Examination of Witness (Questions 647
WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL 2001
647. Can I welcome you to the Committee? Would
you like to identify yourself for the record, please?
(Ms Wallace) Yes. I am Moira Wallace, head of the
Social Exclusion Unit.
648. Do you want to say anything to us by way
of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight into questions?
(Ms Wallace) Can I say a little bit about our involvement
in this subject? As you know, we are just starting a project on
transport and social exclusion. It was announced about a month
ago. It is one of four policy development projects we are doing
at the moment, the others being on ex-prisoners, young runaways
and education of children in care. The reason we have been asked
to do this I think is because transport has often come up as an
issue in studies that we have been involved with in the unit or
that other departments have done on social exclusion through policy
action teams and other things. At the moment, the project is called
"Transport and Social Exclusion" but we are almost still
at the stage of scoping out exactly what we are going to look
at and identifying issues and questions. I would not want you
to read anything into the word "transport", for example
that by transport we mean things with wheels and engines. The
intention of the project is to look at how people get where they
need to get and so obviously walking is an issue which we identify
as quite useful to cover.
Miss McIntosh: When is the scoping exercise
expected to be completed?
Mrs Dunwoody: Can we avoid the word "scoping"?
English might be nice.
649. It was presented to me as a good word to
use. Will it cover public transport? If I could give you an example
of my own constituency, the previous witnesses touched on York
and the pedestrianisation of York itself. I represent many of
the outlying areas north of York, where the bus service is often
irregular because of congestion in town. I see that there is evidence
that the lowest income group throughout the country makes the
greatest use of taxis or minicabs as opposed to other income groups.
I wonder whether you will cover all forms of public transport
(Ms Wallace) I expect we would. To explain what we
mean by scoping, we mean a period of a couple of months during
which we try and identify what is known through existing statistics
and existing research and what is not known and how long it is
going to take us to find those things out. What are the particular
questions that we need to focus on within the topic? What sort
of information is available? What sort of information will need
to be found? What sort of questions will we need to ask during
the public consultation we will have? None of the issues that
you have mentioned seems to me likely to fall outside the scope
of the project.
650. Presumably walking to the bus stop, for
example, will be covered. I just wondered what research had been
commissioned to date or is it still at such an early stage?
(Ms Wallace) I am afraid we are at too early a stage
for me to be able to answer that.
651. How does the Social Exclusion Unit see
the benefits of walking both as a means of transport and as a
means of integrating in social life generally and working life
(Ms Wallace) It is clearly important because if people
cannot get to where they need toand walking is part of
every journey, as a lot of people have said to youthey
are going to be socially excluded in some ways. They are going
to be unable to access services that they have a right to access.
652. Has any of the work that the Social Exclusion
Unit has done shown that, for example, transport or lack of transport
has proved a barrier to integration in more ways than one?
(Ms Wallace) It has come up as a topic in quite a
lot of work, as I mentioned in my opening statement, work that
we have done and work that other departments have done. For example,
when we did our work on teenage pregnancy, how far people have
to travel to get access to contraception is clearly an issue.
That is just one example. You could approach that either by changing
the locations where people can get access to contraception or
making it easier for them to get to the existing locations. Most
departments and we to an extent have felt that it deserved a separate
study, which is what we are now doing.
653. Would you agree with the statistic that
for low income households 60 per cent of journeys are on foot?
(Ms Wallace) That is what we have been told. I have
no reason to disbelieve it.
654. Would you use the study that the unit has
commissioned to look at ways of actually increasing walking?
(Ms Wallace) I think it is a little too early to answer
that because the way we try to do the work is we try and identify
the questions and then answer them. I cannot say that we know
the answer. I suppose as a general principle though people who
are socially excluded and poor should have choices too and the
choices should include walking in safety but they should also
include other ways of getting longer distances when walking is
655. I was intrigued by the example that you
used about access to contraception. Is the Social Exclusion Unit
suggesting that there is a higher incidence of teenage pregnancies
in this country because teenagers have further to walk to get
(Ms Wallace) We said what we had to say on teenage
pregnancy in our report which was nearly two years ago. There
are many, many reasons why we have a higher rate of teenage pregnancy
than other countries. Access to contraception is a very big issue
and is one of them.
656. Returning to the York scenario, presumably
most people that would fall within the study will not be eligible
for the park and ride scheme which costs £1.50 return, which
strikes me, as most people in that bracket probably would not
have a car and probably could not afford a return journey. Will
you try and press local authorities, through the conclusions of
your report, to have better access and a more regular bus service?
(Ms Wallace) I cannot say what answers we are going
to come up with. We have not done the work.
657. You are not saying that you do not wish
to make a comment because you do not know anything about it? That
is an extraordinary attitude from Whitehall, is it not?
(Ms Wallace) I am speechless. Yes, I think I am saying
658. A lot of the evidence that has been given
to the Committee suggests that many people feel that walking is
essential to the success of regeneration strategies. Do you agree
that walking is essential to the success of regeneration strategies?
(Ms Wallace) It is hard to imagine a place being regenerated
successfully if people could not walk round it or did not feel
safe walking round it. In many areas that are run down, you see
a vicious circle where fewer people walk; therefore, fewer people
walk because they do not see anybody else and they do not feel
safe. Equally, there is a lot of scope for a virtuous circle,
where more people walk because more people walk and they are more
likely to run into someone and therefore feel safer. I think I
would agree with you.
659. On that basis, what funds might be available
to facilitate walking from the funds for urban regeneration? For
example, the New Deal for Communities funds and the Neighbourhood
Renewal Fund or the Single Regeneration Budget?
(Ms Wallace) These funds are run from a different
department than the one I am in, but we have had some involvement
in them being set up. Most of them are very flexible. New Deal
for Communities is very flexible for projects that are decided
on at grass roots level that have a chance of improving people's
access to jobs, people's health, reducing crime. There is no reason
why New Deal for Communities or the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund
could not be used in this way. There are very few strings attached
to both of those funds.