HC Deb 03 February 2004 vol 417 cc605-6
4. Huw Irranca-Davies (Osmore) (Lab)

If he will make a statement on the impact on health of his Department's policies on encouraging alternative modes of transport. [152274]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Kim Howells)

We are trying, in a number of different ways, to encourage people to walk and cycle more often and to raise levels of physical activity generally. We are working with a number of Departments, such as the Department of Health, and we hope to publish in the spring a number of the joint measures that we intend to take to encourage increased levels of cycling and walking, especially to schools and workplaces.

Huw Irranca-Davies

The purpose of my question is to try to tease out the cross-cutting nature of the Government's agenda on health, and how transport can fit into that. May I also ask my hon. Friend what discussions he will have with colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government to make sure that best practice on both sides of Offa's dyke is disseminated, to the benefit of the health of our youngsters?

Dr. Howells

My hon. Friend will be glad to hear that we are in close, regular contact with the Welsh Assembly Government, and we are certainly interested in their development of a walking and cycling strategy for Wales. We will consider it carefully in drawing up our strategy.

Mr. Archie Norman(Con) (Tunbridge Wells)

Can the Minister comment on the enormous proliferation across the country of little blue signs with bicycle and pedestrian symbols on them? Is he aware that they are being put up in many areas where there is absolutely no prospect of increasing the amount of cycling or walking? What steps will the Department take to assess the value to the taxpayer of this exercise, which seems to smack more of political correctness than of delivering results?

Dr. Howells

I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman was concerned about this proliferation of little blue signs. I had not noticed them, but I will look out for them in future and try to make a subjective judgment on their effectiveness.

Mr. Greg Knight(Con) (East Yorkshire)

Health is an important issue, and if the Minister really shares our view that the use of less polluting forms of transport should be encouraged, will he join me in condemning the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Stealth Tax himself, for announcing the withdrawal of the excise duty concession on liquefied petroleum gas fuel? Is not that a severe setback to persuading more motorists to do something about improving air quality?

Dr. Howells

I certainly will not join the right hon. Gentleman in doing that, and I do not believe that the Chancellor has announced that. That will be a matter for him when he comes to make his Budget statement.

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