CTC's week in Westminster
With a Commons debate on cycling scheduled for Thursday 16th October, this was never going to be a quiet week, but it has turned out to be busier than we could ever have imagined.
The subject of the debate was supposed to be the Government's long overdue Cycling Delivery Plan. This Plan, originally promised in August 2013 (when the Prime Minister announced his wish to launch a 'cycling revolution), was originally supposed to come out in Autumn 2013. However it has been postponed many times over the following year, right up to less than a week before the debate.
MPs therefore sought to postpone the debate itself (for a second time, this had already happened once before). However this proved impossible. Then suddenly the Plan appeared. CTC saw a copy at 7pm the previous evening, but it was only published just 15 minutes before the debate had been scheduled to start.
CTC rushed out a briefing overnight. Although it is a relief that the draft Plan has appeared at last, its content is sadly as weak as we had feared. Its proposals fall well short of the recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s (APPCG) Get Britain Cycling inquiry report. There is as yet no commitment to funding for cycling and its targets for cycle growth lack ambition. A full analysis by CTC can be found here
This is a derisory plan not a delivery plan. The Prime Minister’s ‘cycling revolution’ with its Penny Farthing budget is going nowhere unless the Chancellor finds funding for cycling in his Autumn Statement.”
CTC, Chief ExecutiveAfter all the uncertainties about whether the debate would go ahead, it is hardly surprising that there were fewer MPs in attendance than at previous debates on cycling in 2012 and 2013. Yet despite the short notice, the debate was generally of a very high standard - see full Hansard transcript, or CTC's live blog provides a summary.
APPCG co-chairs Ian Austin (Lab) and Dr Julian Huppert (LD) both made strong speeches, as did Jason McCartney (Con), Meg Hillier (Lab), former health minister Ben Bradshaw (Lab), and Sir George Young (Con), the 'bicycling baronet', who was Transport Secretary when the original 1996 National Cycling Strategy was launched. Sir George's appeal for George Osborne to provide funding for cycling in his Autumn Statement was especially noteworthy.
Jason McCartney's contribution was particularly heartfelt , requesting that "in honour of John Radford, let's Get Britain Cycling". CTC campaigner and councillor John Radford has now been left severely disabled and entirely dependent on family support, following a car collision last year.
Earlier in the morning, CTC had unveiled the initial findings of research initiated by CTC, to quantify the value of the benefits of meeting the Get Britain Cycling report's proposed targets for increased cycle use (namely for 10% all trips to be cycled by 2025, and 25% by 2050). See also Robin Lovelace's excellent commentary.
Drs Robin Lovelace and James Woodcock, of Leeds and Cambridge universities respectively, found that the benefits from increased physical activity in England alone could be worth as much as £6bn annually by 2025 rising to £25bn annually by 2050 in health benefits alone. These results were cited 3 times during the debate, as well as in a Times article and editorial that morning. Further work will aim to quantify the congestion and emissions benefits as well.
CTC’s critical view of the Cycling Delivery Plan was succinctly summed up by Paul Tuohy, CTC CEO, whose comments were picked up across a wide range of media ranging from the BBC and Independent to Cycling Weekly. Such messaging resonated throughout Westminster as CTC was thanked and quoted several times for the organisation’s role in the promotion of cycling.
[Spending £10 per head annually on cycling] amounts to only 3% of the transport budget. With health, environment and congestion savings, it would almost instantly pay for itself.
Dr Robin Lovelace, Leeds University
While the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP made a brief appearance in the chamber, it was left to cycling minister Robert Goodwill MP to sum up the Government’s position. He stressed the need to make cycling normal for all, highlighting that this was the first time that Government had recognised in writing the figure of £10 per head, even if only as an aspirational figure.
"This is the first time that the Government have included that £10 figure in a document", he said, adding that "Having let the genie out of the bottle, I intend to do nothing to try and put it back".
CTC will now work to ensure that the bottle is kept uncorked and that the genie delivers some wonders at last. As Julian Huppert MP had perceptively noted, this could still happen when the plan is finalised on November 27th just before at around Chancellor George Osborne issues his last Autumn Statement before next May's general election. That has to be an opportunity to deliver funding for cycling at last, if ever there was one!
The debate and delivery plan occupied a day which seemed to last a week, CTC’s #Funding4Cycling campaign which ran for only a week but seemed to pass in a blur. This short-term campaign mobilised over 3000 supporters to write into HM Treasury pressing the Chancellor to include funding for cycling in the Autumn Statement before the 17th October deadline.
CTC, working with Sustrans and Living Streets, British Cycling and Bicycle Association, also made a detailed joint submission to HM Treasury.
There is now a four week consultation period for the Cycling Delivery Plan. CTC will be working with its partners to provide a robust response. Keep an eye on www.ctc.org.uk/campaigns for updates on our progress.