. We are dealing here with the problems of growth right across the transport sector. I am delighted to say that we have even got modest growth beginning to develop in the bus sector now. I would think that these two are not mutually incompatible. We obviously want to try through planning and through urban design, as my colleague, Ms Hughes, could explain, to ensure that people have less need to travel, whether it is to shops, to jobs or to entertainment, through our long-term planning ambitions. We wish to ensure that as people do travel more, and with affluence clearly they will travel more both for leisure as for work, that we have the expanding infrastructure of transport in this country, in rail and bus and elsewhere, that will cope with that. 510. In the Government's flagship council, City of York Council, there is a problem in increasing the number of passengers travelling by bus because they cannot agree to give priority to certain bus routes. Is the Government doing anything to encourage this because if you want to see a true integrated transport system then you will be encouraging people to walk to the bus stop and get on board the bus to take them to the train station to catch the train? Is this not in jeopardy if you cannot prioritise bus routes to cut through the congestion? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In general, of course, I would agree and I would hope that the quality partnerships that we have set up for public transport in the Transport Act, which went through in November of last year, will encourage greater use of buses. We already see signs that bus passengership is up ten, 20 per cent in those areas where the partnerships are now working. We will be encouraging that. Anything that we can do to encourage bus use I believe is welcome. You may have seen the announcement last week when we ensured that the fuel duty rebates to public service buses was increased and we are looking again at other aspects of bus usage and coach usage in particular to see how we can improve that too. 511. Are you concerned that targets that you have set may steal from each other? The purpose of our inquiry is really to encourage more people to walk and there is the possibility that you are encouraging more people to cycle or to take public transport and you are discouraging people from walking. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) My belief is with the inherent growth that we would all hope for in the economy we will see more journeys. Also, with the great predominance of car usage in this country there clearly is scope for people to go in large numbers onto other forms of travel, whether it is on to the bus or whether it is on to their bikes or whether it is on to their two legs. Christine Butler 512. Is there a reason why Government on the one hand informs government officers and highway authorities and so on very well about its intentions and about what it expects of them and about the parameters of putting in good local transport bids in local transport plans which include walking, cycling and all of that, but on the other hand says very little to the public? Do you not think that the public have a role to play here in encouraging the kinds of measures which you might expect coming from local authorities? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I agree of course, but I would be surprised if local government itself was not trying to involve its electors in that process. As you say, we have put very comprehensive information out on what our schemes are, that is the guidance on the full local transport plans and the walking strategy that we have evolved. 513. But does every councillor get that? Would it not be a good idea to make sure that the bare bones of what this issue is all about in terms of sustainable strategies are understood and we should involve local people directly? I do not see it on the ground quite frankly, ordinary people on the street do not understand what any of this is about. I wondered, Mr Whybrow, in the work that you do with local authorities, county and metropolitan authorities in particular, whether any attention is paid to disseminating the main thrust of this to local populations and whether any monitoring activity ever takes place and whether that is happening at local level? Then I want to come on to a connected question. (Mr Whybrow) We are certainly asking local authorities to monitor the success or otherwise of their policies at local level. We are expecting them to keep an eye on what is happening to walking. One thing the Minister did not mention was the Are You Doing Your Bit Campaign, which is the Government communicating directly with the people particularly through advertising. One of the elements in that campaign is the desirability of walking rather than cars for short journeys. Christine Butler: The next question is to either ---- Chairman: Let us have the question, let them choose who answers it. Christine Butler 514. Fine. Okay, then. It is to do with health impacts of walking or not walking. There is concern that the health benefits that would encourage walking are not being fully taken into account. (Ms Hughes) In terms of the whole public health emphasis of Government that is something that is recognised but, more specifically, in terms of our brief, we have given local authorities a very broad remit, as you will know, in terms of pursuing anything that promotes the well-being of people in local communities, socially, economically or environmentally, but also give them the mechanism to pursue that. I think that is recognised implicitly in all of the strands of urban policy regeneration and in what my department is trying to do to improve the quality of life for people in various kinds of communities. Chairman 515. Do you really think the general public understands that inertia and not actually having physical activity brings early deaths quicker in this country than smoking cigarettes? (Ms Hughes) My own view is that probably there are different levels of understanding about that, as always, in different parts of communities, in different parts of the country and in different social groups. I would accept - and I am speaking as a lay person rather than in terms of policy - that we probably need to do more to get that message across to those people who actually need to pay more attention to their health, because they suffer various disadvantages. Certainly in terms of initiatives that my department has been responsible for, such as the new deal for community regeneration, and initiatives generally we cannot fail to notice the situation of people in those communities. They have a higher incidence of morbidity, a higher incidence of mortality and, clearly, anything, including walking - and also diet and other factors - that is going to improve their potential for literally quality as well as length of life is something that we would want to pursue. Mrs Dunwoody 516. But you do not control their diet and you do control their transport. That is, actually, quite a fundamental difference. (Ms Hughes) I disagree that we control their transport. I do not think we can order people to walk. What I think we can do is to facilitate walking for a whole range of environmental, regeneration, urban policy and transport measures. We then have to get the message across to people that where they have a choice of walking, walking is good for them as well as, very often, good for their local economies, too. Mr Brake 517. If I paraphrase, Lord Macdonald, what you said earlier, you stated that by tackling the school run, by promoting walking and, perhaps, school buses, it could have a significant impact locally and reduce congestion, and you thought this could trickle down at a national level. Why is there no national walking strategy to pull this together? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I think because it is such a matter of fact business it would seem to me, perhaps, to be overblown to say that we must have a national walking strategy. I believe that it is at local authority level that you will get the best support for this and the best targeted advice. I do not see, really, what will be gained by having a national strategy on walking. I think it is far better to put it in the context of the investment priorities of the local councils and make sure that they are better funded than they have ever been in the past, which is our ambition. 518. Why a national cycling strategy? What is the difference? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because a cycling strategy, I believe, is a mode of transport; you get on a machine, you need rules of the road and you need green lanes painted in the road at some considerable cost. It is quite different from ---- 519. Surely, for walking you need pavements to walk on. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Absolutely, and at a local level that is fine. I do not share the belief that somehow we would transform either individual activity or local authority activity if we had a shining national target. 520. But you do believe that for cycling? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Yes, I think it is out of scale. Mr Donohoe 521. If you mean what you say, why do you not ring-fence? The Chancellor is now demonstrating that he can ring-fence some aspects of education by passing it directly to schools. Why do you not give that opportunity to local authorities, to say "If you spend money on walking areas I will ring-fence money, but it is not to be used for any other purpose"? As it stands, local authorities would not do that. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because I think it would go against the whole thrust of policy in terms of funding local government. I would perhaps hand it over to my colleague to take that in more detail, but if walking why not ring-fence everywhere else in local investment? That would undermine, surely, the responsibility we are trying to pass back to the local level. (Ms Hughes) Local authorities would have a very different view. They already feel that we have gone too far in this year's settlement in terms of the proportion of total money that has been ring-fenced, which is about 10 per cent of their total settlement. They think that is far enough if not too far. So local authorities would not thank us for that. I think, secondly, it underlines what we are trying to get them to achieve, which is to take the lead role in developing priorities and strategies with their local communities. If government starts ring-fencing all of those types of money then clearly it constrains the potential for them to do that. 522. You are not promoting the idea. (Ms Hughes) We are promoting ---- 523. You are not doing it because it is clear, on the basis of the evidence we have been taking, that there is not any particular promotion of walking within cities and urban areas. There is no promotion of it. In order to be able to achieve that, surely, the one way to do it is to say "If you want to promote this locally there is a bag of money for you. If you do not do that, you will never get it and it will not happen". (Ms Hughes) I disagree on two counts, Mr Chairman. I do not agree that there is not any promotion of walking. There is a whole raft of policies we are encouraging local authorities, particularly, but also others, to include in their plans and in their visions, whether it is transport regeneration or whatever - and also through the planning system. Secondly, I do disagree with my friend; to start dictating on every single area is counter-productive at the end of the day, but it is also cutting across the principles of directly elected local government who are responsible to their own communities for setting priorities and for allocating resources. Mr Brake 524. In your opening statement, Lord Macdonald, you said that the Government is not anti-car. A number of our witnesses have suggested that the reason you have not brought forward a national walking strategy is because you are desperate to be seen to be not anti-car. Do you agree with these witnesses who hold that belief? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I think that is utterly wrong. As I said, I do not see that having a national strategy would have any great effect on individual behaviour - and this is mainly about individual behaviour, whether it is people staggering down to the pub or going off for a walk. Mr Blunt 525. How many DETR staff are there whose primary responsibility is walking policy? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) About a dozen, but my colleague might be able to be more precise. (Mr Whybrow) For walking and cycling together. 526. A dozen? (Mr Whybrow) Precisely, it is 11. 527. Would you say that the number of civil servants in charge of walking policy, including research, monitoring and integration, is insufficient, generous or about right? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I suspect it is about right, Mr Chairman, because most of us know how to do it. I am not being facetious there, I just think you can therefore take a lot for granted when it comes to walking. What I am more concerned about is where we get the money to pass on to the local authorities, with the right guidance, and how they might see best ways of spending it. As I say, I do not think motivation at a local level requires a whole band of civil servants to tell people to get out and walk a bit more. 528. How much money will be spent on (a) promoting walking and (b) roads under the ten-year transport plan? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) By promotion do you mean in publicity? 529. To encourage walking, which could mean, presumably, improving anything from promotion itself to also providing facilities to enable people to walk safely through towns. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) In England it is whatever proportion of the œ8.4 billion the local authorities think appropriate. 530. You told us in evidence shortly before how those proportions are going to break down. You said there will be 1 billion on new roads, 4.4 billion on public transport, 3 billion on maintenance of the existing road network. That would not seem to leave terribly much for much discretion by local authorities. You appear to know what they are going to do already. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) You have, inside the context of 4 billion spent on roads, the ability of local authorities to decide whether they have new lighting plans or whether they have new pavements. 531. Given the state of roads in my neck of the woods, for example, and the fact that we have been waiting for a Reigate Relief Road since it was raised by my predecessor in his maiden speech in 1974, it would seem that that is not enough money to meet the backlog of roads, let alone extra expenditure on walking. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We certainly inherited a dreadful backlog in terms of poor maintenance of local roads, but we have apportioned œ30 billion in the ten-year plan to bring those local roads up to standard, and the œ8.4 billion for the first tranche of local authority moneys is, in a sense, the down-payment on that. I do not know whether you live in a Labour, Conservative or Liberal-Democratic area, but I am sorry to hear about the dereliction of your local roads, and I hope this Government policy will help better fund it. 532. This is, in a sense, a reflection of the politics of it. We can get into an interesting discussion about the politics of the money spent on roads, not least the cancellation of road schemes when you came into office in 1997. There are enormous sums of money involved. Why is it that walking appears to have such a low priority in terms of both expenditure and policy input, given its importance in the overall scheme of transport as opposed to roads? Do you think the balance is right, or do you think there really is an issue here? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) To repeat what I hope I made plain earlier, I have an open mind on how this money should be apportioned. I recognise that in the first instance it is for the local authorities to make those decisions. I hope as they report back on their progress we will become better informed. If there is a change in the balance of investment in favour of walking that can be recommended I would very readily help to do that right across England. 533. I think it would come as a surprise to local authorities that only ten per cent of the money that is allocated to them is ring-fenced? (Ms Hughes) No, that is about the figure generally. 534. That is ring-fenced for special schemes, what they have discretion over in terms of their expenditure is a pretty minute portion in the end, given the responsibility laid on them by government? (Ms Hughes) No, that is not true. Clearly they have some statutory responsibilities, but in the overall scheme of things it is a matter for local authorities how they allocate the vast majority of the resources that they get from government. 535. It is not a reflection of a rather sad state of affairs that local authorities are expecting a strong lead from the centre in terms of targets for policy, guidance evaluation, best value and resource distribution. Do you accept that that is the case, they are looking for that leadership from the centre? It may be regrettable that they are, but do you accept that that is the case? (Ms Hughes) I accept that in terms of local government reforming modernisation there is now a level of performance indication across a whole range of policies that we expect local authorities to try and meet. We are also encouraging them to set their own local targets for locally determined priorities, that is clearly where a focus on walking in the context of the wider strategies that an individual local authority might have for regeneration and for fulfilling their well being in power would come in. 536. Coming to the final point on transport targets, why has the Government not adopted targets based on modal share, as happens in Germany? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We have gone mode by mode as you know. In buses, for instance, we are looking at a 10 per cent increase in the number of people travelling by bus. If you take rail freight, for instance, we are looking for rail freight to increase its modal share. Chairman 537. Why not give the same challenge to walkers? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Because, Chairman, to repeat, I do not think it is meaningful if the Government announce that we want everyone in Britain to walk another 17.5 yards a day. I do not think that it connects at that level, if there was a government demand, because this is a personal activity. It is much better to give the money to the local authorities and let them create the conditions in which their local people might choose to walk. Mr Blunt 538. There are some who say that the average number of trips per person per day has remained constant for several centuries. I am including the average amount of time people spend travelling, at an average of one hour a day. I have no idea whether the academic research that supports that is sustainable or not. The people who advise this Committee and have expertise in this area maintain that. Therefore, if you have a modal system, as they do in Germany, and if you increase your target for walking you should then see a corresponding decrease elsewhere. Do you think this idea has merit? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It has a logic to it, but I do not think it is a logic that would necessarily apply to the complexities of transport in Britain which, no doubt, is very different from transport in Germany for all sorts of historical reasons. I find it extraordinary that if a couple of centuries ago, given the profound changes in the way that people work and live, their transport needs were in any way similar. I would be very happy to look at any historical research that you can offer. While I find these historical or international comparisons of some interest they are not really central to our considerations. Mr Benn 539. In answer to an earlier question, Lord Macdonald, you talked about the difficulties in trying to quantify expenditure on walking. If a local authority spends money on a 20 mile per hour home zone, would you agree with me that that is an expenditure on encouraging walking because more people might go walking. Would you accept that argument? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I accept it. I think it is a very interesting example because it raises the question of how you measure, for instance, the nine pilot schemes we have at the moment, how many houses are in each of them; how much money is spent on each scheme. You can come up with an average of œ1,000 per home in an area for the introduction of a home zone scheme. Would you then be confident rolling that out across the country and saying, if instead of nine we had 900 or 9,000 or 90,000 such schemes what would the total cost be. Once you start getting into the process you can begin to quantify the investment required and, indeed, the benefits that would be gained from it. I hope that the framework that we have created for the local transport plans would now allow us to do that for the first time. 540. Would you accept that part of the problem is that a lot of people, a lot of us, have built life-styles on particular forms of transport and it is the lifestyles that determines it, you referred to people having to have their cars to get to work. Let us take a practical example, people who go for a weekly shop to the supermarket, for picking the food you do not need a car but to get it home you do. I am interested in the extent to which the two bits of Department could link together on this. For example, why could the Government not say in relation to new supermarket developments - I am not talking about out of town - "You can have it, provided you offer to every shopper a home delivery service, which means they can walk to and from it, pick their food, go home and then the food would be delivered later and they would not have to take their car". Is that not an example of the kind of way in which if the Department links together we can address people's lifestyle needs, which can then give them a greater choice about the mode of transport they pick for a particular activity? (Ms Hughes) I agree with you about that. I do not think at the moment in law we can require supermarkets to offer a home delivery service, it does not fall within what would be material planning consideration. There are other means by which we can prevent that, I agree. In terms of the general point you are making. I am very concerned about promoting walking from a whole variety of points of view, in terms of protecting and enhancing our town centres and in terms of helping the process of regeneration of disadvantaged communities, in particular walking is a key issue, and the extent to which through transport policies and urban and regeneration policies and planning policies we can integrate and create a fit that is going in that direction. That is very important. Mean of the things we are trying to do in terms of developing town centres and city centres depend on creating a kind of policy environment in which walking is going to be the first choice and, therefore, walking itself is a fundamental importance to getting the most out of the kind of policies that we are trying to help local authorities to pursue. There is a kind of reciprocal relationship really. We also need to encourage walking to actually get the maximum in terms of regeneration and sustainability of our towns and cities. 541. I recognise we could not do that under the current planning regulations, but planning regulations develop over time to meet, broadly, social objectives. There is a clear fit between planning and transport here. Do you think that as a practical example is one that we might need to consider in the future in certain circumstances in order to try and do something about the issue which is the subject of this inquiry. (Ms Hughes) We are trying do that and we are willing to look at any other additional measures or any other additional means by which we can support what we are trying to do across planning urban policy regeneration and transport. I think there is a real reciprocal relationship here. Walking is a good thing and we want our policy to promote it. If we can get people walking more we are going to get more out of those policies, more benefit to people in towns and cities than we would otherwise. 542. And yet would you not accept that if it is about giving people the choice which allows them to pick a different mode of transport, we have to make sure that we offer choice rather than just encouragement? (Ms Hughes) We do. We have to offer not only choice but in order to make walking the choice we have to pay attention to the kind of factors that deter people from walking at the moment; street paving and the quality of pavements, the sense with which people feel a degree a safety and security, the attractiveness of the environment, the ease with which they as pedestrians can move about that environment. I am quite encouraged in some of our cities where we are seeing the development of a great deal of practised wisdom about how to do that better. I know Manchester very well and Leeds too, but in the smaller towns we are also seeing that and we do need to promote it. There are signs that it is not just about transport and transport money, there is a whole raft of environmental streetscape issues at that level that we need to pay attention to because that will encourage --- Chairman: I am getting rather conscious that if we are going to complete all the issues we want to raise we need slightly shorter answers. Anne McIntosh? Miss McIntosh 543. In its staggered pedestrian crossing memo the Department said this: "A straight crossing, even with a central refuge, is legally a single crossing. A staggered crossing is two separate crossings." Why, Minister, do we need two separate crossings when one will do? And why do we have guard rails to the extent we have in this country when nobody else in the world seems to have them and how much do they cost when they appear to be the biggest barrier to pedestrians? As to safety of pedestrians, I will be very honest with you, Chairman, I tend to walk round them or over them rather than waiting where I should do. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Do not let me catch you at it! Mrs Dunwoody 544. Stand outside the House of Commons and watch every Member of Parliament cross diagonally to avoid the staggered crossing between here and Millbank. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) We can all join together in my campaign to get Ministers to belt up in the back of their official cars. Chairman 545. We would prefer to see Ministers walking! (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) If I can say, Chairman, you can see some instances where it does seem sensible given the traffic flow (and you mentioned Whitehall) where you can see very large groups of people and a very wide street to stop at the middle, regroup, and wait for the next change of lights as we do at present. On the other hand, I think obviously the evidence in this area is pointing people more towards the straight crossing rather than the broken, staggered crossing. I think that is the way that we are beginning to work moving again from the pelican-style crossings to the puffin-style crossings as well. 546. Could you explain what a puffin crossing is? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) A puffin crossing is a pedestrian, user-friendly, intelligent, light-controlled crossing, if you wish to get into the acronym. It is a different phasing of the lights. There is no flashing amber signal on a puffin crossing and the green man phase for pedestrians, after which the traffic lights remain at red while the pedestrians complete their crossing, is being detected by a sensor, so it is a more sophisticated form. Mrs Ellman 547. Which Ministers in your Departments are involved in whether we have puffins or pelicans? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Certainly our transport Ministers and Lord Whitty. Mrs Dunwoody 548. That comes as a considerable surprise to the Committee. Who is going to make their entire political career on puffins? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) It is something that comes under Lord Whitty with his jurisdiction for roads but we are a very joined-up Government so I would not be surprised if there were not many more of us involved. Mrs Ellman 549. If you are a joined-up Government why do you not know which other Ministers are involved? The Minister spoke to us very recently about the importance of walking for a whole raft of reasons and you are one department. What is the point of having responsibility for a number of areas if you do not use it when you are looking in this case at walking? Which Ministers other than transport Ministers are involved in the issue of what kinds of crossings are there? If you want to encourage walking around there is great relevance to what kind of crossing you use, whether it is pleasant, let alone safe, for pedestrians to walk within cities. Who is responsible for that and monitoring the effectiveness of that? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty. 550. Who does he talk to? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) He talks to me. He is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department. He is responsible for roads and for road safety, but I am involved in road safety too. I was addressing the ROSPA conference on child safety on roads in Glasgow on Monday but Lord Whitty was the Minister who took through our document on road safety which was published a year ago this month, but of course the information that we have available is available to the other Ministers involved in the planning of urban regeneration sites --- 551. What I am trying to establish is how is this dealt with at a practical level? If we move away from the grand plans and policy and 10-year plans and relate it to regenerating an individual city and making it pleasant and easy and safe for people to walk around, which Ministers, if any, are looking at the impact of what type of crossings operate in a given area and whether it is easy and pleasant and encouraging for pedestrians to walk in the given area? Which Ministers are looking at the impact? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Lord Whitty generally across England. It could be the Minister for London, Keith Hill, if it is London. I would certainly be involved. Mrs Hughes would be very much involved from a regeneration point of view. 552. Could it be explained how this is monitored, if it is monitored, at a very local level? If the Department is looking at regenerating cities and encouraging walking,, who is it who is looking at the impact of pelican crossings, puffin crossings, cattle-pens and all of that, on encouraging people to walk around in cities safely and pleasurably? (Ms Hughes) I think, as my honourable friend will know because she has been the leader of a very large local authority, the transport sections of local authorities themselves will be looking at this in relation to what is happening in their own individual areas. Our Department through the Highways Agency, the Civil Service and up to Ministers will be collating the experience of local authorities across the country in terms of any issues arising, but it is at the local level that both the information and also the decisions about the best solutions in any individual circumstances regarding crossings are made. 553. What lessons have been learnt by Ministers from collating information on this? Have they changed the guidance or attempted increased guidance in some areas? (Ms Hughes) That is in progress at the moment, Chairman. Chairman 554. When will it be completed? (Ms Hughes) It is an on-going thing in terms of the information local authorities send us through their local transport plans and how those plans are being implemented and issues arising from decisions taken, for example about one form of crossing or another, and if there were a sufficient groundswell of information about a particular issue coming forward then we would act on it. Mrs Ellman 555. Do the Ministers have to give permissions before certain crossings are put in place? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) What we have got at the moment is guidance through local transport notes of 1/95 and 2/95 and that guidance still stands, but it is being supplemented to take account of, for instance, these puffin-like crossings. Chairman 556. You have a choice in the Department as to whether you approve a pelican or a puffin? (Mr Whybrow) No, Chairman. The local authority is free to install a pelican crossing. At the moment it needs a special authorisation to install a puffin crossing. When the next edition of traffic signs regulations comes out puffins will be prescribed crossings and local authorities will be able to install them without reference to us in accordance with the regulations. 557. When will the regulations come out? (Mr Whybrow) I think later this year. Christine Butler 558. Notwithstanding the efforts (and I recognise there are big efforts going into urban regeneration in specific targeted areas) across the broad panoply of local authority work in any town, should there not be a requirement for the local development plan to have land use so that facilities which people will use can be accessed by walking? (Ms Hughes) I think this is a matter for the local authorities. They consider a whole variety of issues, my learned friend will know, in developing and finalising their local plan. That is one issue that we see coming across in many of the development plans, but also in more specific local plans, particularly those that are focused on regeneration of town centres. 559. The planning inspectors view local development plans at some stage and the public have a good input to them, or ought to have. They are given the authority's views on matters to begin with, that is where we are, so should local transport schemes be supported or withheld around policies, including parking, ie inconsistent with transport objectives? This might seem to you a little draconian, but if what is happening on the ground is inconsistent with the objectives which are required could there be something done about it, because it does not seem to be the case. If they do not get it right, they do not get it right and all of the people in the town might suffer. (Ms Hughes) I really do not quite understand the main point. 560. In a local transport scheme should the government be granting money for local transport schemes where land use policies are inconsistent with those objectives? Should we have a compatibility with the land use policies, what is being built where, and local transport schemes? (Ms Hughes) I think the short answer is yes, but I do not have any evidence that there is that great inconsistency at all. Chairman 561. Your department actually looks at unitary development plans and approves them. It also approves the local transport plans. How far in approving those is there a co-ordination of the two plans to make sure that the local authority has come up with a unitary development plan and a local transport plan which are integrated? One goes to the Department of the Environment and one goes to the Department of Transport. (Ms Hughes) That is one department. In the terms of the way we are trying to work we are trying to work in an integrated way. If you are asking me if in each UDP for each individual local authority somebody sits down with that for several days and checks that against the local transport strategy then, clearly, that would not be a feasible job for this Department to do. What we do do is through ensuring that each of those is reflecting government policy in terms of the bigger issues there is coherence in the way UDPs and transport strategy is generally being developed. Mr Donohoe 562. What is the reason for the delay in publishing the PPG? (Ms Hughes) As my learned friend will know, we have gone out again to consort on a revision on one of the original proposals in the PPG 13. We now have the results of that second tranche of consultation and we are going through those. We are at an advanced stage of analysing the results of that consultation and we do hope to be able to produce that PPG 13 as soon as possible. 563. You cannot put a time on it? (Ms Hughes) I cannot at the moment. I can say that it is at an advanced stage. We are working to produce it in the very near future. I just cannot put a date on it because it is not finished. Chairman 564. It is nothing to do with the Treasury then, it is not that they blocked the publication of it? (Ms Hughes) It is nothing to do with the Treasury per se, clearly we went out to consultation because there were as a result of the first consultation concerns from business about some of the standards being proposed. That is why we consulted again. We are analysing all of that again and we hope to produce our final conclusion very shortly. 565. It is not the Treasury that is stopping it from being published, is it? (Ms Hughes) I do not know why my learned friend says that, I specifically said to him, "no". As a result of the first consultation we got some strong views expressed which made us feel we should consult again. We got concerns from the first consultation about the impact that some of those standards might have on the viability of business and, therefore, we decided to consult widely again on that particular issue, and we are analysing those results now. Mr Donohoe 566. So the Treasury has not blocked its publication? (Ms Hughes) The Treasury has not blocked its publication, as I have explained three or four times now. We have gone through a process. We want to try and achieve consensus from the various stakeholders involved in this and that is why we have gone to great lengths to consult in some detail. Chairman 567. Do you think there are enough trained professionals who are looking at walking as an issue so that we do get townscapes which are attractive for walkers? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) I cannot answer that, Mr Chairman. I would hope that as we get the experience of the local transport plans fed back to us we will get to hear whether that is a problem or not. I think what is the case is that given the neglect of local transport for a couple of decades the Town Halls probably are under-staffed in some of these areas and therefore no doubt they will be able to take advantage of the kind of longer perspective we are offering of five years at local level and ten years at national level in terms of investment to recruit and train. 568. Do you think our streetscapes are attractive for people who have got various handicaps or disabilities? It has been suggested to me that if you use a stick when walking it is sometimes very difficult to get round some of our towns. (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No doubt that is true but we will all have noticed the progress that is being made in this area. The development of the dropped kerb seems to be very prevalent now as are these tactile paving stones, and so on, to signal up to people with disabilities where the crossings might be. Clearly we have become much more aware of those problems in the last few years and again our money should make it easier for local authorities to deal with that. 569. Do you think there are enough places for people to sit down because certainly for some people who have mobility problems being able to pause while they are walking around a town sitting on a comfortable seat can be very useful? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) Again it is not something I have measured or has been put up to me as a problem to address. I am happy to look at any evidence of that. Chairman: I am conscious of the time, Lord Macdonald, but Mrs Dunwoody would like to fire a couple of questions at you since you are here. Mrs Dunwoody 570. You would not expect to escape entirely, Lord Macdonald! The Government set up the Strategic Rail Authority because it believed that the industry was in total chaos and needed to be redressed. It has now been operating for some time. Are you disappointed that they have only come up with an agenda and not a real tight plan? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) No, I am encouraged by the largely positive response that the strategic agenda of the SRA got when it was launched yesterday and as I see it in the newspapers this morning and, indeed, most importantly from the Rail Passengers' Users Council there was a very approving response as well as positive responses from the train operating companies and indeed from Railtrack itself. I can understand the reasons for delay. There was an extended process in which the Rail Regulator was involved with Railtrack in trying to set the access charges, but I think that now that some greater certainty is coming into the process we look forward to that strategy from the SRA being available in the autumn. 571. There is no timetable attached to their plans, there is no clear view of how they expect to deal with the problems between Railtrack and investment and since there have been over the last year not one accident but a number of accidents, the general public may not have the same confidence in the future that you do. Can I ask you one very simple question; do you have total confidence in Sir Alastair Morton? (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston) My confidence in Alastair Morton is, like everyone else's I think, greatly increased by the production of the agenda. It seems to me that Sir Alastair has a great deal of experience in this area. He has been thinking in very innovative ways about how to restructure the industry and that was made clear yesterday. So, yes, I have a great deal of confidence in Sir Alastair and I am glad that he has been able to bring out an agenda which is a tour d'horizon both of why we have got to where we are in the railways and where we might be going next. He has made that very clear in his phrase "don't invest too much emotion" on this agenda that he has just published because he has got a strategy coming out in the autumn. Chairman: On that note can I say thank you very much. We would also like to see very firmly a walking strategy as soon as possible. Thank you very much indeed.