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Madam Speaker: I should like to correct two or three points that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I am a very generous Speaker, but I do not allocate Adjournment debates--the only one that I allocate is the Thursday night Adjournment debate. I want to make that clear to the House; my generosity does not stretch to every day. It is done entirely by ballot. The hon. Gentleman was successful, and I am pleased that he was. Which Minister responds to the debate has nothing to do with me. The Government determine the Minister to respond.

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Cyclists' Helmets

3.34 pm

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East): I beg to move,


The impetus for the Bill comes from parents in my constituency who are keen for their children to ride bicycles, as it is good for their health, independence and confidence, and good for the environment, but want them to wear cycle helmets while they do so. While children are young, they are quite prepared to wear cycle helmets. However, just when they reach an age at which they are more independent, and it is possible for them to go out on their own and to cycle to school, they will not wear one. Parents, therefore, will not let them cycle, particularly to school.

Many children have bikes. Nevertheless, although90 per cent. of junior school children in England own bikes, only one in four are allowed to use a bike as a mode of transport, rather than as merely something on which to play, and only one in 100 use a bike to go to school. Part of the reason for those figures has been elicited by a safe kids campaign organised by the Child Accident Prevention Trust. When mothers were asked what they feared most for their children's safety,41 per cent. said road accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians.

Annually, about 200 cyclists are killed and 4,500 are seriously injured on Britain's roads. It is, therefore, understandable that parents should impose severe restrictions on their children's use of cycles on public roads. Moreover, the peak ages for cycling-related deaths are five to 24. About 70 per cent. of those killed and50 per cent. of those seriously injured suffered serious head injury. However, several studies have indicated that wearing a cycle helmet reduces head injuries.

In an often-quoted study--which was reported in the British Medical Journal, in 1994--all cycle accident admissions to Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge were recorded over one year. Cambridgeshire has a higher proportion than most counties of those who cycle, and was therefore particularly appropriate for use in the study. The study showed that there were no significant differences between the type of accidents involving helmet wearers and non-helmet wearers, thereby refuting suggestions that helmet wearers are either more reckless or more careful than other cyclists.

The study also showed that there were no differences between the types of injuries sustained--with the exception of head injuries. The fact is that 4 per cent. of helmet wearers sustained injuries, compared with 11 per cent. of non-wearers. Moreover, as the sample size was so large, the results were highly significant. Adjusted results show a protective factor of 3.25 for wearing a helmet. In other words, the odds of head injury were significantly reduced--by a factor of three--for those wearing a helmet.

Additionally, the injuries sustained by those wearing a helmet were less severe. All patients in the study who sustained severe brain injury, including the two deaths that occurred, had not been wearing helmets.

I want to encourage cycling. Our children are becoming less fit, and there is growing concern about childhood obesity. There is also increasing concern about the traffic

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congestion caused by the so-called school run. I make it clear, however, that I do not seek compulsion to wear a helmet, as compulsion could be counter-productive, at least in the short term. I want children to want to wear helmets.

I also do not put the entire responsibility for safety on cyclists--for whom we need to create a safer cycling environment. We need safe routes to schools, lower speed limits in towns and cities, cycle lanes, better cycling proficiency instruction, and cyclists to be at the forefront of transport and route planning.

I want a much more high-profile campaign, involving information, education and publicity, including mass media publicity by, for example, the Health Education Authority. I want schools, especially secondary schools, to recommend cycle helmets for journeys to and from school and off road. Many cycle injuries are cycle only accidents--in which a rider simply falls off a bike--for which helmets are particularly useful.

I want department stores to stock cycle helmets. Bristol city council recently conducted a survey showing that, usually, cycle helmets were available only from specialist cycle shops. I also want improved helmet design and style.

Teenagers are undoubtedly the group most resistant to helmet wearing--it seems to be an image problem. They think that wearing a helmet looks stupid or uncool, and can give rise to what is now called a "bad hair day", which I am told is a problem for boys as well as girls. I learned recently from some secondary school girls from my constituency that this is clearly more of a problem than it was in my day, and that teenage boys can use industrial

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quantities of hair gel in pursuit of a good hairdo. We must be able to tell them that it is possible to have a decent hairstyle and wear a helmet.

My hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge(Mrs. Campbell) and for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) wear cycle helmets, and I am sure that they are well known in their constituencies. However, I hope that it will be possible for the campaign to enlist the support of role models who are more instantly recognised by the young. If, for example, Boyzone's next video showed them wearing cycle helmets while cycling, it might go some way towards encouraging young people to do so as well.

Above all, I want to enable parents positively to encourage their children to be active, mobile and independent. I accept that some cyclists believe that to promote helmet wearing is to pass the blame for a crash from the perpetrator to the victim, but all road users have responsibilities as well as rights. I know that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the parliamentary advisory committee on transport safety all take the same view. Being able to cycle to school is an important step towards responsibility and independence.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Ms Jean Corston, Mrs. Anne Campbell, Mr. David Drew, Ann Clwyd, Valerie Davey and Fiona Mactaggart.

Cyclists' Helmets

Ms Jean Corston accordingly presented a Bill to promote the wearing of protective headgear by cyclists; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 5 November, and to be printed [Bill 159].

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2 Nov 1999 : Column 103

Opposition Day

[14th Allotted Day]

Planning

[Relevant documents: Tenth report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Session 1997-98, on Housing (HC495-I) and the Government's response thereto (Cm 4080); and Seventeenth Report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Session 1998-99, on Housing: PPG3 (HC490-I).]

Madam Speaker: I shall limit Back-Bench speeches to 10 minutes throughout. I have selected the amendment which stands in the name of the Prime Minister.

3.43 pm

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): I beg to move,


Our motion draws attention to yet another great disappointment from the Government. Before the election, we were promised so much. We were promised that the green fields would at last be safe and that not much building, if any, would be needed on them. Miraculously, the Government would bring forward the brownfield sites for development. The face of England would be improved, and it would all be sweetness and light.

Instead, we see a group of people taking a carpet knife to an old master. They are scoring the tapestry of England with their concrete and their plans for a massive invasion of new homes on the green fields.

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Who wrote this?

Mr. Redwood: I am not reading--I am making a speech. I have a few notes, but my speech will get better as it goes along, if the Government provoke me sufficiently. I have not really begun yet. I promise the hon. Gentleman that there will be far more charges against this miserable Government as the debate proceeds. My hon. Friends are here in force today because the issue affects every one of their constituencies. They will be speaking up for their constituents, and we only hope that Labour Members will speak up for theirs. They must know that their constituents do not want their greenfield sites wrecked any more than ours do.


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