HC Deb 24 January 1929 vol 224 cc327-9

(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the increasing burden entailed upon highway authorities by the cost of maintenance of classified roads the Government is prepared to make any increase in the grants from the Road Fund in respect of the maintenance of such roads?

The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Churchill)

The Government has from time to time received representations from associations of local authorities to the effect that the existing classification grants towards Class I and Class II roads and bridges were inadequate, and that the cost of the maintenance of these through lines of communication by road was unduly onerous upon the ratepayers of the areas through which they passed. In a preliminary review of the allocation of the Road Fund revenue for the coming financial year 1929–30 I have borne these representations in mind, and have decided, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, to increase the classification grants as from 1st April next from the existing level of 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. in the case of Class I roads and bridges and from the existing level of 33⅓ per cent. to 50 per cent. in the case of Class II roads and bridges. Under the provisions of the Local Government Bill classification grants to London and county boroughs will be discontinued as from 1st April, 1930, and will be merged in the general block grant. In order that these boroughs may continue to share in the concession which it is now proposed to make, an Amendment will be put down at once to the Bill providing that the loss on account of grants shall be calculated as though the increased percentages had been operative during the standard year 1928–29.


Has the recent change of mind on the part of the Government any connection with the forthcoming General Election?


On a point of Order. Is it in order for a question of this kind, in which urgency cannot be pleaded, to be put down in the form of a private notice question? How did it come to be put? Was it brought to your notice that there was any inspiration that caused it to be put?


It was certainly brought to my notice. The hon. Member had better leave it to me to be the judge of urgency.


Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to make any reparation in the Budget by handing back to the Minister of Transport the £30,000,000 which he has already pinched?


I will deal with that early in April.


If the right hon. Gentleman wished to make a statement of this kind, why could he not have made it without having a question put to him?


The Bill has come to a point where these Amendments must be put on the Paper. In fact, I think this is the last day on which Amendments can be put on the Paper to suit the convenience of the House.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman is unable to make any further grant to rural roads? He has only dealt with Class I and Class II roads.


My hon. Friend must carefully study my answer, which is in the nature of a benefit and a concession. When he has realised what is implied, he will feel that this is not the best moment to make further demands.