HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc834-5
29. Mrs. Anne Campbell

What steps he is taking to improve facilities for pedestrians in order to support walking as a mode of transport. [24916]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

I chair the walking steering group which is introducing a national walking strategy and good practice guidance. [Laughter.] These will help local authorities to improve conditions for walking, including its integration with other transport modes. We expect walking to feature more prominently in local land use and transport planning.

Mrs. Campbell

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does she agree that local authorities can do a great deal more to encourage people to walk to work, to school and to their local shops? Would not that help to eliminate the 48 per cent. of car journeys that are shorter than two miles—thereby improving the air pollution and congestion that have been left behind by the previous Administration?

Ms Jackson

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I am sure that she will be delighted to learn—if she does not already know—that we have managed to increase the amount available for local authority transport packages. For 1998–99, £85 million has been allocated, compared to £79 million for 1997–98. Virtually all the packages that we are funding include measures to help pedestrians. I should tell Conservative Members who seemed to find the idea of a walking steering group so risible, that the group was formed in 1996, when their party was in government.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

May I warmly congratulate the hon. Lady on her enthusiasm for the walking steering group? Will she reassure me that the Ramblers Association is a member of the group? If so, I am sure that it advised her that best step that she could take to make life worthwhile for walkers would be to attack the problem at the Devil's Punch Bowl and at Hindhead common, and to approve the A3 Hindhead tunnel scheme as part of the trunk roads review.

Ms Jackson

I must congratulate the right hon. Lady; no opportunity to mention her constituents' concerns passes her by. A national walking strategy cannot be imposed, or solely owned, by the Government or by any other one group, however. We believe that the number of interested parties who make contributions to the steering group will best serve the needs and rights of pedestrians.

Mr. Brake

Notwithstanding the Minister's response, is she aware that some organisations, particularly cycling groups, are worried about the lack of any proposed national strategy on walking?

Ms Jackson

I understand the difficulties that cyclists face because there is no particular strategy highlighting the needs of vulnerable road users. However, my discussions with the walking steering group and cyclists groups reveal that there is a shared agenda. It is entirely possible for us to move forward on the understanding that we have to provide more access to our roads, which are not the exclusive reserve of one form of transport.