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Volume 519: debated on Thursday 2 December 2010

We set out our commitment to sustainable local travel, including cycling, in our decision to establish a local sustainable transport fund.

The spending review made available £560 million over four years. It will be for local partnerships—local transport authorities working with their communities—to identify the right solutions for their areas in bidding for funding. Bids involving cycling will be well placed to capitalise on the objectives of the fund to help create growth and cut carbon.

The axing of the highly cost-effective body, Cycling England, wiped out the arrangement whereby money was effectively channelled into school and workplace projects that are run by charities such as Sustrans and CTC. What is the Minister’s plan B to ensure that cycling charities and campaigning groups, such as those in my constituency, can continue to work with schools and businesses to deliver cycling’s many benefits? How will he know if that plan B is working?

I am happy to say that Bikeability, one of the main schemes delivered by Cycling England, has been retained at a national level. Funding for it will be top-sliced from the local sustainable transport fund. We are in regular contact with organisations such as Sustrans to ensure that they are plugged in. I assure the hon. Lady that bids to the local sustainable transport fund will be regarded more favourably if they have involvement from voluntary community groups, such as the one that she has described.

The cycle to work scheme has involved some 400,000 people over the past decade. It was recently put in jeopardy by a ruling of Revenue and Customs. What representations will Ministers make to their Treasury colleagues to ensure that that important scheme is not jeopardised?

I am aware of the value of that scheme in encouraging cycling. I have received representations from hon. Members about the scheme, but I hope that the concerns are unfounded. I assure my hon. Friend that I wrote to the relevant Treasury Minister three or four weeks ago. I will ensure that he receives a copy of the reply.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) made a very good point about people’s concerns over the responsibilities of Cycling England being returned to the Department. The accepted wisdom is that cycling is good for health, reduces congestion and reduces emissions. There has been an explosion in cycling, partly because of the £140 million that was pledged by the previous Government for 2008 to 2011. However, there are anxieties about the future of cycling. Will the Minister be more specific about how the Government will monitor the amount of money that is available and the effectiveness of the spend, because the concern, as the hon. Lady said, is that the Department has taken its eye off the ball?

I am happy to assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department has not taken its eye off the ball. Cycling was mentioned as a priority in the coalition agreement and £560 million is a substantial amount of money for a local fund, by any degree. Bikeability is being retained. On monitoring, we will ensure that public money that is allocated to local authorities is well spent. Indeed, we are sponsoring a new indicator to measure the response that we get to money that is spent on cycling.

I wish that I had got on my bike to get here this morning, rather than relying on Transport for London. I am sure that all hon. Members agree that it is vital that young people learn how to cycle. Will the Minister therefore clarify what has happened to the £5 million of Bikeability funds that he claimed previously would be administered through school sport partnerships, now that those are being abolished?

There is £11 million for Bikeability in this financial year, which is available to local highways authorities and school sport partnerships. Bikeability funding will continue for the rest of the Parliament, as we have indicated. We are funding 275,000 Bikeability level 2 training places for children this year and a further £500,000 is available in bursaries for the training of cycling instructors. It is clear that our commitment to cycling is undimmed and that we have a plan in place to deliver on that.