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Traffic Calming

15. Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): If he will provide additional funds to local authorities for road safety traffic-calming schemes. [89490]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson): Over the next three years, we are making an additional £700 million available for the implementation of local transport plans. The quality of local safety strategies will be a key consideration in the allocation of resources.

Mr. Russell: I thank the Minister for her reply and I acknowledge her personal endorsement of road safety schemes throughout the country. However, will she have a word with her colleagues in the Treasury and point out that money that is invested in road safety and, in particular, traffic calming will save money for the public purse, particularly the national health service? The cost of

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a fatal road accident is now £1 million, which could pay for 10 road safety or traffic calming schemes. Bearing in mind the fact that, in the past year, 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists were killed, does she agree that the money saved could be invested in saving lives and preventing injuries?

Ms Jackson: It is precisely because the Government are so aware of the benefit of traffic-calming schemes that we have not only found additional funding for local authorities, but changed the existing statutory procedures so that local authorities may introduce 20 mph zones or limits. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, traffic-calming measures have reduced accidents, injuries and deaths among our children by 67 per cent.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is equally aware that the Conservative party's policy is to remove such traffic-calming measures, presumably because the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) wants to become known as the Herod of the 20th century by introducing another form of the massacre of the innocents on our streets.

Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch): Does my hon. Friend agree that, when the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) describes traffic-calming measures as impediments, that causes great offence, particularly to those people who have lost relatives on the roads? Will my hon. Friend say more about the exact mechanism for distributing resources to local authorities through local transport plans, which is a particularly important issue in my area, where there is a crying need for more traffic-calming measures?

Ms Jackson: My hon. Friend is entirely right. The right hon. Member for Wokingham is guilty of not only insensitivity, but, in my view, the advocacy of criminal policies on road safety. Local transport plans will be received this month, and mean that, for the first time, local authorities will be able to make the integrated, strategic decisions that can ensure that they will play their part in meeting our targets for the reduction in deaths and injuries on our roads.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Does the Minister accept that many Members warmly support the proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood)? In those proposals, he has represented many organisations that have considerable knowledge of motoring, the motorist and roads. Does the Minister agree that if, as she has announced this afternoon, she is prepared to provide over £700 million for local traffic schemes, she might consider increasing the amount of her money that her Department advances for the maintenance of this country's roads, which are deteriorating rapidly under her Government and contributing to the number of accidents and deaths?

Ms Jackson: I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is unaware of the Government's vast increase in funding road maintenance, in marked contrast to the previous Administration, who slashed such funding year on year. We have increased the funding for the maintenance of local authority roads by 8 per cent. in one year. The right

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hon. Member for Wokingham may be an expert on motoring, but he is clearly an ignoramus on any of the measures that protect pedestrians--[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. That was quite unnecessary. I require the hon. Lady to withdraw that remark. [Interruption.] Order. I shall deal with this. I require the hon. Lady to withdraw the remark.

Ms Jackson: Of course I abide by your ruling, Madam Speaker, and withdraw the word "ignoramus". In fact, I meant to say "a comprehensive lack of knowledge".

Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): Figures published this week show that the number of accidents in Derbyshire has fallen by 40 per cent. on roads with speed cameras since their introduction in 1993, preventing injury and saving the lives of 225 people. Labour Members welcome the investment in road transport announced by the Minister, but, in the light of the success of speed cameras, will she consider supporting proposals to allow income from speeding fines as a result of speed cameras to be ploughed directly into traffic-calming measures to save yet more lives?

Ms Jackson: My hon. Friend makes many valid points on the part that speed cameras can play in reducing the numbers of deaths, injuries and accidents on our roads. I am sure that she is aware that the issue of fines is part of on-going discussion between my Department and the Home Office. I am sure that she is equally aware that it is part of the Conservative party's transport policy not to increase the number of speed cameras.

Urban Task Force

16. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): If he will make a statement on his plans to implement the urban task force's recommendations. [89491]

The Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning (Mr. Richard Caborn): The final report of the urban task force, "Towards an Urban Renaissance", was published on 29 June. The urban White Paper will provide our main response to the task force's recommendations, and will be published in the next 12 months. In the meantime, we have invited comments on the task force report from interested parties.

Mr. Gray: In answer to an earlier question, the Minister suggested that Lord Rogers's task force had said

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that the Government would achieve the building of 60 or even 65 per cent. of new housing on brown-field land. The reality is of course quite different. Lord Rogers said that the Government would achieve only 55 per cent. of such building unless they accepted one of the task force's 105 recommendations.

May I help the Minister by suggesting that he might consider just one recommendation: the strengthening of the green belt in areas that are not technically green belt, such as the rural buffer zone that protects my constituency from the ever-westward expansion of Swindon? Will he protect Wootton Bassett from Swindon, or will he allow my constituency to be buried under concrete, as he is the rest of England?

Mr. Caborn: The reference to 65 per cent. concerned the east midlands, in response to the specific question asked. The green belt would be subject to public examination, to which everyone could contribute. It is absolutely clear from Government guidance that the green belt is there and that we will protect it. Indeed, a Labour Government introduced it, as they did national parks and the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. We are very proud of what previous Labour Governments have done in land-use planning over the past half century.

Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling): Will my hon. Friend do as much as he can to encourage as wide a public debate as possible on Lord Rogers's report, since it is a most important document? If we do not get some of the things in it right, we will find the implementation of many policies, such as those protecting the green belt and others that we want, difficult to achieve. It is essential that we include the public in the debate about how to implement Lord Rogers's report.

Mr. Caborn: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. There will be a wide-ranging debate on the Lord Rogers task force and the report that it has produced. However, we shall be going wider than that as we produce the urban White Paper, which will be the first such document for more than 20 years. It will be taking on issues such as education, crime and a reasonable environment in our major urban areas where people will want to live, work and play, contrary to what the Conservative Administration left us to deal with when they left office.

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Personal Statement (Mr. Donald Anderson)

3.30 pm

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): With your leave, Madam Speaker, I wish to make a brief personal statement.

Since yesterday's debate on the eighth report of the Standards and Privileges Committee, I have seen a copy of the minute of the conversation between myself and Mr. Andy Henderson of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which took place on 8 February and which was referred to in yesterday's debate. I did not take a note of the meeting and, so far as I can recall, nor did Mr. Henderson. However, Mr. Henderson's minute goes beyond what I told the House about our conversation.

I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Henderson's minute is an accurate report. It must, therefore, qualify what I wrote to the Clerk of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about my knowledge of the premature disclosure of the Committee's report on Sierra Leone, as recorded in the Committee's second special report. Mr. Henderson's minute also qualifies the statement that I made to the House yesterday.

I emphasise that, when I replied to the Clerk and when I spoke yesterday, I spoke in good faith. In yesterday's debate, I relied on the letter that the Clerk had received from Mr. Henderson, which I assumed to be the totality of the disclosure. I supported the release of Mr. Henderson's minute. However, I now understand that my letter to the Clerk and my statement to the House were not accurate. In the circumstances, I apologise to the House. I wish also to apologise to the House for my discourtesy in revealing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office certain aspects of the report and of the Committee's deliberations prior to the report's publication.

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