HC Deb 17 December 1996 vol 287 cc737-8
1. Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will commission a study of the effect of pedestrianisation and traffic rerouting schemes on local socio-economic developments in the London boroughs. [7851]

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

Circumstances all over London are so different that I do not believe that an overall study would help. Nevertheless, it is up to local highway authorities to ensure that pedestrianisation and traffic rerouting encourage trade in local shops, ensure proper parking provision for shoppers and provide a safe and attractive environment.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his courtesy in answering the question himself. There is no reason why he should be conversant with the details of the Wealdstone traffic bypass scheme, but will he ask his officials to look into it, bearing in mind the fact that the pedestrianisation and traffic bypass configuration are causing local traders a severe loss of business? Would it be possible for an advisory group of his officials to put right the wrong decisions made by local officials and councillors in the original scheme?

Mr. Gummer

I am happy to see whether my officials can help Harrow. It is crucial that local businesses should be given the best trading opportunities, particularly in an area such as Wealdstone. I am sorry that the council appears not to have taken that properly into account.

Mr. MacShane

With London the most clogged-up capital in Europe, is not the best news for pedestrianisation in the capital the fact that Ministers' drivers are threatening to strike, which may make Ministers get out and walk, use the tube or the buses, or get on their bikes? For the first time in a long time, they will see how ordinary people have to live and move in London. Will the Secretary of State give us a clear commitment, before he goes into obscurity, that London will follow Europe and have more pedestrianised zones in the city centre?

Mr. Gummer

As I understand it, London is in Europe. The hon. Gentleman is kind to favour us with his presence today from Geneva. No doubt he knows a great deal about the various capitals of Europe. I do not believe that his comparison between traffic in London and that in the rest of Europe is remotely accurate. If he spent enough time here to see how much we have been doing to improve traffic and pedestrianisation arrangements in London—not least the plans for Trafalgar square and Parliament square—he would be able to ask a more helpful question.