Environment Audit - Minutes of EvidenceHC 201

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee

on Tuesday 12 March 2013

Members present:

Joan Walley (Chair)

Peter Aldous

Neil Carmichael

Martin Caton

Katy Clark

Zac Goldsmith

Mark Lazarowicz

Caroline Lucas

Mr Mark Spencer

Dr Alan Whitehead


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Department for Transport, and Nigel Dotchin, Head of Accessibility and Mobility, Department for Transport, gave evidence.

Q192 Chair: Can I start by extending a very warm welcome, both to you, Minister, for coming along today, and also to your official, Nigel Dotchin? I am very much aware that, in terms of this whole subject of accessibility, there is one aspect of it that is about disability access, but, as you know, our scrutiny is really looking at the whole broad range of accessibility to public services and particularly improving transport. We wonder if you could start by talking about the progress that has been made, or perhaps not made, since the Making the connections Report was published 10 years ago. That seemed to us to be something of a seminal report that was, perhaps, all embracing. I wonder how much it represents a starting point today or how much the Department for Transport is currently working to that.

Norman Baker: First of all, can I say I am pleased to be back at the Environmental Audit Committee after several years’ absence? I am glad to see you are still here, Chair, in an enhanced capacity from when I was last with you. The SEU report had 37 cross-Government policies in it. You will appreciate that it dates from 2003. Therefore, seven years of it was acted upon prior to this administration, so obviously I am less familiar with exactly what they did in those seven years. It is fair to say we do not refer to it on a day-to-day basis in the Department, but I do hope it has been regarded as useful previously by the last Government, and certainly we have taken it forward in terms of the policies enacted subsequently.

We certainly agree with the concept of accessibility in the planning regime. That is a matter that you may want to pursue with CLG Ministers rather than me. In terms of recent Department for Transport measures, which you might say fall out of the concept of that report, there is obviously concessionary travel for older and disabled people, and there is the enhanced role for community transport. There are measures to improve the accessibility of trains, buses, coaches and taxis. There have been steps taken to improve the accessibility of railway stations, either through the Access for All regime or the Secure Stations Scheme. There is the Public Service Vehicle (Conduct) Regulations, which require drivers to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of all disabled passengers. There has been enhanced work for the British Transport Police. There are Wheels 2 Work schemes and other innovative ideas that we funded in this Government under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which I think has made a big difference.

There has been most recently-just to take it forward-which you will hopefully have seen, the Department for Transport’s own accessibility action plan that was published in December simultaneously with an equality action plan.

Q193 Chair: Thank you, and it was remiss of me not to mention the fact of your earlier membership of the Environmental Audit Committee, days I look back on with great fondness.

Carrying on from the point that you have made about the importance of the Making the connections report, and the fact that perhaps it has been overtaken by events, how would you quantify the real improvements that there have been? You have just given us a whole list of different things that have been done, but what is it that is making them happen? Is it by accident or is it by design, if you are not referring back to that document?

Norman Baker: It is partly about attitude. I think there has been a sea change in attitudes, partly among those who are responsible for dealing with these matters on an elected basis, and I mean Members of the House of Commons, Governments-both the last one and this one-and local councils, who are more prepared to accept that accessibility issues are part and parcel of what they do rather than something you add on at the end. I think that was an attitude in the past that has hopefully gone forever.

Similarly, with the transport operators, my personal view is that the response to people with accessibility issues has improved markedly with the train companies, compared to what it was in the past. It is improving as well, although not as fast as I would like, with the bus companies and the response they have to people with accessibility issues. I think there is some way to go with the taxi trade. Again, it is improving but not as fast as I would like. So, the attitude has changed. That is ultimately what is going to drive change.

Secondly, there have been regulations that have been helpful and have focused the mind. I include in that the requirement for trains to be fully accessible by 2020, the requirements for buses to be accessible by 2015, 2016, or 2017 (depending on type of bus) and 2020 in terms of coaches used on scheduled services. That focuses the mind and makes sure that we are making progress on that front too. It is also the case that there have been a number of gains, I would not say by accident but as a consequence of other Government policies. For example, the Green Bus Fund, which has been deliberately introduced to reduce carbon emissions from buses, has also had the benefit of replacing inaccessible vehicles. That has meant that the new buses coming in have accessibility criteria that are better than the ones they replaced.

So I would say that, by and large, the quality of public transport is improving in terms of accessibility. That is partly driven by attitude, partly by regulation. It is now becoming mainstream. I suppose it is almost a cliché, but it is still relevant, to say that the Paralympic Games has been a significant useful addition to the mindset of the British people in recognising that the way we think about accessibility needs to change and is changing.

Q194 Chair: I was interested in what you say about regulation. Would you say that the regulations that relate to this whole sphere of policy would be able to resist any de-regulations that might be coming about from within the coalition Government?

Norman Baker: There are no plans to change the date by which all vehicles have to be fully accessible.

Q195 Chair: Okay, referring back to what you were saying about making trains accessible, I know this is a discussion that has taken place in other places. The issue is: it is all very well to make trains accessible but it is not much use if the railway stations are not accessible. In terms of the funding that is available for that, and the process by which it is determined which stations do get the disability access, is there any specific funding on that that will help?

Norman Baker: Yes. We have had the Access for All funding, which was begun under the last Government and has continued under this one. We have had a huge number of stations that have been dealt with as a consequence of that policy. There has also been a mid-tier programme of cheaper but important enhancements to stations, and that has meant that a number of stations have been improved as well. I entirely agree with the point you make that if the stations are not accessible then it is irrelevant how the trains are, you have to do both.

You will appreciate that what we are doing is dealing with a Victorian infrastructure, 150 years old or more, and our Victorian forebears, wonderful though they were in many ways, did not think about accessibility issues, and that has to then be retro-fitted. Where you do retro-fit them-I was able to formally open the improved Bromley station last week, another one in the Access for All programme-then that makes a fantastic difference to that station. It has not simply meant that it is far more attractive, because it has also been combined with other monies to improve the station generally, as much as the station forecourt and the canopies and so on, but it meant that people who would find the train system unattractive or, at worst, inaccessible now no longer have those barriers. I do not simply mean people with physical disabilities. I am thinking of mums with prams, people carrying heavy luggage and so on, for whom a huge flight of stairs was a barrier.

So, that programme is carrying on. We have committed a further £100 million to the Access for All programme in the next five-year period under control period 5, from 2014 to 2019. We are looking to get even better value per pound spent from Network Rail than we have done so far. We think they could be more efficient with their money than they have been. That is part of the McNulty Review and that programme will continue.

If I may say so, I have dug out the position on Kidsgrove Station and I will write to you separately about that.

Q196 Chair: I shall look forward to having a full report on that. That is very helpful. Carrying on from that, the issue that you are talking about is about improvements and looking at not just transport funding but perhaps contributions from other partners so you get a whole cocktail of funding to get this proper access. How much do you see that linking into economic growth, and do you think that there is a case to be made to the Treasury for a bigger proportion of Treasury money to come to the Department for Transport, because in the end it is going to achieve economic growth?

Norman Baker: Well, I am always happy to receive money from the Treasury at the Department for Transport. I regularly indicate that is my preference when I speak to Treasury Ministers. If I may say so, the position we have is that the Department for Transport has been very successful in attracting money from the Treasury since 2010, particularly for capital projects and investment, simply because we have made the case to the Treasury right from day one that money spent on transport achieves wider Government objectives. It helps economic growth. It cuts carbon emissions if it is spent properly, and it could also add to social inclusion and other desirable outputs. So we have been successful in identifying money from the Treasury.

Every time we allocate money, of course, we have to do a cost-benefit ratio. We have to make it stack up. It is quite proper that we do that for taxpayers’ money. However, the reality is that money spent on public transport and money spent on walking and cycling, has a very good cost-benefit ratio. That is one of the reasons why we have been able to attract large amounts of money from the Treasury, including, for example, £600 million for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which did not exist under the previous Government, a brand new fund of money. With match funding from local councils and third parties that has now transited into over £1 billion of money on local sustainable transport. I think that is a really good achievement, which demonstrates the connected nature of the Government across Departments, the fact that we recognise that investing in a large number of small schemes can be really sensible and beneficial, and also the value of attracting external funds to boost what we are putting in ourselves.

Chair: That is helpful, thank you.

Q197 Mark Lazarowicz: How much of a priority for Government is transport accessibility to public services? I am distinguishing that from the steps that have been made to make buses, trains, platforms more accessible, whatever, to a situation where you can ensure that public services are accessible to the public generally so, for example, you do not end up with a hospital that is miles away from a railway station. It is that kind of relationship between the services, actually making sure they are accessible to the public for very special need but also more generally. How far is that a priority for the Government?

Norman Baker: It is a priority. If I may say so, I think we are getting better at joining up across Departments. It is always a challenge, in any Government in any country, to join up across Departments and prevent silo mentality from developing. For example, I have a productive working relationship with Anna Soubry at the Department of Health, who is very interested in what transport can do to aid public health. For example, she is very keen on cycling. I have been talking to Richard Benyon on how we can make sure transport works properly in rural areas, so we do not have isolation in rural areas. There is a connection across Government on these fronts.

We produce statistics annually for local authorities to help them plan local services. We base these statistics on travel times by different modes, car, bicycle and public transport, but we also measure-to come to your point-the distance travelled to eight key services: hospitals, GPs, primary school, secondary school, further education, food stores, employment centres and town centres. So we directly try to use our statistics to inform our policy and the statistics relate directly to accessing key public services.

Q198 Mark Lazarowicz: That is interesting. Can you explain a bit more then about how far that particular one you just mentioned, how far has it gone? What is the current state of that work?

Norman Baker: In terms of the statistics, that is coming back to the Chair’s original point. That is based on the 2003 social exclusion report, so that is an example directly of how that report is still applicable nowadays. What we do is try to ensure that we inform other Departments, when they are planning enhancements or whatever they are doing, what the information we have is so that they can use that sensibly in their planning decisions. We are particularly keen to ensure CLG, of course, is aware of these connections because the planning function is a key one. Certainly when we are devising our own interventions, then we will take account of our own statistics. As I say, we also make it available predominantly to local councils so that they, in turn, can then base their local investment decisions on the information we provide them.

Q199 Mark Lazarowicz: Do you expect the forthcoming transport strategy to develop this issue of transport accessibility to public services?

Norman Baker: Yes, absolutely. The transport strategy will include accessibility as a key part of it. There is not much point in having a transport strategy unless it provides access to something. That is the whole point of a transport strategy, so it will be there. What the transport strategy will do is that it will pull together the various strands of what we are doing. As I say, I have mentioned two documents we have already produced. There is a door-to-door journeys document that I will be releasing shortly, and I will come on to that because that is about accessibility as well across the transport system. If you like, these are daughter documents that will then feed into the strategy that is produced in due course.

Mark Lazarowicz: Thank you.

Q200 Neil Carmichael: There are quite a lot of agencies and Departments involved in transport accessibility, local planners, health organisations and so on, and of course your Department. Who is effectively in charge? Where does the buck stop when it comes to transport accessibility?

Norman Baker: We are the lead Department for that. That is officially our role in Government but clearly we cannot do everything ourselves. Following on from the point just made by Mr Lazarowicz, we clearly have to make sure that we are co-ordinated with other Departments, and of course, most keenly, the Cabinet Office, who also have an overall, overarching responsibility across Government.

Q201 Neil Carmichael: I am going to come on to the Cabinet Office in a moment but, before I do, one of the things this inquiry has already learned is that there is a sense of there being too many silos dealing with this subject. How would you undertake to get those silos to merge in together more effectively?

Norman Baker: As I hinted a moment ago, it is a question for any Government in any country at any time how that works. There are two ways of doing so, one of which I do not particularly recommend. That is to have a great deal of centralisation at the centre of Government, which I think is not helpful and has proved to be cumbersome and ineffective over the years when it has been tried. The other alternative is to try-laboriously but effectively-to build sensible relationships across Departments, based on good relations with officials, good relations between Ministers. Sometimes there may be a case for a person being seconded from one Department to another for a particular function, so they are embedded in a Department and perhaps there is a swap that can be arranged. Those sorts of actions are more effective in the end in driving cross-Departmental working.

It is also important to send out a message to the external world and to send it out to local authority partners. I mentioned Anna Soubry. She and I appeared on a platform together, I think in Leicester, to promote cycling and health. That was not just well received, but I think people were astonished that there were two Ministers from different Departments appearing together and even saying the same thing. So more of that, I think, and certainly, for example, as far as cycling is concerned, which does cross over a number of Departments, I am very keen we should try to replicate that as we move through the year.

Q202 Neil Carmichael: That is helped by the focus now on public health because of the interest in getting people to cycle and outdoor activities, pursuits and so forth. Those kind of overarching policies must be quite useful to you as well.

Norman Baker: Indeed. That is exactly right and we are taking advantage, both Anna and I, of the changes to the health framework to say, "Here is a new responsibility for local authorities. How can we make sure that we try to help them get off on the right foot and see the potential for what they can do?", linking up themselves, say, social services or transport in their own areas. Our function on that is a key one to develop at the moment but there are other functions as well. I mentioned Richard Benyon at DEFRA. I have also been talking, for example, to David Laws at the Department for Education about school transport. There are all sorts of links.

Perhaps the key for us is to identify where there is a function where we are leading, which is not necessarily a front-line function for other Departments. It may be fifth or sixth on their list of things to do but nevertheless they have an importance in that area. It is for us to say, "I know this isn’t your primary function, but can we just direct your attention to this for the time being?" No doubt they will do the same in reverse for us, where we can help out with what they are trying to do.

Q203 Neil Carmichael: Thank you. Going back to the Cabinet Office, some time ago we were worrying about sustainability across Government, and we were thinking that the Cabinet Office would be a good place to start in making sure that sustainability did go across Government, and of course there are the Department’s business plans that we tested Oliver Letwin on. Do you see scope for those in terms of improving accessibility?

Norman Baker: I certainly think that Oliver Letwin and his team have a role to play. As I say, there is a danger in any group of people, however eminent, at the centre having too much control over Departments. My view over the years-over successive Governments-is that transport policy is better delivered by the Department for Transport than it is by the Cabinet Office, No. 10 and No. 11. The same can apply to most functions of Government I suspect, so we have to be careful about that.

What they can do is send out a clear message that co-ordination is important, that taking an issue seriously is important and that when that comes from the centre rather than from a Department, that has more effect. That is what I would like to personally see the centre doing-identifying an issue and giving it some weight. There are issues where clearly Oliver Letwin and his team are involved. For example, he and I are chair and vice-chair of an internal Government committee that is looking at "how green is your Government", effectively, and what each Department is doing to minimise carbon emissions and save money. We do have those connections that do work and do exist.

Q204 Neil Carmichael: Do you think they are effective enough to avoid any unintended consequences or policy conflicts that might occur in transport accessibility? I can think of one or two, for example the DDA versus some other priority.

Norman Baker: There are always conflicts in Government because, necessarily, helping achieve one end can have a detrimental effect on a different end. There is not an easy answer to that. For example, if we were to allocate a huge amount of money to one particular objective, that would be money that would come away from somewhere else. Even on a basic level of funding you can see there is a conflict. Sometimes they are policies that conflict-most notably HS2, if you want to include the rail network, which I think is highly desirable, and it will have a small carbon benefit overall. Nevertheless, there is an impact on the landscape so there is a trade-off there. These trade-offs are inevitable.

What is important is that, across Departments, we are open with each other and we don’t resort to silo mentality. We say, "We recognise you have a problem. This is what we are trying to do" and we try to find a mature way to solve that problem. I think it usually works. As you are probably aware, there is a formal process for clearing Government policy across Departments. In the end if two Departments do not agree, then it can be resolved further up the chain.

Q205 Neil Carmichael: One last question. One thing I pick up in my constituency is that people-particularly disabled people-find it really annoying that transport systems sometimes are not obviously connected to each other. Is that a thrust of the Department for Transport in terms of taking some action?

Norman Baker: If I had asked you to ask me a question, that is probably the one I would have asked you to ask me, because I can then say that very shortly I will be releasing a document on door-to-door journeys, which has been researched with people who use public transport or want to use it, and which has involved train operators, cycling groups, bus companies and the rest, who will therefore own the document. It will not simply be a DfT document. They will own it and take forward the steps that are set out in it.

The whole purpose of that is to prevent obstacles and hurdles from occurring, or remove them if they are there, for people who want to make a journey from their front door to someone else’s front door sustainably but do not do so because one part of the journey doesn’t work for them. When they arrive at the railway station they don’t know how they are going to complete the last mile of the journey. They are worried about one of the train stations because it has poor lighting or the bus doesn’t connect somewhere. This is what this is about, trying to sort this out.

We will be publishing that document precisely, first of all, to encourage the use of sustainable transport, but also to make transport easier to access for those who want to use it and to encourage that modal shift.

Neil Carmichael: Thanks very much.

Q206 Chair: Referring back to one of Mr Carmichael’s questions about silo mentality and how you resolve disputes that might occur between different Departments, how do you deal with new policy that is developing? For example, within the Department of Health, in Mid Staffordshire there is the possibility now that there might be a reconfiguration of health services. In the report that will go to the special administrator, one of the issues highlighted is about access by way of transport. How do you then make sure that somebody somewhere is looking at accessibility to reconfigured hospital services? For example, that might be alongside patient transport services. It might not be done by conventional transport means.

Norman Baker: To be honest, that is a very good question. We are involved at the Department in general policy setting. So, as and when the Department of Health has a policy on transport or has a policy on access to services, or indeed even a policy on a general national reconfiguration policy-if it has such a policy-then we would be consulted on that, along with other Government Departments, and would have the opportunity to feed in and say, "We do not think this takes account of X, Y and Z".

It is much more difficult if you have a localised matter such as that, and it is not the role of the Department for Transport to say what should happen in Mid Staffs or anywhere else. That is essentially a local matter. We do rely on, first of all, the Department of Health and its own officials asking themselves the relevant questions.

Q207 Chair: How do you rely on them doing that?

Norman Baker: Because there should be an overall strategy, which has been set at Government level, upon which the Department for Transport has been consulted and fed in and our comments taken on board, which then sets the framework, and presumably they refer to the framework in applying it locally. We also have to rely on local councils and others to identify the consequences for them, because the access issues for any hospital will be predominantly for a local council to evaluate rather than us. If the hospital is planned to be a long way from the bus network in the middle of nowhere, then the local council ought to be involved, and should be involved in that process, and making their views known about the consequences of that.

Chair: I will move on to the whole issue of local authorities by turning to Mr Aldous.

Q208 Peter Aldous: Minister, I think your Department no longer approves local transport plans or monitors progress against them. Therefore, how do you get an oversight of developments on local accessibility, both good practice and bad practice?

Norman Baker: We still require councils to produce local transport plans but we do not require them to submit them to the Department for Transport for approval. So, they are still there and they are still accessible by us to see what they are doing. Essentially, this comes down to the localism agenda and the fact that we think that centrally we have been doing too much, and that we shouldn’t be requiring local councils to have to be accountable to the Department for Transport for everything they do, and that applies to other Departments as well.

Of course, the consequence of localism is mixed. On the one hand, you end up with far more innovation and original ideas, and you have decisions being taken by people who are closer to the voters who elect them and all those sorts of benefits, which I think you are right about. On the other hand you will get more disparate delivery, which means that you will notice the difference between what is happening in one area and another. However, that is then a matter that local electors ought to be able to draw to the attention of their councillors and ask them why their performance is so much worse than some council next door.

Q209 Peter Aldous: To take an example, Cambridgeshire County Council, their approach has been to stop support for all tendered bus services. Your approach to that would be, "Up to you, Cambridgeshire. You have to justify yourself to your electorate and to your transport users and if they don’t like it, tough". You would not be saying to Cambridgeshire, "Hang on, do you think you have this right?"

Norman Baker: I have said publicly-and I am happy to say so again-that I think it is disappointing that Cambridgeshire has taken the view it has on local bus services. That is out of line with a number of other similar counties that have, in fact, protected their bus services, although that is a matter for them. They have their own mandate and they will have to answer for the decisions they take. I think it is very regrettable that councillors are taking decisions to, effectively, make services more inaccessible than they were previously.

Q210 Peter Aldous: As you said, local authorities have implemented many types of schemes to improve accessibility, and some of them have been very good. I wonder, is there any means of evaluating such initiatives and showcasing best practice and encouraging other authorities to adopt them? Perhaps that is a role for your Department.

Norman Baker: We do co-ordinate and evaluate on occasions. For example, we are doing that with highways maintenance efficiency, where we are trying to make sure that councils are spending their money wisely and not having to go back and repair something they repaired three weeks ago, which I am afraid does happen sometimes. We are also evaluating the Local Sustainable Transport Fund money. It is a lot of public money. We need to make sure that when we have handed that money out it is being well spent. It is not a heavy evaluation but it is a sensible, balanced one. Under the new arrangements for devolution to local transport boards, we will also have an agreed regime in place to make sure that the money is properly spent, because ultimately we are responsible for money we hand out. So, those safeguards do apply.

I have been encouraging the Local Government Association to take on this role far more. I have said to the LGA that they need to change their game, because it seems to me the LGA’s role, traditionally, has been to come cap in hand to Government and say, "We don’t like this, we want more money" or, "We don’t like something that you are doing", and I suppose they will carry on doing that. However, in my view, what they should also be doing is identifying best practice and, indeed, worst practice among local government members, and promulgating that so that people are able to make judgments. Local government needs to be more confident than it so far has been. Government has handed them a whole lot of power, which I am very happy about, but I think they are slightly behind the curve in identifying the options and the freedom they now have.

Q211 Peter Aldous: Thank you very much for that. In a previous session, a couple of our witnesses spoke about the culture of local transport authorities, which they felt was holding back progress on accessibility. Dr Karen Lucas said to us, "It is a different culture to think about accessibility instead of mobility. To think about social outcomes instead of engineering, mobility and infrastructure is a fundamentally different culture". Do you think your Department has a role in changing that culture?

Norman Baker: I think we have a role in making the right background noises, certainly. You are right if you are implying that accessibility comes in two forms: it comes in whether or not you can get on the bus, but it also comes in whether the bus is actually there in the first place. Both those matters are clearly important. They both have to be answered yes if someone is going to be able to get from A to B if they have accessibility issues. So, yes, I think we do have a role in trying to cajole people along those routes.

In terms of local councils themselves, as I say, they are now going to be much more varied in performance than they have been hitherto. They have been constrained in these small segments of the pie chart by previous Government regulations, restrictions, funding streams and everything else. The ceilings have largely gone, but so have the floors. Whether councils sink or rise will depend much more on their own efforts, and that is how it should be. However, I do hope councils will take account of what I would regard as a duty in a way- not legally a duty-to think about accessibility issues and their populations when they get the new freedom, which they are getting, to make sure that is factored in. If the local council decides that the only thing it wants to do is build a huge dual carriageway somewhere and do nothing else, then in my view I am afraid that is not a transport policy.

Peter Aldous: Thanks very much indeed.

Q212 Caroline Lucas: Carrying on with that, what would happen in that scenario, then? Cajoling does not necessarily sound the most effective way of changing culture. It might have a role, but is there anything else that is a bit more interventionist that you think your Department could do in terms of that?

Norman Baker: I hesitate to use the word "interventionist" because that is not really where we are at at the moment. We are genuinely trying to follow a policy whereby we are a bit more hands-off. We want to concentrate on strategic issues in the Department for Transport, big stuff that we have to do, whether it is HS2-

Q213 Caroline Lucas: Isn’t there a risk though? Of course you need to be doing that strategic part, but presumably you would acknowledge that, by the Department taking more of a hands-off role, there is a risk that some of the culture changes you have said that you would like to see will not happen. So what would you do with that part of the equation?

Norman Baker: Let me turn it round and say it this way. If you had a Government in power that controlled most of the levers, there is a risk that they would adopt policies that are unhelpful for accessibility, and then councils that wanted to do something would be unable to move because of restrictions from central Government. That has been the case sometimes in the past. So you will get a patchwork solution.

What I genuinely believe is, first of all, that it is right that local councils and the people locally should be responsible for what happens locally and get closer to the impact of what they are doing. Secondly, I also believe that generally this will push up performance. You will know, in a whole range of environmental issues, that councils that have wanted to do things in the past have been prevented from doing so. I happen to think that if they are given the freedom to do that, then while some will rise some will sink but, overall, ultimately, the level of performance will increase.

Q214 Caroline Lucas: Do we have evidence of that or is it too soon?

Norman Baker: It is a sort of gut feeling, so I do not have any evidence yet because we have only just started down the localism road, so I think it is too early for that. Nevertheless, I genuinely do believe there are lots of innovative people in local Government who just want to get off the leash and do things. When they start innovating, then I think others will follow suit.

Q215 Caroline Lucas: Funding for buses has been reduced and the ring fence around transport funding to local authorities has been removed. What assessment have you made about the impact of that, in terms of whether local authorities are redirecting the money that had originally been ring-fenced for local transport to other areas, and what impact is that having on accessibility?

Norman Baker: There has been a reduction right at the beginning of the Government from the CLG funding to local councils, which was a general reduction. Clearly, in most councils’ cases, that will have impacted on what they are doing for tendered services. There has also been a reduction in BSOG, for which we gave them a very long notice period before that was reduced. Much longer was given, for example, in Scotland and Wales for the reduction in BSOG. If you look at the figures, passenger journeys are actually holding up very well and showed an increase last year in England as opposed to the previous year. So they are holding up well.

It is also worth remembering that about 80% of bus services-78%, I think-are commercial bus services that require no subsidy from the public purse. They have been holding up pretty well in addition. I do not want to give the impression or allow the impression to settle that there is some sort of crisis in the bus industry. I think the bus industry has responded imaginatively to difficult circumstances and a lot of councils have responded imaginatively, either by combining routes, by talking to bus companies and coming up with a mixture of tendered and commercial services that were not there previously, or by amalgamating bus services that are run as passenger services with, perhaps, the use of the vehicles for social services or children’s school access purposes. Some councils are doing that very well and others aren’t.

Q216 Caroline Lucas: Do you know how much money has been transferred as a result of not having a ring fence? Do you know whether there are cases and, if so how many cases, of where money that would originally have had-

Norman Baker: I cannot tell you how much councils have individually transferred. No, we don’t know that.

Q217 Caroline Lucas: At some point, wouldn’t we try to find that out in terms of an impact assessment of the policy?

Norman Baker: No, because I am not going to monitor local councils like some sort of head teacher marking their work. We are not doing that. I am interested in what the outcome for bus passengers is. That is what I am interested in. How we get there is of secondary importance. Obviously, I do talk to local councils and I talk to the LGA and we talk to bus operators. I have a bus forum that meets every six months, and by the way I have extended the membership to include those representing access groups to make sure that they are represented on that body. That meets every six months, and we have a rigorous examination at that point and presentations from local councils and the bus operators of what is happening. That is how we monitor it-in that forum.

Q218 Caroline Lucas: Are you doing anything to help transport managers look at the social impacts of either expanding funding in transport or reducing it? Those social impacts, in terms of accessibility to various public services and so forth, are they given equal weight to economic impacts and environmental impacts, and if they are not should they be?

Norman Baker: They are given a weight. They are given a weight in the way we evaluate projects in the Department. That is part of the cost-benefit ratio analysis and the factors that are taken into account. They were given weight in the Local Sustainable Transport Fund when decisions were taken on that.

Q219 Caroline Lucas: Perhaps the question isn’t honed sufficiently, but what I am trying to get at is the relative weight for social impacts versus environmental or economic. Because there is a school of thought in some of the evidence we have heard that would say that the social impacts are not given sufficient weight. What I am trying to ascertain is whether that is the case and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that it won’t be in the future.

Norman Baker: Let us try to deal with the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, as an example that I know best. There were two mandatory criteria that had to be met, which related to whether or not the scheme that was proposed was going to create growth and whether it was going to cut carbon. To be successful, all schemes had to demonstrate they were going to meet those two criteria. There were secondary criteria, which included desirable social consequences we wanted to see from those schemes. They were weighted, and they were given a number in the formula to work out what the final figure for each scheme was, but they were not themselves a bar if they weren’t met. However, I sincerely believe that if you promote a sustainable transport scheme, whether it is a bus lane, or an improved bus station, or whether it is including cycling, walking or making the town centre more attractive, those schemes themselves will, by and large-although they may not be the purpose of the intervention-generally have a beneficial social effect as well.

Q220 Caroline Lucas: To draw a conclusion from that-and that is a really helpful example because you have an environmental criterion there, a mandatory one and an economic one in terms of growth-do you think there is an argument for having a third social criterion, or do you think we can interpret your answer as saying that is unnecessary because it is appropriate that it has a lesser weighting and it will work out in the wash, essentially?

Norman Baker: Put it this way: I think the two biggest challenges we face at the moment are to deal with the economic situation that we are in, and-as you will appreciate more than most-to deal with the climate challenge that we face. I am determined we should not neglect that in what we do in the Department for Transport.

There are other hugely desirable things we want to do on transport. One is about accessibility per se. One is the social consequences of what we do. One is the impact on the landscape, whatever. There is a whole range of stuff that we would like to do as nice add-ons. I think the-

Q221 Caroline Lucas: Wait a minute, can I stop you there? "A nice add-on", is that what you would say that the social impact assessment would be?

Norman Baker: I do not want to diminish it. What I am saying is that the two absolute key things we are doing are creating economic wealth and cutting carbon. There are also things we want to do as well at the same time, which are not mutually exclusive, and are factored in and are given weight within the system but not the same weight as those two primary objectives. However, as I said a moment ago, I believe that if we deal with the two primary objectives properly, and particularly the environmental side, that will almost inevitably have beneficial social consequences as well.

Q222 Caroline Lucas: My last question is about transport fares. Have you done work looking at the impact of rising transport fares on people’s access to services and getting to work and so forth?

Norman Baker: I do not know if we have done work precisely on that point. Do you know that?

Nigel Dotchin: We have looked at rail fares, in the light of the recent fare rises and so on, but we haven’t done anything recently on bus fares.

Q223 Caroline Lucas: What was the conclusion on the rail fares?

Nigel Dotchin: Basically, we have not seen any decrease in the number of passengers using them. It may be too early to come up with some conclusions on that, but this whole issue about rising fares comes up time and time again, in terms of access to work and so on.

Norman Baker: The case is that the social mix-this isn’t true for everyone of course, but by and large, people who use the trains tend to have more disposable income than people who use buses and, therefore, in a sense, if we are thinking about access as a financial barrier to public transport, the buses in some way are more important in that sense than the train is, which is why I am reassured that bus numbers in terms of passenger numbers are holding up, in fact marginally increasing.

Just for the record, there has been a 52% increase in train passenger journeys over the last 10 years. Despite the economic recession, we have seen passenger number shooting up year on year throughout the recession, sort of China-style GDP increases of 6% or 7% a year, and there is no sign of that levelling off.

I think we are seeing a societal change in people’s mindsets. Whereas public transport used to be seen as a second class option that you would use if you did not have access to a car and, as soon as you could afford a car, you would abandon public transport, I think that is changing. Many more people are now saying, "I want to use public transport as a first choice and I will use the car as a second choice". That is a societal change that I am observing, which is really quite interesting and rather encouraging.

Q224 Caroline Lucas: One last little follow-up, if that is all right. Just following the logic that you were explaining, from an accessibility point of view, that it is probably more relevant to worry about the buses than the trains. On that, could you clarify whether or not your Department has any powers over bus fares? On rail fares, there was the decision of the Government to cap at a certain level of increase. Do you have the powers to do that on bus fares?

Norman Baker: I am almost certain we don’t, because obviously all the commercial services were deregulated by Mrs Thatcher-in whose room we are sitting-in 1986. Other services are tendered services organised by local councils or, indeed, separately arranged through Transport for London through the Mayor. So, I am almost certain we don’t. If we do have any, I will be surprised but I will let you know. I will write to you if we do have any.

Q225 Katy Clark: We have heard that accessibility planning arrangements have not been operating as envisaged in making connections. In your view, how successfully has the accessibility planning regime been?

Norman Baker: I am not sure I accept the premise of the question, but I should say just for background, in December 2008, the Department commissioned an evaluation of accessibility planning to understand the processes by which this would be operationalised, if that is the word, and the impact that has on the work of local authorities. I think that evaluation report has been submitted, Chair, to your Committee as part of the Government’s evidence to the Committee inquiry into transport and the accessibility of services. All I can say is I have an open mind on that matter, and I shall wait and see what recommendations you come forward with to see whether or not we should do further work on that.

Generally speaking, as you will know, I think the Environmental Audit Committee is a very important function of Parliament and I shall await with interest the recommendations that come to this Department from this inquiry.

Q226 Katy Clark: At the moment do you have a view on how successful the regime has been, or do you have an open mind? Is it something you are still thinking about?

Norman Baker: I would like to see what you come up with as part of your evidence. I do not have a fixed view on that. I think there have been important advances in the accessibility regime. There have been other areas where we might have gone further.

Q227 Katy Clark: You obviously will have given the whole issue some thought. What do you think the issues are that would prevent accessibility planning from having a greater impact? Where do you see the problems as being?

Norman Baker: It probably comes down to mindset, which I mentioned earlier on, rather than anything else. Nigel, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Nigel Dotchin: No, I think it is that. The evaluation that we have submitted addresses some of those particular issues. For example, it talks about how you remove the silos within local authorities. It also talks about the important role of individual champions, people who are enthusiastic about this, taking it forward, because there are lots of obstacles that they have to overcome. It is like a lot of things, there are a lot of competing bits of guidance that people have to operate. So it is identifying who is responsible for this. It is almost like translating the challenges faced by central Government into local government. There are lots of different areas of responsibility. It is how to join them up as well. The challenges are there at the local level and it is about how you overcome those.

Q228 Katy Clark: I appreciate you are still to receive our report, but at the moment do you have a vision of where you are going in terms of this whole area? Do you think there is a need for further work to be done, for example further guidance? Is that something that you are thinking about?

Norman Baker: The vision I have is that all public transport becomes accessible to everybody, irrespective of who they are and where they are and everything else, and that people are not prevented from using public transport either because of the lack of public transport or because of the particular condition in which they find themselves in. That is where I want to get to. We are getting there slowly. As a matter of fact-and I think this is a matter that has been true across the last two Governments, as well this one I hope-as a country, without being complacent, we are further ahead than some other countries in this regard, but we have further to go, which is why we published our accessibility action plan. I do not know if you have seen that, Chair, but it was published in December. We will send you a copy if you do not have it. It is why we continue to engage with operators, users and others to try to make sure that outstanding issues are dealt with.

I should say, because I think it is relevant, that in preparation for this action plan-again, this was not something that I just sat down with officials round a table in a smokefilled room and wrote-we got users to come in and talk to us about it. We had all the pressure groups. We had user representatives, people from disability groups and so on, who came in and talked to us about their problems and what they wanted to see, and that is the documented result of that process.

Q229 Katy Clark: How are you getting the wider public sector, not just local authorities but Government Departments, agencies and so on, involved in this so that they also have a stake in the whole process?

Norman Baker: As I mentioned earlier on, it is about breaking down those silos between Government Departments. I think we are making progress on that. There is obviously the Minister for Disabled People as a key member of Government to help with that process. However, I think it is important that we ensure that the logic, as well as the fairness of the position we adopt at the Department for Transport is more widely understood.

Q230 Chair: Thank you. Can I just go back to the point that Caroline Lucas was making about bus deregulation and Mrs Thatcher and what happened under the then Conservative Government? Could I just ask you to perhaps speak about the quality bus partnerships? As I recall, that was a proposal that came forward more recently, which was looking at ways of getting quality bus partnerships that would take account of the fares or of what was needed to fill the gap between the bus service that was desirable and the bus service that actually existed. Is that something that you would see as playing a part in improving accessibility?

Norman Baker: Where the partnerships have existed between local councils and bus operators, by and large, the provision for the passenger has improved immeasurably as a consequence of that. There are examples across the country, whether it is in Brighton-if you speak to Caroline Lucas over there-or elsewhere, where the bus services have benefited, irrespective of political control, from a good relationship between a council and a bus operator. Where there has been a breakdown, then often it has been a very poor service for the passenger and it has been a scorched earth policy on both sides.

I have wanted to encourage partnership. That is why I set up the Better Bus Area Fund, which is a way of driving those two sides together and giving them a financial incentive for working together. If you work together and come up with a solution for your area, you can get an uplift in the amounts of money that we are giving to you and that is a process that is under way now. Sheffield was the first recipient of that, and they have some really innovative ideas to drive forward the increase in bus passenger numbers.

What we are also doing is encouraging, within the rules of the competition regime, bus companies to work together-rather than running themselves off the road and following each other every two minutes as they sometimes do in the worst examples, to work together with a proper planned schedule with multi-operator ticketing. There is nothing more irritating for someone than to have a return to their suburb, then to find that the bus that comes along is not the company they have a ticket for and to wait another 15 minutes for another bus to come along. That is mad and it is in nobody’s interest to do that.

What we have seen, for example, in Oxford is that there is an arrangement there between Stagecoach and Go-Ahead, which is entirely in the interests of the bus passenger and avoids that through multi-operator ticketing but is in the interests of Go-Ahead and Stagecoach as well. It is that sort of practice that we are very keen to enthuse about and to draw attention to, and we will do more of that in our own work.

Q231 Chair: Is anybody measuring how that is being implemented? Do you know which areas were covered and which areas of the country were not? Isn’t it the case that in areas that previously had a Passenger Transport Executive, there is much more scope for integrated transport planning than in areas that were outside those reference areas?

Norman Baker: It is certainly true that, when you have a concentrated urban area, it is easier to do transport planning than when you haven’t. That is perhaps self-evident. It does not mean that other areas can’t have transport planning. For example, in the second wave of city deals, which has been announced, 20 cities up and down the country, they are not the Manchesters and Liverpools of this world, they are smaller. Sorry to refer back to Brighton again, but Caroline will know that I know it very well. That is not simply a Brighton issue. That is Brighton and Worthing to the left and Lewes to the east, and so on. So you can pick up what is your travel to work area, which may not be a PTEG area, and I think that looking at matters in that regard is probably a good way forward.

Q232 Dr Whitehead: You have national accessibility statistics, as you have mentioned, produced by the Department. How do you use the statistics from the Department’s point of view?

Norman Baker: We use them predominantly to help local authorities plan local services. Of course, we also analyse them ourselves to identify trends and to see whether any higher level interventions are necessary.

Q233 Dr Whitehead: Are there any trends that worry you in those statistics?

Norman Baker: The average journey length is increasing, which is not entirely helpful. I think it is a reflection on how society operates. I am concerned about-this is not a transport matter particularly, except that we have to pick up the consequences-the fact that we are seeing the closure of shops, the closure of post offices sometimes, although hopefully that has now stopped, sometimes pubs shutting down in areas, and hospital services being concentrated in one area rather than in a more disparate arrangement as has hitherto been the case. Those things worry me personally on a societal basis.

Q234 Dr Whitehead: You say they worry you personally. The hospital access statistics, for example, show a couple of percentage points decrease over the last year in accessibility, and a constant downward trend over the last four years before that. Would that be something the Department would, say, flag up for other Departments, or would be proactive on?

Norman Baker: We do flag up issues when they come to our attention, and, certainly, I have just flagged up some now that I am aware of at the front of my mind. Ultimately it is not our responsibility, as you will appreciate, as the Department for Transport to deal with the provision of services elsewhere. For example, there may be very good clinical reasons why hospital services are concentrated in one particular area. Indeed, I am sure that those involved in the NHS will tell you that is sensible, and patients are better off from travelling slightly further rather than having what they would regard as a less good service at their immediate local hospital. That is not for us at the DFT to deal with; we obviously do draw attention to the transport consequences and we certainly hope that other Departments, in the provision of services, will bear in mind the transport consequences of any rationalisation.

Q235 Dr Whitehead: When we asked the Health, Education and Work and Pensions Departments last month about how they used the statistics, they said, "Not very much". Indeed, one Department said they had not heard of them.

Norman Baker: If you would like to give my officials details of which Departments are not using them, or not using them very much, then I shall very happily draw them to their attention.

Q236 Dr Whitehead: That is a positive view, and I’m sure we will do that. Over and above that, as a starting point, would you expect those Departments to be making good and regular use of the statistics? After all, I think we would all agree that the front-line range of statistics are pretty good, aren’t they?

Norman Baker: They are quite good. I think people should use them, they are there. They are paid for from taxpayers’ money, they ought to be used. I understand why Departments, whose primary function is education or health, or whatever it happens to be, are concentrated on whether or not waiting times are longer or whether children’s GCSE performance is good. I understand why it is their primary function to look at those things, but it is part of my function, and the Department’s function, to remind them that there is another issue underneath the radar that is, quite rightly, further down their list of priorities but nevertheless important, which is: can people get to your hospital? Can they get to your school? If they get there are they getting there sustainably or are they getting there unsustainably? That is a legitimate question to ask. I would hope that other Departments are in fact trying to incorporate those questions in their overall planning.

Q237 Dr Whitehead: I have mentioned that the accessibility statistics look pretty good overall, but certainly, in terms of the analysis that your Department provides alongside those statistics, I think it is also fair to say that that analysis is pretty much concentrated at the national and regional level. At local level, yes, you have raw data, but that is all. Do you accept that as a criticism of the statistics? Do you think that that perhaps indicates a shortcoming, certainly to the extent to which people may be able to look at more localised applications of accessibility, particularly in view of the fact that that is one of the particular things that you highlighted as one of the uses of the statistics?

Norman Baker: I wouldn’t accept the word "criticism" because I think it is right that we concentrate our efforts on national statistics. We are a national Department and not a local authority, so I think it is proper that we do that. It is also proper that we help local authorities, and we do, by making statistics available to them. For example, the software package most commonly used by local authorities is currently ‘Accession’. A new software package is being developed for launch later this year. This will look at how they can use statistics locally. We have not been funding that but we have been helping them with that and pushing them in the right direction, to say, "This is how you might deal with this". I think that is our role, to be supportive but not to be directive.

Q238 Dr Whitehead: Would you conclude from that that the way the statistics are compiled and presented at the moment is as good as it could be, as far as more local transport planning decisions are concerned, but also in terms of transparency as far as enabling people to understand how the services are going in getting more local accessibility?

Norman Baker: I think our role is to make data available to local authorities and then for them to use it as they best see fit for their own purposes.

Q239 Martin Caton: What do you see as the future big challenges for transport accessibility likely to appear on the horizon in the not too distant future?

Norman Baker: I think there is going to be a long tail of work to do with physical accessibility, not so much with vehicles, which will be dealt with, but with railway stations. No matter how much we plough into that, there is a long tail there. Some stuff just looks unmoveable-the tube network, for example. I didn’t realise until I became a father just how awkward it is to carry pushchairs around the tube network, it really is, and yet there is no obvious solution to some of that. That is going to be there for quite some time and there is no obvious answer to that, so that is one challenge as to how we try to deal with that.

I suppose the second challenge is to make sure that we use information in a way that gives people something helpful to them when they are planning their transport journeys, and makes the system more accessible by the way we provide the information. A lot of that will be internet-based because that is the way we are going. Also bearing in mind that 18% of people either never use or rarely use the internet, we have to find a way of making sure those people are not left out of what we are doing in terms of the transport challenges ahead. It is a question of discouraging non-digital channels but without excluding people who rely on them.

There is the challenge-it is not particularly for us, but we are obviously involved in it-of what the Government and councils do with land use planning. The relationship between planning and transport is quite an important one, as you will appreciate. That is not something we control directly, but we have a duty to say from the Department for Transport to other Government Departments such as CLG, or to local councils, "If you do that you are going to create a big problem". We are not going to get involved in individual hospitals and schools, but if there is a major proposal for, say, a rail freight interchange, then the consequences of that are significant in terms of what the network does and so on. So I think there are issues generally where we will be involved at that level. Overall I am optimistic that the structure of the public transport system is getting better, the vehicles themselves are improving, that the mindset is improving and the need to ensure accessibility is now regarded as more mainstream, as it should be, and more than it was. So there are challenges are ahead, but I am optimistic.

Q240 Martin Caton: That is very useful, Minister. As the accessibility lead Department-for instance, on the digital by default policies of the Government-do you see it as your role, as a Department and as a Minister, to seek to influence all other Departments so that we do not have the exclusion of that 18% to 20% that you quite rightly drew attention to?

Norman Baker: Yes, I do see it as our role to make sure that we factor that in. We do factor these things in. Ministers across different Departments have been discussing broadband, for example, and while some Departments will naturally focus on one aspect of that, and what it means for the economy or whatever it may be, we will also focus on the consequences of that in terms of accessibility. Not only that, but we are interested in the growth aspect as well, of course. However, these elements come into the rounded discussion that comes when you have different Departments sitting together discussing issues of that nature. So, yes, we will continue to raise these issues, and indeed other Departments raise them as well. They are also interested. It has not been raised so far but, just for the record, we are also pushing alternatives to travel, which are also part of accessibility. I am the lead Minister for that. I am delighted to be a Minister for not travelling as well as travelling. For example, that involves learning from the Olympic Games, identifying that we do not always have to come to work five days a week in a particular building in London and use the same train every day. Sometimes we might want to travel at different times, sometimes we will want to stay at home and work from home. All those sorts of benefits that can accrue, both personally and environmentally, need to be promoted. We are doing that with other Departments and with private companies like Microsoft and BT.

Q241 Martin Caton: You mentioned the planning reform proposals earlier on. Do you see the changes in planning as an opportunity to better integrate transport in the future? Is that something that you are taking a lead on, and how are you going to push things in the right direction?

Norman Baker: The planning changes that are proposed and discussed are obviously subject to consultation around Government Departments. Therefore, as a Department, we have been fully able to give other Departments including CLG our views on the transport implications and desirability of particular outcomes and policies.

Q242 Martin Caton: So you are hopeful we are going to get better integrated?

Norman Baker: I am confident that we have made our case to CLG, and other Departments, as to the transport implications and the transport desirabilities that can be achieved through a better planning regime.

Q243 Chair: Just pushing that a little bit more, you did mention at the very outset how, with the Cabinet Office, if there was a dispute between two Departments there was some way of reconciling that. Given that in the case of the NPPF there has now been the Taylor review, which I understand is proposing that existing statutory provisions for planning, and for the planning system on transport, should be deleted and new guidance issued. Does what you have just said mean that you are confident that the Department for Transport’s take on what that new guidance should be will be there when it is all known and published?

Norman Baker: I am not an expert on the Taylor review, so I am not going to dive in to that. What I would say is-as I said a moment ago-that planning and transport are inextricably linked in many ways, and we have made known our views on the importance of ensuring that any planning regime facilitates rather than damages the prospect of facilitating local transport.

Q244 Chair: Finally, rising petrol prices. Many people feel this is just as important as rising fuel prices, and it is about how you square the circle between what is environmentally desirable, what is socially desirable and how that links in with transport policy. I wonder, in terms of the huge increases that we have seen in other modes of transport, what you are doing to help those in rural or outlying areas where the cost of petrol is quite high.

Norman Baker: There is a specific policy to help very rural areas, which the Government is pursuing in terms of fuel prices. It is important to recognise that public transport fares have gone up above inflation over a very long period of time, over decades. I used to regularly table parliamentary questions that listed that information when I was in opposition. However, we also have to recognise that for some people the car is a necessity and also a significant expense for people who are often quite poor. That is one of the reasons why I have been encouraging industry not to introduce E10 fuel at the moment, because my judgment is that of the number of vehicles that are incompatible with E10, a large number are vehicles from, say, 15 years ago, run as motors every day by people who are quite poor and cannot afford a newer vehicle. I am very loth to have a policy that penalises people who are quite poor and rely on a motor vehicle to get around. We have to be very careful about that for social reasons. Of course we recognise the value of the motor vehicle. We also recognise the challenge of fuel prices.

What I would say is that the answer to both the environmental challenge we face and to that issue of uncertain fuel prices, and fossil fuel supplies coming from often uncertain parts of the world, is to decarbonise the transport system. If we decarbonise the transport system, we are no longer subject to fuel prices going up and down because we are not using fuel in the same way. There is a path that we have adopted on that-we are spending £400 million in this spending review period on decarbonising the car and road vehicles. I think that is money well spent. Therefore I think we will end up ahead of the game, not just in terms of decarbonising the transport system but also in terms of helping British industry, because we are ahead on that in European terms. We are attracting money in to places like the north-east now to invest in this, and the Nissan Leaf production and so on is evidence of that. We are decarbonising the car like that, we are decarbonising the rail system by our massive electrification programme, and we are helping buses with the fourth round of the green bus fund. All those measures are designed to make sure we are not vulnerable to fuel price increases because we just simply bypass the fuel. That is where I want to get to.

Q245 Chair: You are confident that you have the dialogue with the BIS Department to make sure that the innovation, the research and the application of that technology is going to be there, with the funding that you need from the Department for Transport to put that into effect?

Norman Baker: Absolutely. We have a fouryear funding programme, and that money is inviolate, that £400 million I referred to. I share responsibility with Michael Fallon at BIS directly for this agenda. We meet regularly to talk about it, and we are at one on the direction of travel we are engaged on.

Q246 Dr Whitehead: I wonder whether you are having dialogue with other Departments about the relative carbon intensity of the electricity that is coming the way of the vehicles that have been decarbonised by the Department for Transport.

Norman Baker: The answer is yes, I regularly speak to Ed Davey about such matters.

Q247 Dr Whitehead: Do you have any encouraging words to say to him about the extent to which the decarbonisation of vehicles, and indeed transport, would be greatly helped by the fact that the fuel that went in to them might be decarbonised or not? Or would it make the decarbonisation work or otherwise?

Norman Baker: If electric vehicles are used there is a reduction in carbon emissions, as I understand it, even if the fuel used to generate the power is traditional fossil fuel. Not that I am advocating that, but there is certainly an air pollution benefit from that. However, DECC, of all Departments, is committed to try to deal with climate change and to reduce our carbon emissions. They fully understand that the use of the grid may change with electric vehicles and that is factored into their forward plans. Again, in terms of this cross-departmental work, we regularly talk to DECC about such matters both at an official and ministerial level.

Chair: There we must leave it. It has been an extraordinarily informative session. We are grateful both to you, Minister, and to Mr Dotchin for coming along this afternoon. I very much hope that, when it arrives on your desk, our report will influence the Department for Transport’s thinking on this. Thank you very much.

Norman Baker: I shall look forward to it. Thank you.

Prepared 21st June 2013