§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The need to regulate traffic is already embodied in the Road Traffic Acts, but the proposal to build special roads is, I recognise, a significant change in our highway policy. I am convinced, however, that hon. Members on all sides of the House, and the public generally, recognise that we have an increasingly serious traffic problem to meet today in the rapid growth of motor transport. At the beginning of this Debate I should like just to give the House a background picture of highway policy so that we can see the transformation that has taken place in this problem in our own day and generation.
Up to the end of the 19th century we thought in terms of the King's highway being freely open to all forms of traffic and to all persons. The principal financial responsibility then rested upon the locality. These conditions lasted for approximately three and a half centuries. Before then, in feudal times, responsibility fell upon the lords of the manor to keep our roads open, but in 1555 Parliament commenced to take legislative interest and transferred responsibility for maintenance upon the parish. These changes, however, did not bring the desired improvement, and so later we saw the development of the turnpike trust type of road, which introduced a new principle in highway finance by transferring the cost of construction and maintenance from the parish to the users. It must be confessed that although there were many objections to the turnpike type of roads, this system nevertheless improved the standard of our roads. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that McAdam and Telford appeared on the scene and introduced new principles of road construction. We then moved on to our present modern methods of road construction.
I should like to give the House an indication of our roads 100 years ago. We then had 105,000 miles of public roads administered by 15,000 parishes, which worked out at an average of seven miles 1738 of public roads per parish. There were 22,000 miles of turnpike roads. At that time, the turnpike road appeared to be making very rapid progress at the expense of the parish roads. We then felt the impact of the railways, the immediate effect of the railways being to force the turnpike trusts into liquidation. Although that process went on fairly rapidly, it is interesting to note that the last turnpike trust did not disappear in this country until 1895.
I now wish to emphasise the legislative aspect during this period. The whole trend was undoubtedly in the direction of steadily transferring responsibility for highway administration to the more important local authorities, and towards the end of the 19th century this responsibility rested upon the county councils, the borough councils and the urban authorities. To summarise, we saw in the 16th century the parish supersede the lord of the manor, in the 18th century the turnpike trust building up better roads than the parishes, and in the 19th century the railways effectively killing the turnpike trusts. That brings us to the 20th century when we were confronted with the problem of the motor car, and this is the issue with which we are primarily concerned today.
I shall now indicate the action that Parliament has taken during the past 40 years as a result of this rapid increase of motor transport. Here w saw another development in policy, in that the new Acts passed by Parliament in the 20th century showed the tendency to transfer the cost and responsibility for the construction and maintenance of highways from the local authority to national funds. In 1909 the Road Board was established, but with powers to make grants only for road improvement; there was no contribution then for road maintenance.
It was not until the Ministry of Transport was created in 1919 that we found the responsibility for highway administration centred on a single Department of State. Then, following on the Trunk Roads Acts of 1936 and 1946, the Minister of Transport became increasingly responsible for the whole of the cost of the trunk road system in this country. At the time when I introduce this Bill, which foreshadows a significant departure in our highway policy, we have 1739 183,000 miles of public roads, which is only 56,000 more miles of highways than we had 110 years ago. I think it will be generally recognised that the standard of maintenance and the standard of construction of our roads have materially improved during that period.
It might be useful to the House if I gave some measurement of the type of problem with which the Ministry of Transport and the nation is confronted. In 1904, there were only 17,810 motor vehicles on the roads of this country. In 1924 the figure had increased to 1,299,629, and today it amounts to 3,515,000 vehicles. Members will be only too well aware of the fact that there is a great potential increase of motor transport in the offing as soon as there is a free market for those who wish to obtain motor cars and other vehicles. Before the war, the yearly increase in the number of motor vehicles appearing on our highways worked out at an average of about 170,000, and reflection on these figures gives a conception of the type of problem with which any Minister responsible to this House and to the country must deal.
I now propose to deal with the density problem of those 3½ million vehicles. In 1924, the traffic density per mile of road worked out at 7.3 vehicles per mile of road. In 1939, it had increased to 17.6 vehicles per mile of road, and today our roads are correspondingly much denser. The Ministry of Transport also carries out a number of periodical tests at census points throughout the country. I should like to give hon. Members one or two figures of those tests. The one I have chosen is a road which carries heavy traffic, dealing with a good deal of commercial and industrial traffic. It is on the London to Birmingham road A45, and the point of the test is on the west boundary of Coventry. The time of the test is from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. In 1931 the number of motor vehicles passing that particular spot numbered 4,639. In 1938—and I want hon. Members to realise that that is only a matter of some seven years—it had nearly doubled, and reached a figure of 8,218 vehicles. When one looks at the tonnage involved, the type of vehicle is quite easily discernible as the heavy motor type of commercial vehicle, because in 1931 the tonnage 1740 carried by those 4,639 vehicles was 11,475, whereas in 1938 the tonnage passing over that point in the period was 23,270.
No one can compare those three sets of figures without getting some measurement of the type of problem with which we have to deal today. It is quite true that I have here taken one of the more serious problems of heavy traffic roads, because the average increase over all the census points which are periodically tested by the Ministry of Transport on Class I and trunk roads, from 1935 to 1938, was 20 per cent.
I should like to turn to the capital cost of the problem of road construction which we shall face in the future. This comparison demonstrates quite clearly the economic case for the motorway as compared with the type of road construction which is known as the all-purpose road, to which we have previously adhered. In the future, when we are contemplating the construction of a new road, if it is to be built on the all-purpose plan, that is, accessible to all types of vehicles which decide to use it, the cost will work out at about £175,000 per mile of road, whereas the cost of the motorway will work out at approximately £150,000 per mile. On an average, the cost of a motorway would work out at about 15 per cent. less, and it would occupy or use roughly 10 per cent. less land than an all-purpose road.
That is the total capital cost, but that does not exhaust the comparison in favour of the motorway. Let me take as an example a particular road, and this can be repeated throughout the country, to disclose the problem of disturbance and the problem of either a short-term or long-term solution of any traffic problem. Hon. Members are aware that a scheme like the building of the Severn Bridge is not only designed to solve the traffic problem in that area, but it has a large industrial and social purpose in so far that eventually it will link up the Midlands with the South Wales ports and thereby open up to that important industrial area additional port facilities.
The problem of road construction in that area, and of the decision whether a new road, which must in any case be built, should be on the motorway principle or upon the all-purpose road 1741 principle, emerges clearly when we take an example of this description. The road I am speaking about is the Birmingham to Bristol road, and the stretch to which the test applies is 23 miles from Bristol to Gloucester on the A.38 road. The section is from Almondsbury to Quedgeley, a length of 23 miles. The present road passes through 14 villages; it has 36 connections with existing classified roads and 47 connections with existing unclassified roads. The whole of the 23 miles of existing roads is of a tortuous character, and the width continually varies. If the Minister is denied the powers for which provision is made in this Bill there would be no alternative but to endeavour to reconstruct that road as an all-purpose road.
To make it a reasonable all-purpose road, the Minister would have to reconstruct an entirely new section of 13 miles, 10 miles would have to be considerably widened and many other improvements would have to be made. The total cost of constructing an improved all-purpose road would work out at about £3 million. When all this was done, when that capital expenditure had been made, frontage access would still prevail, and access from the side roads which I have mentioned would still not be eliminated, whereas a motorway constructed on a new alignment would cost £3½ million. In this case I admit that the cost of the motorway is a little more than that of the all-purpose road, but there would be only five junctions, none of them on the level, and the whole problem of access to side roads and the whole problem of frontage access would be removed. Although I do not wish hon. Members to assume that there would be no crossing of the motorway such crossings would either go underneath or over, as the case may be.
If one takes an important cross-country road, say that from Liverpool to Hull, anyone who is familiar with those industrial areas will at once appreciate that the cost of improvement to permit of any rapid flow of transport across that great industrial belt would be of an almost prohibitive character. So, in a case like that, and this can be repeated throughout the country, the economic case for the motorway emerges without any dispute. The British Road Federation has provided a good deal of valuable publicity on 1742 this problem, and it is not my intention to go deeply into the details of the economy which would ensue from the construction of motorways. It is quite clear that other direct economies would be obtained, quite apart from the item of capital cost. We should not overlook the economy in land and the greater speed of travel with more or less complete safety and less wear and tear on vehicles and equipment.
I do not desire to unduly overemphasise the safety aspect, because it is so difficult to measure or to give hon. Members any reliable figures, especially when 60 per cent. of our present-day road fatalities occur in urban areas. That being so, one might argue that the construction of motorways would not affect urban areas. I do not hold that view, because one cannot determine exactly how many of these fatalities in urban areas result from the irritation caused by the incompatibility of vehicles accelerating to pass through an area at the expense of local traffic which has not the same urgency for speed. We must depend upon experience, therefore, to discover exactly what proportion of safety the motorway will produce.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
Can my right hon. Friend give the House, as a guide, any information of the experience of other countries, notably Germany, which developed autobahns before the war?
§ Mr. Barnes
Yes, in both America and Germany the evidence of economy and safety is fairly conclusive. As I have already indicated, the British Road Federation supplies a good deal of detailed information upon that point. For my part, however, I do not generally rely upon the experience of other countries in transport problems, because conditions elsewhere are very often much different from those in this country. If we can lift from our urban areas the density of traffic to which I have referred in Coventry, and divert it on to special roads, there is no doubt that our urban routes will he made safer and more pleasant for local traffic.
I will refer now to the division of mileage in this country into the various road classifications. We have 8,190 miles of trunk roads, 19,517 miles of Class I roads, 17,708 miles of Class 2 roads and 1743 48,323 miles of Class 3 roads, making a total of 93,738 miles of trunk and classified roads. These figures will enable the proposals of the Bill to be seen in their proper proportion to the road plan of the country, because it is a matter that can be easily exaggerated and about which unnecessary prejudice can be aroused. Hon. Members will recollect that in my highways statement in May, 1946, I indicated the intention of the Government to proceed with the construction of motorways, but the complete plan which is visualised amounts to no more than 1,000 miles of motorways, or approximately only one per cent. of the total mileage of trunk and classified roads.
It will be a mistake for anyone to assume that the Bill is promoted to satisfy the selfish interests of the private motorist. It is nothing of the kind. It is often overlooked that nowadays we are all motorists, whether or not we drive a private car. Everybody travels on buses or coaches and the greater proportion of our domestic and personal needs are delivered by motor van.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
Why does the Minister refer to the selfish interests of the private motorist? Is it not a fact that the private motorists' Road Fund has been raided by Government after Government for the past 20 years?
§ Mr. Barnes
The hon. Member's eagerness has robbed me of the chance to make that point, which I had intended to do a little later in my remarks. I was not alleging that there is a selfish interest. I said it would be a mistake to assume that the roads are promoted to satisfy any selfish interests. On the contrary, I was proceeding to emphasise that the Measure is an enabling Bill and not limited to the provision of motorways, although it would be quite wrong for me to evade the issue that it is primarily for that purpose because of the magnitude of that side of the problem in our highway administration.
I should emphasise, however, that, under the powers given to them to construct a special road, highway authorities could determine that the only classes of traffic using that road should be motor vehicles. These same powers can—and, I sincerely hope, will—be used 1744 by county highway authorities for the construction of special roads for pedestrians and for cyclists—across for instance, a national park, along a river bank, across mountain, moor, or the coast line. I see that hon. Members are smiling. I see nothing at which to smile or cast ridicule in these powers.
§ Mr. Barnes
These powers are very important and should be used by local authorities for opening up many amenities to the advantage of the young people of our time.
§ Mr. MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
Then may I ask the Minister why he refused a grant to the county councils of Ross and Cromarty for the provision of such a road along the coast of the north peninsula of Applecross?
§ Mr. Barnes
That question brings me to the point that this responsibility will rest upon local highway authorities, who ought to meet the cost of special roads of this type. The hon. Member queries that, but if he will reflect for a moment he will see that there is some justification for my attitude. I pointed out earlier that in the last 40 years Parliament has pursued a policy of transferring an ever-increasing proportion of highway administration from the local authority, upon whom it rested for three and a half centuries, to State funds; and today there falls upon national expenditure the whole cost of our trunk roads, 75 per cent. of the cost of Class I roads and 60 per cent. of the cost of Class 2 roads; and only recently, in 1946, I introduced a further grant of 50 per cent. for all Class 3 roads.
The cost of constructing and maintaining the special types of roads for hikers or cycle paths for cyclists will not represent any very considerable capital outlay or annual cost for maintenance. At a time when the State, by this Measure, visualises the construction of these motorways at the capital cost I have mentioned, for the purpose of relieving the local authority of a good deal of the cost of other highways, it is not unreasonable to suggest that highway authorities should use these powers for the purpose I have indicated, especially as the advantages to 1745 be derived will be enjoyed largely by the residents in their own localities.
Now let me turn to the Bill. The Explanatory Memorandum has given a general idea of the Clauses, but I should emphasise the more important Clauses and tell hon. Members what they represent. Under Clause 1 a highway authority other than the Minister may promote a special road scheme, but such scheme must be approved by the Minister. A scheme promoted by the Minister does not come under this provision. The scheme must prescribe the route and the classes of traffic for which it will be reserved. The First Schedule regulates the procedure to be followed in serving notices upon interested parties and for holding public inquiries following very much the same lines as the Trunk Roads Act. Hon. Members will see in Part III of the First Schedule that highway authorities or navigation authorities who dispute the terms of a scheme can avail themselves of the Special Parliamentary Procedure.
Clause 3 deals with the stopping up of existing access—assuming that a scheme has passed through all its stages—and the providing of alternatives, as well as of the ancillary work that will be required to make the fly-over crossings or diversions.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Does the Bill in any way provide for bridges to link up roads which are on two sides of rivers, such as are found in many parts of Scotland—the Forth for instance?
§ Mr. Barnes
The Bill does not provide for such a case, but if a scheme embodies such a proposal it empowers the Minister to do such things as the hon. and learned Member has suggested. If a special road is divided up, and a bridge is involved in the scheme, the Bill will enable the Minister to undertake that task. My hon. and learned Friend must not read into what I have said any increased hope of getting a Forth road bridge.
§ Mr. Hughes
Having regard to the fact that a Forth road bridge is such a necessary thing, does not the Minister think that the Bill is a very good opportunity for meeting this crying need.
§ Mr. Barnes
No, Sir, and I do not intend to be drawn into a discussion of 1746 the Forth road bridge at this stage. It does not follow, in the first instance, that the Forth road bridge would be a special road, that is to say a motor road. That fact in itself might dispose of the Forth road bridge in relation to the Bill.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
As the Minister has now been drawn into a discussion of the Forth road bridge, let us not get the matter out of proportion. I would remind the Minister that the Tay road bridge is probably the more important.
§ Mr. Barnes
Perhaps we might be able to discuss these matters one day in a more leisurely and impartial atmosphere.
Clause 4 of the Bill deals with the relationship of the special road authority to statutory undertakers. First of all, under the Town and Country Planning Act, a special highway authority may gain the necessary powers to extinguish the rights of undertakers where necessary. As we are here dealing with the construction of entirely new roads, it is reasonable to assume that that would not represent much disturbance, if any at all. If an undertaker wishes to have power to lay his mains along a special road he must obtain the consent of the special road authority. If there is a dispute between the undertakers and the special road authority in this case, the undertaker can appeal to the Minister. If an undertaker wishes to lay a main across a special road, consent must not be withheld unreasonably by the special road authority. Considering these three classes of case, we see that it would be more reasonable for undertakers to cross a special road in providing their services than to use the special road as a trunk line. If a special road authority disputes the right of an undertaker to lay its mains across a special road, the case goes to arbitration.
Clause 10 is important because it represents again something of a departure. Here the special road authority will have power to acquire land beyond the 220 yards which now governs the acquisition of land for trunk road purposes under the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act. This extended power is essential for 1747 the construction of certain types of flyover junction, the stopping up of important access that might exist today, the provision of alternative access, and the provision of petrol stations. While there are no powers for the Minister or a highway authority to run petrol stations, hostels or cafés themselves, those facilities undoubtedly must be attracted to the special roads. I think it will meet with the approval of all hon. Members that the special highway authority should have power to acquire the necessary land and carry out a reasonable design to maintain the amenities of the roadway as a whole.
Clause 15 has been inserted because, in anticipation of the Bill receiving the sanction of Parliament, certain important inquiries have been held in regard to other roads under the trunk road procedure. Precaution was taken in three cases to make a public statement that in the event of Parliament passing the Special Roads Bill, those roads would be incorporated under the special road procedure. In regard to the financial provisions, I do not anticipate that there will be any increased expenditure to any extent.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Before the Minister leaves that point, will he explain why, when there is this discussion on making these new roads at what has been estimated at £150,000 per mile, he does not anticipate that this will involve additional expenditure?
§ Mr. Barnes
I am not quite clear what the hon. Member means when he says it will not entail increased or additional expenditure. No motor road will be built unless a case is made out for a new road in the first instance. If a case is made out for a new road the decision must then be whether it is to be an all-purpose road or a motor way.
The case for this Bill is that in past experience, when Parliament has spent money on an all-purpose road, in the course of time, because access is retained to an all-purpose road, the result it was expected to achieve becomes steadily negatived because traffic of all kinds is attracted to the road. In the case of the special road, we shall get a longer term advantage for the capital expenditure. However, I do not wish to evade the fact that it means additional capital expenditure, but this is the most economical way 1748 of doing it. With regard to the timing of that expenditure, the passing of this Bill does not in any way expedite the time factor. Hon. Members are just as aware as I am that the need to restrict capital expenditure at the moment has slowed down and postponed the 10-year road plan of the Ministry of Transport, and the passing of this Bill can in no way expedite that expenditure.
Finally, I base my case for this Bill on the fact that at the present moment we are not able to engage in widespread road construction, and I consider that as the Minister today I am observing the national interest in getting the powers that are required to carry out all the preparatory work. I should remind hon. Members that it takes something like two years of preliminary work before one can commence to construct a new road in this country. There are the surveys to determine the alignment, there are the notices to be served on the interested parties, there is the procedure of public inquiry, there is the process of acquiring land, there are the drawings and the plans to be prepared by the engineers. I consider that today, when we are prevented from building new roads, one can best serve the national interest by getting the power required to solve this problem, to get on with the preliminary work, and to have everything ready, because the problem is so urgent that, when the necessary finance is there, the Minister then responsible to Parliament can get on with the job at once.
In this country we are hopelessly in arrears. From 1914 to 1948 the number of motor vehicles in this country increased 10 times. In that period of 34 years, 10 years have been directly eliminated because this country has been involved in two great military conflicts for national survival. After the 1914-18 war there was a period of financial stringency. An hon. Member opposite indicated that then the revenue from motor vehicles tax was rising rapidly, and there was every prospect of the necessary funds being there to carry out a bold system of new road construction in this country, but the financial circumstances of that time dashed those hopes and plans and the fund was absorbed into the national budgetary figures. The result was that there was only the period from 1920 onwards until 1935, when we made any attempt to grapple with this problem, 1749 We have just passed through another devastating war which has exhausted the finances and resources of this country, and during the past three years of peace there have been no funds which Parliament could grant to enable this problem to be dealt with.
In those circumstances, the least this House can do is to look with some vision and understanding at the problem that sooner or later it must tackle, unless we are to be choked to death by the motor vehicles on the highways of this country. This Bill, and the plans and preparations that will go on, will for the first time lay the foundations of a radical, a commonsense, and an economical attempt to solve this problem in the most practical way.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
I shall not have the pleasure of following the right hon. Gentleman through what I found a most interesting historical introduction to this matter, but I am none the less grateful for it because I believe it is useful that, when we are dealing with the fresh development of a problem, we should see it in the perspective of past efforts. However, there are a number of factors which require critical examination before a proper view can be formed on the merits of the Bill.
I have endeavoured to decide for myself what these factors are, and I put them to the House for its consideration. The first is the forecast of increased savings and efficiency in transport; the second is the capital expenditure involved; the third is the timing of that capital expenditure; the fourth is the effect on agriculture. The fifth is what I call the compensation provisions, although, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, that does not deal with pounds, shillings and pence but with alternative access and facilities. I have endeavoured to consider these points and, having considered them, I have come to the conclusion that we on this side of the House ought to co-operate in giving the Bill a Second Reading. However, I feel that it is my duty to examine these points and indicate why I have come to this conclusion if the House will bear with me.
The right hon. Gentleman expressed his appreciation of the first point and refrained, in view of the amount of ground 1750 he had to cover, from dealing with it in any detailed way. However, I think hon. Members should have before them the position with regard to the amount spent on running mechanically-propelled vehicles today so that they know how it reacts on our general national economy. My information is that something more than £650 million, that is 7.6 of the national income, is devoted in each year to the running of mechanically-propelled vehicles. That is a tremendous fraction of the national income of the country and it requires our consideration. It is spent on licences, insurance, wages, garaging, interest and depreciation, fuel and oil, tyres, repairs, maintenance and other forms of expenditure. My figures are approximately correct.
Compared with that, the actual road expenditure at the moment is somewhere about £40 million. If the expenditure were proportionate to what it was before the war, it would be nearly £100 million. On the other hand, the yield from motor vehicles tax and motor fuel duties is again somewhere in the region of £100 million, probably more today. Those are factors which one must consider when approaching this matter in order to do it justice.
I have tried to examine the heads where savings could be made and these are—waste of time, higher fuel consumption, increased wear on tyres and increased maintenance charges through wear and tear generally, and the fifth great item—accidents—which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. All these points seem to me deserving of consideration and, therefore, I went into them to see what information was available. I am told that as far as the saving of time is concerned there should be an increase of speed from an average of 24 miles per hour for light vehicles and 16 miles per hour for heavy vehicles, to something like 50 miles an hour on the roads. The saving in fuel would result from the decrease in the number of stops, and reduction in low gear work.
One hon. Member on the other side of the House asked for the comparison with experiences on the German autobahnen and the American roads like the Chicago road. Experience in that field is stated to be a reduction of 40 per cent. a very considerable reduction. A small saving through the absence of stops occurs with regard to tyres. I should like 1751 to say a Word on maintenance. Although we have considered this problem many of us do not realise that maintenance comes to the enormous figure of £88 million a year, and the tests again were that wear and tear comes from the vast number of gear changes, brake applications and overturning of the steering wheel which is experienced under our present road system.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has presented his argument as if road transport were entirely a non-productive and wasteful phase of human endeavour. On the credit side there is a great deal to be said, and is he is a position to balance one with the other?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. and learned Gentleman has completely misunderstood my argument, though I do not think anyone else in the House has. What I have been putting forward is the saving in transport costs which will result from the construction of these roadways. I carried everyone with me except the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) in dealing with the four aspects in which transport costs can be reduced. I hope I have indicated to the House the points which weighed with me. I was going to deal with another point which has weighed with me, and that is the question of accidents. That is on the credit side of the Bill. The hon. and learned Member must not assume, because I am at this Box and because the Minister of Transport and I have had a great number of exchanges over the Transport Bill, that when I see something of which I approve, I hesitate to say I approve of it. I am giving at the moment the reasons why I do approve.
The other point is road accidents. These cost something like £60 million a year pre-war with insurance premiums of something like £50 million. Again the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if my figures are not approximately right. In Oxfordshire, for example, they found that 58 per cent. of accidents could have been prevented by the removal of road defects, and in Germany, as has been mentioned by one hon. Member opposite, there was an 82 per cent. reduction on the autobahnen, while in America there 1752 have been equally remarkable figures on the Chicago Lake Road. That is the position on the credit side, which I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate.
§ Mr. Alpass
There is one point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has overlooked on the credit side—the saving of life.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That was included when I dealt with accidents generally. I intended in that to include fatal accidents, and I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman in that matter.
May I deal with the difficulties which I think have presented themselves to Members in all parts of the House? First, there is the general position of capital expenditure which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. In view of our overall economic position and the cuts that have been made in capital expenditure, it would seem rather contradictory to create another class of expenditure at the moment. I have always taken the view that the test for our capital expenditure ought to be its effectiveness in saving dollars. That has been my view for some time and I have often expressed it. When these roads are in operation, there is no doubt that the saving in transport costs will be very effective throughout the whole field of production, because transport costs touch every stage of production. Therefore, they will assist the export trade, and by allowing our exports to be cheaper, we shall be found to penetrate new markets. To that extent they do come within my argument, although that is a very ultimate result.
I am merely suggesting—and I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that he agreed with this effect of the Bill—that it brings the possible expenditure on motorways up to the starting gate of capital expenditure. It takes it through, but before it is put into operation not only are the preliminary matters with which I have dealt to be considered, but it has to be weighed along with other claims of capital expenditure on steel, oil, electricity or any of the other things which come into the capital expenditure programme.
That brings me to the next point—the question of timing. What is troubling a number of us on this side of the House 1753 is in regard to the progress mentioned in the Memorandum, where it says:It is not possible to frame an estimate of the total cost that will be involved. … It is unlikely, however, that these powers will result in a substantial increase in the total annual expenditure which would otherwise have been incurred by the Minister in respect of roads.The right hon. Gentleman said that the cost on special roads would be £150,000 per mile, and he compared that with £175,000 which would be the cost of constructing an all-purposes road. I suggest to him that the true comparison would be with £140,000 per mile, which is the cost of bringing existing roads up to full standard, as I am informed that that is a more exact comparison. There we have the potential cost for the thousand miles of special roads which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned of £150 million for construction alone. We should like to know whether, in addition, there would be the cost of providing upkeep and improvement of the other main roads and whether that figure includes expenditure upon private alternative highways where there is stopping up or where private access is denied. Does it include the cost of severance and depreciation and the extra expenditure for the transfer of public utility services? I see that the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates the points and realises that this is an important matter about which we ought to know in considering this Bill.
I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that, while he could not give us any indication of how much of the outlay is contemplated in the next five years, it is a fact that a considerable portion of that period must be occupied by survey and preliminaries and thereafter, although he did not commit himself, I understood that the approach was that these special roads would be considered in order of urgency according to the circumstances. In that case we appreciate that by this Bill, we are not intending immediately to run into further capital expenditure. A few months ago we made a cut in the capital programme and it is important that the public, who have heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer deal with that cut, should appreciate that fact. We are intending to take the preliminary steps and it will be at least two years after those steps are taken when this matter can come into 1754 operation. Of course, if there were a dramatic change in the position, I should not hold the right hon. Gentleman to that, but that is the practical proposition which we are facing at the moment.
I wish to say a word about the effect on agriculture and again I shall try to consider the whole picture. I quite understand that the amount of land needed for the new special roads would not exceed .05 per cent. of the total acreage of farmland in the country. I start from that, so that the right hon Gentleman will appreciate that I have it in mind. On the other hand, existing holdings will of necessity be severed and there will be that result on the farming production programme and farm economy. We ought to have this in mind and to consider the fact that individual holdings will be disturbed and that there will be less opportunity, because of the nature of these new roads, to divert them in order to avoid severance. Such roads go straight and there is not the same opportunity for diversion as there is in the making of other roads.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
But this is the case of a big road. Severance might be avoided in the case of another road, but it is more difficult with the special roads, which have to go straight. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman considers five points in regard to agriculture. The first is the avoidance of unnecessary severance, where that can be arranged. The second is adequate compensation for loss of land and severance. That is a Committee point which we can consider later. The third point is the provision of adequate means of access between severed lands, "creeps," or something of that kind. We ought to give special attention to that The fourth is the provision of alternative roads in the event of existing highways being stopped up or limited to a class of traffic excluding agricultural vehicles.
The House will forgive a personal recollection. The autobahnenw hich I know best is that between Nuremberg and Munich. When I drove over it, the bridges were brought very much to one's notice because, in their retreat, the Germans had blown up practically every bridge going over the road. But it was remarkable to see how many bridges there were and 1755 how well they had arranged communications between communities on different sides of the road. Although Bavaria is sparsely populated, it was a remarkable performance and something which we ought to bear in mind.
My fifth point is how far the Minister can include agricultural tractors, trailers and self-propelling agricultural vehicles in a class of vehicular traffic. Perhaps later we shall hear suggestions for slow lanes of traffic. The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that these matters should be taken into account. I am not going to deal in detail with the compensation provisions, using the word in the wide sense to which I have referred. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would look at Clause 3, Subsection (3) and let us know the scope of that subsection. The point I have in mind is that of not stopping up a highway until alternatives are provided. I should like him to deal with what he has in mind asa reasonably convenient alternative route.There are other points, for example, in regard to the incidence of the Town and Country Planning Act, which can be developed and may need some explanation later on.
I feel that a prima facie case for the reduction in transport costs, with the resultant benefit to production, has been made and that therefore the special roads should be allowed to take their place in the capital development queue. We have had an opportunity of considering the position. The right hon. Gentleman has shown us that we are not faced with any immediate reversal of the capital development policy. He has shown us, and I have endeavoured respectfully to supplement it by reasons which are operative on my mind, what ultimate improvement there will be and what benefit may 'come to the country from the creation of these roads. For those reasons, I shall advise my right hon. Friends to support the Second Reading of the Bill.
May I add a personal word of apology. It is my practice in this House when I have the honour of opening a Debate for the Opposition to remain in the House to listen to what others have to say afterwards. Today I have certain engagements which I cannot put off and, therefore, I 1756 ask the House to acquit me of discourtesy if I go in a manner contrary to my usual practice and contrary to what I want to do.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
I am sure the House will agree that the Minister is to be congratulated on introducing this Bill. It is long overdue, because the roads of our country are at least 50 years out of date and are woefully inadequate to carry present-day traffic. Instead of assisting our industry, as they should, they are an obstacle to its progress and development. It has been my fortune, good or otherwise, to have travelled on the Bristol to Gloucester road, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend, many thousands of times. I have known what it is to suffer from the fact that the road is so inadequate as to prevent the free flow of traffic. It has meant a considerable loss of time, which has been reflected in increased costs in many directions. Many parts of that road are so narrow that, for miles, it permits of only single-line traffic both ways; its alignment and configuration are so awkward as to amount, in many places, to a positive danger.
It is unnecessary, at this stage in our history, to argue about the benefits which would flow from the passage of this Bill and its operation. I prefer to place it on much stronger grounds, and to say that I believe that a Bill of this character has become an absolute necessity, and will be of great benefit to our industry and national economy. As one who has always been a most ardent advocate of the building of a bridge across the River Severn, I was pleased to hear that two of the special roads which are contemplated by the Bill will link up with that important project. My disappointment at the postponement of that project has been considerably modified by the fact that, by this Bill, the Minister is given power to put that proposal into operation without having to seek further Parliamentary sanction.
The Minister has acted wisely in continuing research in connection with the Severn Bridge project, although his action has been misrepresented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who is not here now, although I gave him notice that I would 1757 refer to him, said in his constituency—and, unfortunately, I am one of his constituents—that £400,000 had already been wasted, as he called it. on this project. The actual figure is £90,000, not £400,000, and none of it has been wasted because it was essential that this money should be spent before the bridge was built. I corrected the right hon. Gentleman's statement, both personally and in the Press, but I am sorry to say that he had neither the political honesty nor the courtesy to withdraw or apologise for his misstatement. I can only say that if the right hon. Gentleman's reputation for veracity were as sound as his reputation for wit, his statements would have greater weight.
Another reason I support the Bill is that it will lead to a diminution of road accidents and a saving of human life. This is an extremely important point in its favour, because it is impossible to estimate in money the value of the human lives that will be saved when the provisions of the Bill are put into operation. We are told by road safety experts that the roads built in other countries have resulted in a very marked decrease in accidents and a consequent saving of human life, and I believe that this Bill will lead to similar results in this country.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
My hon. Friend is talking about the benefits of this Bill, but it merely gives power to the Minister to do something. Will he tell the House how he expects this to be done, when we in Scotland have tried to get various Governments, who already had the power, to open the main road from Scotland to England which was made by the Romans?
§ Mr. Alpass
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was here at the time, but the Minister explained that the operation of this Bill will depend on the economic circumstances of the country prevailing at the time when it is desired to put its provisions into effect.
§ Mr. Scollan
That is what is worrying me. The Bill gives the Minister power to do certain things. Previous Ministers have had the power to do almost anything, but they have not done it.
§ Mr. Alpass
It is a matter of opinion. I am especially interested in the fact that two of the proposed roads will cut through my constituency.
§ Mr. Alpass
Yes, the interest of the people who will suffer. I want to make a special plea to my right hon. Friend to see that those persons whose interests are affected by the disturbance of their land will have their claims for compensation considered on a fair and equitable basis. I am certain it is the intention of the Government and the Minister to deal with them in that way, but I should be failing in my duty if I did not make that clear now.
The only small criticism I have to make of the Measure is that many highway technicians believe that Clauses 14 and 16 need some modification. This and other points of detail will have to be dealt with in Committee, but they do not detract from the real value of the Bill. I hope it will have a smooth passage, that it will become law at the earliest moment, and that the economic circumstances of the country will permit of the early operation of its provisions so that the great benefits which it foreshadows will be enjoyed by out people and industry.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
I support this Bill. I should like to make two points which are rather special, but are in no way Committee points. The first is that a motorway can be either attractive or it can be hideous. It depends on its exact alignment through the country, side, on the contours of the road, and on the materials used for bridges and culverts. A motorway, if it makes no unnecessary gashes in the landscape, if it is designed to blend harmoniously with the country it pierces, if local stone and other local materials are used so far as possible, need not harm, and may even enhance, the natural beauty of the scene. After all, the charm of the English country, of rural England and Scotland——
§ Mr. Keeling
—and Monmouthshire, is largely due, not to the work of God alone but also to features made by man: the hedgerows, the fields, the woodlands, the villages. Man-made roads also can be beautiful. Therefore, I urge that the best possible advice should be taken about the effect of any particular alignment on the landscape as well as about the engineering and traffic problems. In passing from this point I add that the mere fact that a motorway will avoid existing towns and villages will add to the amenities of those towns and villages.
My second point is this. The Minister pointed out that the Bill gives power to construct new roads for pedestrians and other non-motor traffic. He might have added that the Bill can also be used to keep motor cars off existing careen roads and the like which, though technically highways, are not suitable for motor traffic and cannot be used by motors without destroying the pleasure of other users. There are a number of these roads over the downs and hills of England where, as a poet said, one will find:The wide green silence and the moss-grown ways.Perhaps the best known of these roads is the Ridgeway. Hon. Members who do not know the Ridgeway will, on application to the reference department of the Library, be able to see a very fine photograph of the Ridgeway south of Wantage in "The Times" of 9th June, 1938.
These green roads along the watersheds were built thousands of years ago, perhaps as much as seven thousand years ago, long before the Celtic invasion, at a time when the valleys were little more than bogs or marshes. Their turf, from long tramping, is finer and darker than the grass of the surrounding land.
Now a Bill called the Highway Protection Bill, giving power to highway authorities to exclude particular traffic from a non-metalled road, was introduced nine years ago by my hon. and learned Friend the junior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). It passed through the Committee upstairs nemine contradicente. It was only the war which prevented it from becoming law. The present Bill provides that very same power. In doing so it gives effect to one of the recommendations of the Committee presided over by Lord Justice Scott, in its report on Land 1760 Utilisation in Rural Areas, Cmd. 6378. The Committee said, in paragraph 177:… both walkers and cyclists protest against the use of green lanes' by motorists. … There are grounds for restriction of use of any given right of way, but such regulation must be on a reciprocal basis….And in giving such powers the Bill also gives effect to what was said in more detail by John Dower in his report, Cmd. 6628. In paragraph 32 he said:Increasing frustration and complaints—by motorists that the roads were open to them but not fit for safe and comfortable use; by farmers, riders, cyclists and walkers that growing use by motorists was destroying the safety, comfort and pleasure of their use—marked the lack of any consistent policy before the war. It is widely (and I believe rightly) held that the only sound policy-basis is segregation and selective restriction of traffic, with graduated improvement of those routes which are left open to most classes of motor traffic, and with no improvement and minimum maintenance of those routes which are reserved for walkers, cyclists and horse-drawn traffic, and closed to all motor vehicles except for the specific service of neighbouring farms.Apart from the needs of farms, objection may be made that motor-cycle trials, which often take place on these green 'roads, may be stopped, and that this would injure the export trade. But that really is not a valid objection, because Clause 12 (2) (c) of this Bill gives power to make exceptions, for particular occasions, to any general restriction. There is also provision in the Schedule for a local inquiry. I therefore ask for an assurance that the powers given by the Bill will be used to keep motors off existing roads not suitable for motors as well as to keep non-motor traffic off motorways. Like my right hon. Friend I apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary if, through another engagement, I should be unable to hear his reply.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)
I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) because my approach to this Bill is very similar to his. I am particularly concerned about amenities, and I support him whole-heartedly on the two points he put forward with regard to the use of local materials in building motorways and keeping motor vehicles off some existing roads. I think the powers in the Bill will make the latter possible.
In recent weeks I think all of us have received some very elaborately prepared 1761 literature from the British Road Federation. It is quite right to say, as did the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) who opened the Debate for the Opposition, that a prima facie case has been made out for these motorways in the literature which we have received. On safety grounds a case has been proved for segregating traffic. As for the motorways envisaged in this Bill, it can be taken now as virtually proved that, on economic grounds, in present circumstances, and considered in isolation from other forms of transport, a case has been made out.
I have made one or two qualifications and I should like to discuss them in a little more detail. The Minister made it clear that no immediate action is contemplated, that none could result for at least two years, and that the time would probably be longer still. I said that on economic grounds a case for these motorways had been made out in present circumstances, but I wonder whether we should commit ourselves to these long-term plans on the assumption that motor traffic will increase in the way it did before the war? It is not many years since the use of the air as a means of transport was regarded as a fantastic dream. It is not very long since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation travelled to this House by helicopter which landed on the Horse Guards Parade. I wonder whether in a few years' time, instead of driving their cars into New Palace Yard, Members will descend from the air and unbuckle some helicopter attachment from their backs? Will traffic continue in future to be as earthbound as it is for the most part now, or should we be prepared for a considerable mental adjustment and a much greater use of the air?
The second reservation I made was that a case has been made out if these motorways are considered in isolation from other forms of transport. Is it wise to ignore our railway system? There we have special roads in existence which are intended to carry heavy traffic. It would be a mistake to consider a motorways policy without full regard for the future reorganisation and use of our railway system. A further reservation was that the case had been made out on economic grounds. Are economic 1762 grounds the only ones which we should consider? There is no reference in the Bill to amenities. In the Trunk Roads Act of 1946 there is at any rate a reference to agriculture. Section 1 of that Act states that the Minister shall act:… after taking into consideration the requirements of local and national planning, including the requirements of agriculture …There is no reference whatever in this Measure either to agriculture or to amenities generally. These motorways are bound to go through open country and through good agricultural land. The British Road Federation in their "Case for Motorways" said:With regard to the actual space required, it has been calculated that 1,000 miles of motorways would not need more than 12,000 acres of land. Existing roads and streets in Britain cover 600,000 acres out of a total land area of 37,500,000 acres. By using land, wherever possible, which is non-productive or of poor quality, the net requirements can be made very modest indeed.I wonder whether it will be possible to avoid the use of the best land. The whole point of the proposed motorways is that they shall be straight, and if good agricultural land lies in their path, so much the worse for the agricultural land. These motorways will not be like the roads made by Chesterton's "rolling English drunkard," able to go round corners. They must be straight and avoid kinks. Therefore, inevitably they will cut into valuable agricultural land.
There is likely to develop a conflict between the Ministries. The Minister of Transport will be thinking of his motorways with the idea of developing direct through roads. The Minister of Agriculture will be concerned with the preservation of the best agricultural land. The Minister of Town and County Planning is one of the sponsors of this Bill, but it is not made clear what his powers will be. It should be laid down in the Bill that where there is a conflict between the economic interests of transport and agriculture, someone ought to have power to resolve the difficulties. I think that that person should be the Minister of Town and Country Planning. A similar point arises in the case of national parks. It ought to be made clear whether or not motorways are to be kept out of the national park areas. That question must be decided. I quote again from the British Road Federation's "Case for 1763 Motorways" on the subject of amenities. They say:Aesthetically, and for the practical purpose of attracting more tourist traffic, motorways will open up new vistas for the road travellers, and provide opportunities for landscaping which will improve the countryside.That sentence almost made me shudder. The words:— opportunities for landscaping which will improve the countrysidesuggest a somewhat vandalistic attempt to improve on nature. That aspect of these proposals needs careful attention.
I am very glad that the Bill is called the "Special Roads Bill" and not the "Motorways Bill." I hope that the powers under Clause 1 (1) will be used for the provision of special roads for cyclists and pedestrians quite separate from the motorways. Instead of cycle tracks or footpaths being at the side of motorways, they should be completely independent. I hope also that the power which I understand exists in the Bill will be used to appropriate existing roads for the use of special classes of road users although those roads at the moment are all-purpose roads. Provision is made in this Measure for penalties for wrongful use of the special roads by people for whom they are not intended, but there does not appear to be any power to ensure that those people for whom the roads are intended shall use them. We have wayside transport cafes and so on at present in existence and if long-distance drivers are familiar with certain routes it may well be that they will choose to continue to use those roads and the amenities at the sides of them with which they are familiar. There is nothing in this Bill, as far as I can see, to ensure that long-distance through traffic will use a motorway if it is made, and I think that point should be gone into.
There is another point which arises under Clause 12 (2, b), which affects the whole road policy. If I understand it correctly, the Minister envisages other forms of traffic crossing the special road. Does this mean crossing the road by means of a bridge over the top of it, or, alternatively, underneath it, or literally crossing the actual surface of the special road? If it means crossing on the actual surface of the special road, I think something in the nature of a limitation should 1764 be laid down very clearly; otherwise, the whole purpose of these special roads will be defeated.
Then, under Clause 10, there is power for acquiring extra land for special roads beyond the 220 yards limit. Is it intended that the highway authority, either the Minister himself or the local authority, shall link up that power with the provisions of Clause 3 (1, f)? There, it is stated that provision may be madefor any other purpose incidental to the purposes aforesaid or otherwise incidental to the construction or maintenance of, or other dealing with, the special road.In other words, is it a completely wide power to enable the authority to construct buildings at the side of these special roads, to open up petrol stations and to set up cafes and so on? I should like to know whether that is so or not, because I think it is an important point. Is it that the Minister is taking powers, not only to construct or to enable the local authorities themselves to construct special roads, but also to develop all the amenities which one expects to find at the side of these roads?
In conclusion, I think developments of the kind envisaged in this Bill are inevitable. I do not welcome them with any great enthusiasm, but I do not think there is any use in attempting to put back the clock. We already have our trunk roads. and we are now to have our special roads. In many quarters, the words "trunk roads" arouse suspicion and anxiety, particularly among those concerned with amenities. It may be an unjustified suspicion, and I am not accusing the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary of being vandals, but many a man in the street thinks of a trunk road as a wide, concrete highway, which is treeless—because fallen leaves would make the road surface dangerous in wet weather—and as a road without any kinks, and so on. Does a trunk road inevitably involve all that? I do not think it does, and I think the Minister agrees with me, but I should like to ask him to make it abundantly clear.
I suggest that he can do so by telling us what he has in mind with regard to the effect of making the Cambridge "Backs" a trunk road. If he were to say that making the "Backs" a trunk road would involve no widening of that road, no straightening of that road, no 1765 cutting down of trees, I think he would then remove many of the anxieties and suspicions which people, rightly or wrongly, do attach to his road policy. If he can remove these suspicions and anxieties in regard to trunk roads, then I am certain he would go a long way towards the removal of anxieties about the special roads. To many people, a special road will only seem to be a trunk road on a more grandiose scale. Therefore, I hope the Minister will take the opportunity of making quite clear just what is involved in his road policy, from the point of view of the preservation of amenities.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert (South Molton)
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) said that it was possible that the Minister of Transport might come into conflict with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture because, in building the special roads, good agricultural land might be taken. I do not think that this necessarily follows, because, if the roads are built in order to serve the agricultural community, surely, more food must result. Quite frankly, I am a little disappointed over the emphasis which the right hon. Gentleman put on parts of this country which are to be served by the new roads. The Minister emphasised the needs of the industrial areas of the country as compared with the agricultural areas. He talked about the inadequacy of the road between Bristol and Glasgow, and again of the road between Liverpool and Hull, and he hoped that the new roads would make urban city life more pleasant and safe.
Surely, it is becoming more and more generally recognised that the shortage of food makes our agricultural industry of prime importance. One hopes therefore, that attention will be paid, in planning these new roads, to the needs of farming. The hon. Member for Cambridge talked about alternative means of transport, and mentioned the air and the railways. So far as the rural areas are concerned, the railways are generally in inconvenient places, and air transport is quite impracticable. Therefore, I hope that the Minister, when he comes to administer this Bill, will regard it as completely vital that the rural communities, and not the urban ones, should be first served.
§ Mr. Molson
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? This is a very important point. In what way does he anticipate that agriculture could be assisted by these special roads? Does he contemplate that special roads should be built for driving cattle to market?
§ Mr. Lambert
The efficiency of agriculture, as of all other industries, is entirely dependent upon an adequate system of transport. In my own county, the roads upon which cattle and other livestock are carried to and from markets are extremely winding and narrow, and large vehicles are used which are often unable to pass. Thus, great delay is caused, and a vehicle is possibly prevented from making more than one journey where, if the roads were better, it might make two or three and thus considerably reduce the cost of transport. For that reason, I feel that farming requires and deserves good roads.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
Has the hon. Gentleman borne in mind the fact that the motorways are going to be no more than 1 per cent. of the total road mileage of the country?
§ Mr. Lambert
Surely, motorways can be made by improving existing roads? I am glad to see that the Government accept my view that the Bill can be interpreted in this way, because good roads are vital to farming.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton
I am sorry to interrupt again, but surely the hon. Gentleman will remember that this Bill is establishing a new kind of road. There is no difficulty in improving the existing, all-purpose roads as things stand now.
§ Mr. Lambert
I hope that the Minister, in looking into the need for new roads, will think that agricultural needs are more important than urban needs, because, without agriculture, the people in the towns would be unable to live. Without good roads in the countryside, or, better still, new roads, it is impossible to get good bus services, and without more amenities such as good bus services in the countryside, the problem of labour cannot be solved. I conclude by urging the Minister, when thinking not only of building new roads, but of improving the old ones, to pay due attention to the need for the production of food in this country.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. York (Ripon)
I am sorry to say that I am about to introduce a little discord into this otherwise unanimous assembly. I am rather surprised, and perhaps a little shocked, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) is so keen upon this Bill. As he gave us five considerations which made him take the view that he has expressed, I should like to give the House the considerations which make me take the opposite view.
By way of introduction, I should like to make it quite clear that, as a motorist, I should love to see miles and miles of concrete race tracks up and down the country. Nothing could be more amusing, and nothing could help more in getting from place to place more quickly. Another consideration which bears very heavily with me in considering this Bill and all its implications is that I live near, and frequently use, a modern all-purpose road. That road runs between the capital city of York and the ancient town of Tadcaster, and has all the amenities of the modernised road. It is of the greatest value to the West Riding people who use it every weekend to go en masse to Scarborough. It has only one disadvantage, which is that when it gets either to Tadcaster or to York, it stops. Therefore, for the purposes of good transport it is valueless, but it is only valueless because it does not tackle the real problem—which this Bill also fails to tackle—the avoidance of towns.
Having made that introduction, I will give the reasons why I oppose the Bill. The first is the dissipation of our capital resources. We understand from the Minister's speech that nothing can be done for two years, and one gathers by implication that it is most unlikely that anything will happen for, perhaps, five or ten years about laying down these motor tracks throughout the country. I fear that the result of this Bill will be to curtail the modernisation of our existing main roads. Any capital resources which are available—and I know that they are very limited—should be used, not for making these speed tracks, but for modernising existing roads.
The second reason for my opposition is the effect upon the agricultural industry. It has been stated that the amount of land required for these special roads is .04 per cent—some unspecified acreage 1768 of land. Of course, one can get away with any figure if one uses a percentage, but this amount of land works out at 12,000 acres of good agricultural land, and if that is not a substantial part of our food producing area, then I am afraid the use of words is unknown to me. In addition to those 12,000 acres, a considerable additional amount of land has to be taken in order to make the various improvements to the other roads which will be necessary when special roads have been put down through the countryside. I know from my own experience of the road which I mentioned as an illustration that, by the provision of the double-track all-purpose main road, we should use less than half the land which would be required for a special road, because more than half the land is already there. Also, we would not have all this disturbance in rural communications.
The effect of these special roads on agriculture will be that a great many farms will be cut in half. I ask the House seriously to consider that almost every farm of average size, which is round about 100 acres, through which a special road passes, will be cut in half or truncated. Therefore, if these roads are to be laid down, it is not enough to have a creep every half mile or so. The effect of that would merely be to make the cost of running such farms very much higher than it is at the present time. Of course, if they are not very frequent, a great waste of time will occur through farmers having to go round the "creep" and then back again to the special road from which they started. Worse still, these road planners invariably choose the valleys for their projects. It is in the valleys, generally speaking, that the good land is to be found.
If the Government are determined to go on with this mad scheme, then I implore them to put the roads on top of the hills. It does not really matter very much to a motor car with a powerful engine to have to go up, for example, on to the Wiltshire Downs instead of through the Pewsey Vale. Let us take the example which we have in this House. I went to view the exhibition in Westminster Hall, and what did I find there? I found that the road runs through an arable farm, and that, on the top of a hill, there is what appears to be a wide stretch of heath, of no agricultural value, entirely untouched by 1769 the road. How much better it would have been for agriculture and the food production of this country if that road, instead of curling one way, had been made to curl the other, up on to the downs, and thus have avoided the great waste of land.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge
Does not the hon. Gentleman's argument overlook the fact that under the Hill Farming Act, the tops of the hills and the Highlands in Scotland can be put into really good order from an agricultural point of view, and, therefore, made to he very valuable?
§ Mr. York
The hon. Member does not know what he is talking about. I do not wish to pursue the point, but it is a fact that the valuation of marginal land is always lower than that of land in the valley. Why cannot these planners use a modern system of soil sampling so that, before deciding on the exact route of the road, they can be quite sure which is the area of least agricultural value? I conclude from this that it must in any case be a waste of national resources in land, materials and labour to make these unproductive slashes across the land, and that the same results could be achieved with probably less expense in the long run, as the Minister told us, if we take the example of the Bristol to Gloucester road, and the road safety part of the problem would be practically the same.
It seems to me that the real problem of quick and safe transport concerns the approaches to the docks and industrial areas in the towns. The delays and accidents in the thinly-populated rural areas are all due to certain definite causes, such as bends, narrow widths and certain obstructions like humps, and so on. All those difficulties, obstructions and dangers could be overcome in the all-purpose road without the provision of these unnecessary and expensive special roads.
This Bill starts at the wrong end. In the next ten years the Government would be well advised to spend all available capital resources upon getting some form of roadway—it may be raised causeways or sunk causeways—from the industrial parts of the large cities, the docks and factory areas, out into the countryside, and by that time the modernisation of the existing main roads might have gone far enough to link up and make the whole system workable and safe.
1770 I think I have said enough to show that the whole of this Bill is unnecessary, wasteful and extravagant. I realise that I am in a very small minority and that the Bill will be pushed through. All I hope is that the implementation will be so long delayed by all the difficulties and dangers of our present life that it will be long after my lifetime before anything is done.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Deer (Lincoln)
I support the Bill. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) really meant what he said. I hope he does not want our economic and industrial conditions to remain so bad, as a result of our war efforts, that we shall have no major road improvements in our lifetime. I do not think even his hon. Friends would share that view. The question of arranging for adequate and safe transport, whether road, rail or air, is important in any civilised community.
This enabling Bill is in logical sequence to the steps which have been taken since the days when local authorities quarrelled over who should do the job, followed by the days when the fight was for larger grants, until finally we had trunk roads. Now we are concerned with special roads. I speak as one who has had long experience as chairman of a highways authority. If we adopted the procedure of altering existing roads, the quarrels, delays and vexations over compensation would be far more serious than the price of building new trunk roads. The hon. Member for Ripon complained that the major trunk roads today lead to nowhere when they arrive at the towns.
§ Mr. Deer
The hon. Member said there was an obstruction, that a road finished when it arrived at a town. He gave the example of the road from Tadcaster to York. Anyone who has lived in an urban area where one county borough and two adjoining county councils have quarrelled over who should build a by-pass round the city, will realise that the only way of dealing with the situation is that which is suggested in the Bill, and that the Minister himself should take the matter in hand. Very often county councils are loaded with local prejudice; I am not objecting to that, but frequently they 1771 fail to see that if the produce of agriculture is to be marketed we must have the roads to convey that produce.
It has been suggested, I believe, that besides special roads we should give attention to bridges. Any special road through the Eastern Counties would be invaluable for the transport of agricultural produce, but it would arrive at a cul de sac when it reached the Humber unless we had a Humber bridge or a tunnel, and there is no possibility of the local authorities in blitzed cities like Hull undertaking such work in the near future. The Minister should give his attention to that matter.
I listened with some alarm to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) who welcomed the Bill because he thought it would increase the speed of transport. I am associated with a union which caters for the largest number of road transport workers, and I can say that we do not regard special roads or trunk roads as speedways which would be dangerous to the lives of transport workers and to their vehicles. We must have the same regard for road safety, whether on a trunk road, a special road or an ordinary road, and the fetish of speed must not endanger the safety of the workers concerned.
I wish to refer to the question of amenities which was raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds). It is true that if we are to have special roads which really cater for the road transport service, we must ensure that they can get not only petrol but rest houses, cafés and so on, in order to provide an effective instrument for the better flow of traffic. With those reservations, I support the Bill.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I am not sure that when the Minister reads this Debate tomorrow he will be entirely satisfied with the various grounds which have been put forward by some of his hon. Friends for supporting this Measure. There has been a certain inconsistency among them. I was surprised to find that the hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) supported this Bill on the ground that it would be of advantage to agriculture. The Minister of Transport was quite frank and said that although this is not called a motorways Bill, it is 1772 primarily intended for the building of concrete roadways for high speed motor traffic between one industrial centre and another. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) when he criticised the Bill, had far better understood the interests of agriculture, and especially of those farmers who are to have the misfortune of being close to these roads. It must be remembered that a road of this kind which passes over a farm will be far more disruptive of the running of that farm than any ordinary road. This new road will be built for the special purpose of high-speed travel. Those living alongside it will not benefit from it, but only those seeking to travel at high speeds from one industrial centre to another.
I do not regret that this Bill has been introduced. Confident as I am that it will never be put into operation at all, I welcome the fact that the Government should be taking up Parliamentary time in order to put on the Statute Book a Measure which I believe is certain to prove nugatory. So much of the legislation of this Government is noxious and harmful that we naturally welcome a Measure of this kind to occupy a few passing hours. I suppose it has been introduced by the Minister of Transport either in order to mislead at the next General Election or because—and I should be reluctant to accept this conclusion—he has not learned the lesson which he might have learned of what has happened to the great pronouncement he made on 6th May, 1946.
He will remember that he announced a ten years' programme of road construction. That programme resembled this Bill in this respect: when he was asked how much it would cost he did not know. When my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) asked him about that, he said he thought in the first year it would cost anything up to £80 million. He gave us details of what it was intended to do in that first year. There was to be the Dartford-Purfleet tunnel. There was to be the Severn Bridge, with the roads associated with it. There were to be the Jarrow tunnels.
Since that great ten years' programme we have had the Government White Paper upon capital investment in 1948. The first thing to be cut out was the Dartford-Purfleet tunnel; £6 million was to be 1773 saved by not building that tunnel. The next thing to be economised was the Severn Bridge and the roads associated with it. That was to save £9 million. As far as the Jarrow tunnels were concerned—there were to be several of them—only two were to be constructed, because they had been begun. The others were to be left. That decision was in the interests of economy, but we were not told how much money it would save. Other road schemes were to be postponed indefinitely; this was to save £6.6 million. Out of the first year's programme of the Minister of Transport ten-years' programme, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already managed to economise £21.6 million in new construction, quite apart from the radical reduction of maintenance upon the roads.
What is the sense of introducing a Bill of this kind when at the present time we are not even paying our way? In order to reduce the inflation in this country, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has carried out a ruthless cut in capital expenditure. When I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport to ask him about the programme for the future, he explained that this was only an enabling Bill and it was not intended that it should involve any additional expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman really cannot have it both ways. In order to save himself the trouble of exposition, he referred with approval and admiration to the various documents which have been circulated to hon. Members by the British Road Federation. In these documents, of which the Minister has so high an opinion, it is said that the estimated cost of building these roads is £150,000 per mile and that there are plans for 800 miles to be built. If my mathematics are correct, that amounts to £120 million.
It is quite true that in his speech the Minister said it was not intended to construct any of these motor roads unless it would be necessary to construct another kind of road if the motor road were not constructed. He gave us only one example of the relative cost of improving the present road or building a new one, and in that case he had to admit that building a new one would be considerably more costly. He was not extremely happy, therefore, in the one and only example which he gave to the House, 1774 because it proved the general fallacy of the proposition which he had laid down.
In these prosperous '40's, when we are enjoying Marshall Aid, and when we still have overseas investments to sell, and when we are still enjoying to some extent a sellers' market, even so we are spending more overseas than our income. My right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) pointed out a fortnight ago that, although there has been an improvement in our balance of trade from the catastrophic figure of £630 million last year, we are still "in the red" to the extent of £280 million. One of the first measures which was taken to rectify this position was the drastic and radical cutting down of capital expenditure. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that no, Department had to accept a more severe cut than the Ministry of Transport. What prospect is there, therefore, at any foreseeable time in the future, that this country will have the capital resources to build these great roads?
An important argument is put forward by the British Road Federation, which we must assume is approved by the Minister of Transport. It is perhaps unusual and unconventional for a Minister to cut short the exposition of his own Bill and his justification of it by referring to documents which have been circulated by a private body, but if it leads to economy of time and if it means that one has had an opportunity of considering the matter beforehand, then it probably is to the general advantage of the House. These documents dealt at great length with what were the estimated economies which would result from the building of these roads, if ever they were built.
The point I am seeking to make is that it is not now possible, and is not likely to be possible at any foreseeable time in the future, for this country to provide the capital and, therefore the manpower and the materials for the construction of these roads. In case anyone on the opposite benches still thinks that there are capital improvements which we cannot afford to do without, let me quote what was said in the Economic Survey, in paragraph 28, with regard to buying an adequate supply of raw materials for our own productive industries. The point was being made that we were restricting our 1775 imports to the very minimum, and that paragraph stated:Stocks of many raw materials are already at minimum levels, and they will remain so throughout 1948. Clearly, with our financial reserves at so dangerous a point, we cannot afford a heavy investment in additional materials. But clearly also such an investment would bring a rich return, and it must remain an important object of import policy to achieve it as soon as we can.Who will seriously contend that the building of these special roads will make as immediate and direct and fruitful a contribution to our exports and our imports as increasing the stock of raw materials, which, according to the Government's own White Paper, are at present inadequate to enable our industry to produce the maximum amount?
Therefore, I say that this Bill, whatever its drafting defects, however embarrassing it will be to many agriculturists living near the roads which they will not be allowed ordinarily to use, although they will, no doubt, be able to admire the motor traffic travelling along them, is not likely, so far as I can see, to be put into operation.
What is the logic of this Bill coming from a Socialist Government, especially from the present Ministry? Had this come at the end of 20 years of Tory misrule? [HON. MEMBERS: "It has.-"] No. There have been three years of reconstruction by an enlightened Socialist Government, and during that time transport has been nationalised. [Interruption.] I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, and then he can interrupt me to question me when I have developed the point. The purpose, as we were told, of the nationalisation of road transport as well as of the railways, was that the whole of the transport system of the country should be integrated. Competition was inefficient and wasteful, we were told.
I thought that the idea of the nationalisation of road transport was that road transport should be used as a flexible feeder going into the countryside and to small towns, and making the maximum use of containers of all sizes, in order to bring goods from the places where they are produced to the great main railways. There we have these great main railways, with hundreds of millions of 1776 capital sunk in them by our ancestors. Quite obviously, the railways are smoother and more economic, than a number of lorries pelting about along the roads. If the Government, having nationalised road transport, in order that it should be integrated with rail transport, really intended to have something of that kind, there would be no need of a Bill of this sort.
Obviously, what would be required would be all-purpose roads, which would be so useful to the constituents of the hon. Member for South Molton. The farmers would be able to use them for all purposes, and use the railways for sending the products of their farms great distances to the large cities or to the ports. The only possible purpose of this Bill must be to build German autobahnen, which are only economic for the transport of large quanties of goods for long distances at high speeds, and they can only be competitive with the existing railways. Therefore, I say that I completely fail to understand the logic of a Bill of this kind being introduced to follow up the nationalisation Measure which was introduced by this Government at an earlier time. I am comforted by the reflection that this is really an enabling Bill, and one which, I think, is never likely to be put into effective operation. If it were, I should regard it as being in direct conflict with what we have previously been told is the policy of the Government, and I should regard it as completely uneconomic.
In conclusion, let me say that I am not opposed to the use of road transport on appropriate occasions. I know of many small railways in the country—there is one that runs through my own constituency—with only one railway train in each direction each day. I can see a strong argument for doing away with a railway of that kind, and economising on the overheads involved in maintaining and keeping open a railway of that size. There I could see a good case in favour of the substitution of road transport for that small railway line, but that in itself does not seem to be a complete justification for this Bill which, I believe, will prove to be completely nugatory when it is on the Statute Book.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)
It is not very often one comes across so many 1777 differences of opinion among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as we have struck today. I must tell the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) that I do not share his views, but far prefer those put before us by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), who spoke with his usual lucidity and, I would say, with something of his usual charm. I think the hon. Member for The High Peak cannot have read the really notable article which appeared recently in "The Times," entitled "Roads Across Europe." That article set out the real benefits which have accrued to those countries which have scientifically developed their road systems.
I myself was surprised, on reading that article, to discover that there are already routes in the United Kingdom which are actually listed as parts of an international road network. For instance, there is the London to Harwich route and the London to Folkestone route. Those are but two examples of these roads, and sections of a direct road from London to Istanbul are already in use, via Ostend, Brussels, Frankfurt, Budapest and Belgrade. I do not know how long it will be before the rest of that road can be made and completed. As everyone knows, there is considerable unsettlement in that part of Europe at the present time. The hon. Member for The High Peak would certainly not join in describing my right hon. Friend as the new Colossus of Roads, who has, indeed, put before us a very worthwhile Measure which, as time goes on, will enable this country to set an example in this matter of road transport, as in others, to the rest of Europe.
I should like to call the Bill the "Roadway to Recovery" Bill, for I believe it represents one more step taken by His Majesty's present Government in ensuring a better economic future for our country. Speaking as a traditionalist, for a moment, I regret that it will no longer be possible to describe any of these new contemplated motorways as the King's Highway. The King's Highway, of course, has always been used to describe those roads to which there is complete freedom of access. It was, I think, a description first used in regard to public roadways in the year 1604, and the fact that its use must in some degree lapse is for me a matter of some regret though 1778 naturally it is not a very important issue to weigh against the great advantages which will accrue to our country when the new motorways contemplated under this Bill are actually established.
As has been already said, the advantages fall under several heads. First, there is the economic aspect about which I would like to say a few words in enlargement of what several Members have stated. The British Road Federation has, I think, performed a really useful public service in putting before the country sound statistics in regard to the economic factor, and by proving that only on motorways can motor vehicles satisfactorily operate, and operate with real efficiency. The statistics put out in the publication, which most of us have with us this afternoon, establish, for instance, that the cost of running a 10-ton commercial vehicle would be reduced by over 32 per cent. if running on motorways, and that a motorway would provide a minimum return of £14,500 per mile per annum in saving for those using it in preference to continuing to use an existing route. Let me utter a word of warning to my right hon. Friend in regard to the economic advantages, several of which I have mentioned. I think that these desirable benefits will be bound to hit the earnings of British Railways as the years unfold, and this is a fact which ought to be borne most carefully in mind by the Minister in relation to the whole transport problem of the country.
Then there is another aspect which has not so far been touched on, and which I might mention. I refer to the strategic aspect. I know that to mention that conjures up thoughts of another war. We all of us are alive to the necessity of making sure that we can defend ourselves, should it be necessary for us to do so. I well remember when I was serving in the Navy during the war, and was stationed on the South Coast, how terribly congested the roadways in that part of the country were just before D-Day. There was, indeed, very considerable confusion. It is significant, I think, that in this Bill two of the new motorways are to be directed towards the South Wales Ports which would, in the event of there being a third world war, obviously take on a quite new importance. One of them links London with South Wales via Bristol, and the other links the Midlands with South 1779 Wales. One might add that the industrial area of South Wales itself will be of very special consequence in such circumstances as I envisage.
Thirdly—and this is a matter about which I have spoken on several occasions in the House—I feel convinced that these new motorways will ensure a substantial reduction in road accidents and will bring about a general increase in road safety. There is no doubt that soundly-constructed and well-planned roads can make the biggest single contribution to cutting down the still calamitous toll of death and injury involved in road accidents compared with any other factor that we may consider is helping towards that desirable end. Every figure of the plethora of statistics prepared by the various organisations connected With road safety speaks of a really human tragedy; speaks of homes suddenly afflicted by sorrow and suffering, of events which very often leave their mark on those affected for all time. In 1947, let me remind the House, 4,881 people were killed and 161,318 people were injured on our roads.
Such a situation, if it is allowed to continue, constitutes a public scandal and a blot on the good name of a country which has done and is doing so much in other directions to improve the health of our people and to increase longevity. How will the proposed Bill benefit this position? There is ample evidence to prove that good will accrue. We have already had reference by the right hon. and learned Gentleman for West Derby to the situation in Germany where the accident rate as the result of the creation of the autobahnen was reduced by 83 per cent. In America, there have been great improvements, also resulting from the laying down of this type of roadway.
I am glad that special provisions are contemplated for National Parks. I share the views expressed this afternoon about the amenity aspect generally by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), who speaks on this subject with authority and knowledge; it is rarely that I find myself in disagreement with him, except when he speaks politically. I hope also that in the provision of special roads consideration will be given to the development of the Thames-side tow-path. There 1780 is a large public demand that something should be done to secure the Thames-side tow-path as a permanent special route for walkers and hikers, and others who enjoy the amenities of the Thames Valley. It is wise also to have arranged for public local inquiries, at which objections to the plans contemplated can be heard. Nothing could be better than to have the pros and cons thoroughly ventilated before anything is finalised, and the public will appreciate the advantage offered.
In my view, a good road system is not a luxury, and the motor age in which we are living—although some of us do not particularly like it—demands good motor roads. If we realise, as we should, that in 1911 there were only 192,000 motor vehicles on our roads compared with the 3½ million which were running on them last year, that furnishes some indication of the existing need; especially, I would add, when no single road in this country has yet been built solely for motor traffic. This Bill is the first really objective approach to the whole problem ever to have been initiated. It formulates plans for future action of precisely the right kind. For these reasons, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on its introduction, and I hope it may not be too long before its provisions can be fully honoured in concrete form.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox (Henley)
I rise to support this Bill, and to say that I am not altogether in agreement with some of my hon. Friends. I feel that the Bill should be supported for two main reasons: first, to lower the death rate on the roads; and, secondly, because of the national economic aspect. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that if we all drive in the ordinary course from 18 years of age to 50 or 60, one in 19 of us will be involved in a fatal accident? In other words, one, in 19 of the drivers of private cars or heavy vehicles will at some period have a fatal accident. That is a terrifying thought, and I favour doing anything to try to reduce the appalling number of accidents on our roads.
The Minister kindly made reference to the investigation which was held in Oxfordshire between the wars. There was a three years' investigation of all accidents and their causes, and there was published a report in great detail, from 1781 which it was clear that 59 per cent. of all accidents were due to ordinary road defects, and that 78 per cent. of those accidents could have been averted by having a modernised road layout. In fact, in one way or another nearly every accident can be attributed to road surfaces and road layout. One of the difficulties is that there are different types of traffic travelling on the same road. A cyclist pulls out too quickly, or a pedestrian suddenly steps off the pavement, and there is an accident which the motorist has no chance of avoiding. This Bill enables the Minister to have special roads for specified types of traffic. There are to be constructed motorways, which the Minister can specify shall not be used by cyclists or horse-drawn vehicles, or vehicles propelled by pedestrians. That will, I believe, have a great effect in reducing accidents, because it will tend to attract traffic from the existing roads on to the new special motorways.
Another reason why I support this Bill is that I think it will sound the death-knell of the proposal to put a bridge over the river at Henley, in that famous stretch where the Henley Regatta is held, and where some of the events in the Olympic Games were decided. In this very admirable document "The Roadway to Recovery," written by Mr. Christopher Brunner and published by the British Road Federation, there are three pictures of a dual carriageway going from Bicester to Henley. During the Debate it has been said that a modern dual carriageway cannot be made to harmonise with the beauties of the landscape. I disagree. I think that the dual carriageway at Henley shown in these three pictures shows definitely that such a carriageway can be made very attractive.
But that dual carriageway has done another great thing. Before it was built there was a steady monthly rate of accidents, many of them fatal; and the local hospital at Henley had a number of beds permanently occupied by the unfortunate people who had been involved in accidents on this stretch of road. Since that dual carriageway has been built, I believe it is true to say that there has been only one fatal accident and very few minor accidents involving two vehicles in collision. It has reduced the death and accident rates and helped the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, it also tempted 1782 the present Minister of Transport to ask: "Where is this road going to?" He thought it might he a good idea to proceed with the road and build a bridge over this stretch of the Regatta course. That has caused very great feeling in the community, and I hope that the special road from London to the West of England will go south of Reading and so avoid the necessity of the proposed Henley bridge ever being constructed.
Today, many figures on the economic aspect of these special roads have been given. The fact is that transport roads in this country cost something like £600 million a year. It is a very large sum of money and represents a large proportion of our production costs. The present roads are not efficient and are, in fact, obsolete. As the Minister said, it is very expensive to try to open out bottlenecks or to divert roads round them. There is a dictum in the Navy that the speed of the Fleet is the speed of the slowest ship. The same principle applies on the roads. The speed on the road from London to Birmingham, which finally gets into a narrow bottleneck, is reduced to perhaps three or four miles an hour. Sometimes a very heavy vehicle with, perhaps, 16 wheels, goes slowly along and the driver has difficulty, with a large projecting load, in missing shops and houses on either side of the road.
It will be in the economic interests of the nation to try to bring our system of roads up to date. It is true that the cost of maintenance will add to the total amount which has to be spent. I think it is something like £1,000 per mile on a trunk road, but these new special roads will reduce the traffic and the damage to other roads and that sum might drop from £1,000 to £500 per mile. We cannot imagine that present roads can take the greatly increased traffic which is likely to come. From letters we receive from constituents, we realise that there is a vast number of people who want to use their cars, but are unable to do so because they cannot get petrol, or cannot buy a new car. When that enormous number of cars comes on the roads, congestion will be far greater.
Another obstacle to economy is that when private cars or heavy vehicles have continually to be stopping and starting a lot of low-gear work is necessitated, and there is idling and waiting at cross roads, 1783 which adds considerably to the cost of motoring. A number of tests have been made, and it is estimated that every stop and re-start at 30 miles per hour is equivalent in tyre wear to running the vehicle for a mile non-stop. It has been found that in London, suburban and rural areas there is an average of 40 enforced stops in every 100 miles. That represents 15 per cent. unnecessary wear and tear of tyres and it is computed that it represents £3 million a year. All that could be saved if there were not these unnecessary stops.
Many people think that the faster a vehicle, goes, the more petrol it consumes. That is quite true after certain speeds, but it is not so at lower speeds. There has been a test on the new Merritt Parkway at Boston and it has been found that a vehicle at a speed of 38 miles an hour uses 8.5 per cent. less petrol than on the old road when it travelled at 25 miles an hour. If the speed is increased to 52 miles per hour on the new road, it is found that it uses exactly the same amount of petrol as on the old road at 25 miles per hour. In Germany on the autobahnen it is claimed that there was a fuel saving of 40 per cent. compared with corresponding journeys on the former German roads. There are many other savings—the vast amount of time, wages and other costs which could be saved if traffic were able to move along at a steady pace and did not continually have to stop at cross-roads.
There will be many difficulties, and agriculture will suffer to a certain extent where these special roads go through an agricultural district. There is bound to be a certain amount of severance. A great barrier such as one of these roads will make it difficult even with "creeps" to get machinery and cattle from one side to the other. But, if we have more "creeps" and the interests of agriculture are considered as far as possible, and these roads are planned now and built when the economic situation permits, they will be a great benefit to the economic recovery of the country.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
It is very interesting to listen to hon. Members sitting side by side on the opposite side of the House taking different views on this very excellent Bill. I 1784 welcome the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox), but it was rather sad to listen to the defeatist and pessimistic speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), for whom I have a high regard. He made a very melancholy and depressing speech. He said the Bill will never be put into operation and asked why it should be introduced today when the nation cannot pay its way. This defeatist, pessimistic, sad, and melancholy view may be the kind of view that actuated the Tory Party during all the years when they had an opportunity of bringing in a Bill of this kind and perhaps it is that which accounts for the little progress that was made by them when they had that opportunity.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this is not a mandatory Bill, but an enabling Bill, which enables the highway authority to provide special roads. I wish to point out to the hon. Member for The High Peak in particular that the expenses of this Measure are to be met primarily out of the Road Fund and only secondarily out of moneys provided by Parliament. The Bill was approved of by the Front Bench of the hon. Member's Party. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) made one of his characteristic analytical speeches drawing attention to the needs for this Bill and its merits. In passing, I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby regarded my intervention in the course of his speech—an intervention intended to be helpful to him—as in any way adverse to the argument he was propounding.
This Bill applies to the whole of this island. It is a Bill which should not be looked at in a sectional way but in a national way. I think, however, it my duty to draw attention to an omission from it which affects my constituents. The Bill provides great opportunities for various parts of this island, some of which we have been waiting for for a very long time. One in particular is in North-East Scotland which is separated from the south of this island by the great rivers Tay and Forth. I should like therefore to know the exact extent, powers and limits of the Bill with particular reference to the problems presented by those two great rivers.
1785 The cities of Aberdeen and Dundee have been greatly handicapped by not having across these rivers traffic bridges and a proper system of road transport to them. That applies not only to those cities but to countless other towns and villages which are north of those rivers. It has been widely admitted for generations that steps should be taken to provide bridges with roads to those cities. Discussions have taken place about the need for these bridges. I should like to ask the Minister to inform the House, when he is replying, whether the Bill does anything to provide or to facilitate the provision of roads to that region, and if so in what part of the Bill is that provision to be found.
I have said that this is an enabling Bill. Clause 1 (1) enables a highway authority to provide special roads. Clause 1 (2) lays down the manner in which the special roads may be provided, but there is nothing explicit in that Clause, or indeed in any other Clause, so far as I can see, which would give a highway authority the opportunity of providing bridges in relation to the roads adjacent to the rivers Tay and Forth. The relevant Clause might perhaps be Clause 3, which deals with supplementary orders relating to special roads, but so far as I can see there is no reference to bridges in any of its Subsections. Clause 3 (1) (f) says:For any other purpose incidental to the purposes aforesaid or otherwise incidental to the construction or maintenance of, or other dealing with, the special road.I ask the Minister whether that includes bridges. If so, that fact should be made clear. If it is so it will enable a great wrong under which that area has been suffering for generations to be rectified. If bridges are not included then something should be put into the Bill to provide for this inclusion so that this ancient wrong can be rectified. I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I thought that part of the Minister's speech which he devoted to a historical survey of the past was both clear and interesting, but with all respect, I thought that part of his speech which he devoted to his intentions for the future was neither clear nor interesting. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for North 1786 Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), I found a great deal with which to agree in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), at whom he threw his brickbats so indiscriminately right and left. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen, I thought my hon. Friend's speech was not melancholy and old-fashioned but realistic and up-to-date. In fact, he was speaking with the realism of 1948, instead of with the starry optimism of 1945.
The Minister told us, as indeed the Financial Memorandum tells us, that no substantial increase in total expenditure is anticipated. I should like to ask the Minister what he really means by that. Does he mean that there is never to be any such substantial increase in expenditure, or at any rate not until after 1952, by which time, we hope, or at all events the Government still think, that we may be able to manage without the help of the United States of America? If he thinks that the time when this Bill can be put into practical effect is as remote as that, then I suggest that this Bill is not only rather a waste of our time, however much that waste was welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak, who is more cynical in these matters than I am, but what is perhaps more serious, it is a great waste of the time of the right hon. Gentleman's staff and members of the Civil Service, who, we are always given to understand, are so overworked today.
I would remind the Minister that once he has these powers, he will be under continual pressure to spend money. Even this afternoon we have heard Members on all sides of the House pressing schemes for the Severn, Forth and the Tay. If, on the other hand, the Minister means to spend this money in two or three years I venture to say that this is yet another example of the disastrous failure of this Government to plan the economy of this country, a failure which has brought us to such a precarious position. I see that the Parliamentary Secretary has returned. He is, I know, a keen student of economics. In fact, his comprehensive knowledge of figures has been my undoing before now. I feel he may suffer very much from the failings of those who are as yet his seniors, to plan the future. He will perhaps sympathise more than he will 1787 care to say with an article which appeared in the "Economist" recently, of which I would like to quote one sentence:It is a remarkable fact that Labour, the party of planning, has been less ready to set the whole of its economic policies into a coherent framework than was the Coalition Government when Keynes' influence was paramount at the Treasury and spoke through the mouths of Sir Kingsley Wood and Sir John Anderson.In the old days, when there was a reservoir, too great a reservoir, of workers available, and an unlimited quantity of material, then the question of the investment for improving the roads was just a matter of whether a good return on the money could be obtained in the eventual future. The question now is that of the most urgent priorities. There is not enough to go round, and we must choose that which is most vital. I suggest that what is most vital today is to use our resources to buy the food which will keep our people alive, to buy the raw materials which will keep them employed, to build up a defence which will save our people from war. [Interruption.] I said that we should spend money on defence, not to win wars but to prevent wars.
Secondly, I suggest that far more important than these roads, admirable as they may be, is the consideration that money should be spent and materials should be devoted to rebuilding and re-equipping our factories so that we may be able to compete in world markets and buy the food and raw materials which our people need. After all, it is not today's consumption but tomorrow's production that really matters for the country. I should like, as other Members would, to see further expenditure on social services and housing when that is possible, and it is only after those needs have been met that this expenditure on roads could be justified.
§ Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West)
Does not the hon. Member consider that efficient transport is just as good a contribution to our economic recovery as the other factors which he has mentioned?
§ Mr. Spearman
I do not think that the provision of motor roads for people to move swiftly along is in any way comparable, or that such an expenditure will make anything like the contribution to enable this country to stand up on its own 1788 legs which can be made by its ability to produce goods that will sell in world markets. That is infinitely more important, and so long as we are so dependent on the charity of another nation for our very existence, we should not be considering a Measure of this nature.
In the old days the rate of money was a good instrument, or at least an instrument—perhaps not always a good one—for determining priorities. If people were anxious to spend a lot of money on any one article, or in any one sort of production, and the total exceeded the amount of men or material available, then the rate of money rose. Money became much dearer and it was then a question of whether the proposition in question was worth it. Propositions that were well worth while if money could be borrowed at 4 per cent., were not worth while if money had to be borrowed at 6 per cent. That method was, perhaps, rather a blunt instrument for automatically determining priorities. I hold the view that it was rather a clumsy instrument and that it was right that we should manage our debt in such a way as to reduce enormously the burden of interest.
This revolution in the management of debt was initiated under the regime of Sir Kingsley Wood. But when I took that view, I do not think I was realising sufficiently the failure of our present rulers to plan the economy of the country. It is rather like giving a child a box of matches, thinking that he is old enough to know how to use them, but finding, in fact, that he is as yet so inexperienced and immature that he is not to be relied upon and is only playing with fire. If the right hon. Gentleman, anywhere within the future we can at present foresee, is going to spend vast sums on roads, that will be disastrous. If he is merely going to spend his time in planning these things for such a distant future, then I wish he could find a better use for his time and that of his staff.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)
Despite the views of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman), I think that in the Debate today there has been a solid consensus of opinion that in bringing forward this Bill the Government are keeping their eye on the future of the country 1789 and on the prosperity of our economic life. The plan we have been considering today ought to have been made many years ago. If only we had had these roads during the last war, we would have carried out that war much more efficiently and done much better since the peace in 1945. That cannot be doubted.
We have heard from the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) how important it is to make economies by carrying out plans similar to those forecast in this Measure, and I think that he and other hon. Members have benefited considerably from the magnificent collection of statistics we have before us today. If we really need a text for our argument it stands on page 1 of the book "The Roadway to Recovery." which bluntly states:British roads are inefficient and out of date. The result is waste—waste of time through traffic congestion, waste of fuel, waste of money in repair bills for vehicles, waste of rubber because of short life of tyres, waste of life, limb and property through accidents. The remedy is already known. Plans have been prepared to provide an efficient road system but the money needed has not yet been forthcoming. This is false economy.That should, I think, be a good enough answer from experts of this country to the doubts put forward in the Debate today by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) and the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby. The latter is already well served by one of the best of these roads in his constituency. It almost seems as if, now he has got his roads, he does not mind what we do in other parts of the country, where we have roads which are hardly fit for the passage of Lady Hamilton's carriage. In my own constituency they are pretty useless for the vehicles we shall have in the next few years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some hope! "] It is up to us to see that we get them running on our roads within the next few years, Marshall Aid or no Marshall Aid.
There has been some mention of the examples we can follow in carrying out the plan envisaged in the Bill. Many of us who have had experience of driving in other countries before the war must realise that in those years we were far behind some of the magnificent roads found in countries which, economically speaking, seemed to be far behind us in vital statistics. I always remember with pleasure that famous road running from the north coast of France, through the 1790 middle—mainly agricultural country—down to the south. The agriculturists of France who supported the Radical Party then, in its heyday, did not seem to bear any grudge to the Government for doing that. On reaching the south of France this road joined another great masterpiece—the Grande Corniche—and one could have a magnificent view of the Mediterranean practically the whole way from Marseilles to Genoa and over into Italy.
Those of us who travelled in Spain before the war know what very good roads even a backward country like Spain could hold up as an example to us. The roadways of Italy, also, are well known to those who travelled on the autostrada. If Mussolini has a monument left to his name it is those magnificent roads, made with that wonderful Italian engineering skill, climbing through the mountains from Genoa, along to Milan and joining the autostrada through Padua to Venice. These magnificent achievements on the Continent are examples to set before our eyes. One does not need really to mention the autobahnen of Germany. We have had experience of them before the war and, many of us, during the war and since
My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) has mentioned to me tonight that a perfect example which we might bear in mind in the years to come is the magnificent highway running from Buenos Aires, through South and Central America and the United States and across our own territory to Alaska connecting Buenos Aires to the far North wastes of Alaska. This is a pattern which we must bear in mind if we are really to develop our own roads on the lines which are needed.
It is a pity that earlier governments did not bring this kind of Measure forward. I have felt for many years that until the advent of the internal combustion engine, the speed of movement in this country had been the same throughout the centuries, from the time of Boadicea down to that of Queen Victoria. Unfortunately after we got the internal combustion engine, we never seemed to catch up, and our roads in so many parts of the country have been pretty well of the Boadicea type. Some of the best stretches of our main roads today are really Roman roads, and previous Gov- 1791 ernments have done very little beyond the great efforts of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and one or two other people of those generations.
1 always consider the main road of the world, historically speaking, to be road Al, from London to Edinburgh. I think that from time to time I have covered every part of it. It is testimony to the efficiency of the building of roads in this country. Historically speaking this road is great, but materially it is a collection of some of the most shocking bottlenecks that we can find in any country in the world. We have had some very fine improvements admittedly—and by Governments on the other side—in the pre-war years, but as far as I can make out they have usually happened when there has been a reservoir of unemployed miners or other workers. We have the very magnificent stretches of dual carriageway in Durham, the by-pass round Chester-le-Street and that magnificent stretch which I have used so often near my home south of Ferrybridge. That dual carriageway was a portent in the years before the war of what could be done if we really tackled the problem.
In contrast one can think of the bottleneck at Doncaster, a town which is going to be probably one of the greatest new metropolises in the years to come, with its numerous new coal mines, all within five miles of the centre of the town. With conscious planning we shall see at Doncaster within the next few years a magnificent metropolis; but as far as road transport is concerned it is one complete bottleneck from the beginning of the racecourse to the bridge, which invariably is flooded at certain times of the year which one may almost time by a clock. That should not exist on one of our main roads. This one bottleneck alone bears out my remarks.
Further north there is a narrow bridge at Boroughbridge—still on Al the main link between Edinburgh and London. Throughout the war, if the Germans had had any idea of real strategic bombing, if they had had a definite approach, they could have hindered our war effort a thousand times more than they did by bombing such places. Luckily for us, however, they had no idea of strategic bombing. That is only one example. When the war was over I remember the 1792 case of a military six-wheeled vehicle, I think it was, coming south from Catterick, which managed to slip from the middle of this narrow bridge, knocked the side off, put the bridge completely out of action and held up traffic on the Great North Road for weeks and weeks. That caused a detour of many miles to cross the river, the route going through various villages along little country roads. I could give examples from Stamford and A.5, that great link between Holyhead and London. That road passes an aerodrome on which I was stationed. I have hitch-hiked along it many times during the war when, as we know, that was the quickest way of getting about the country.
I should like to mention a further aspect of the building of modern roads as it affects many of us in this House who sit on the all-party committee representing the coastal and holiday resorts. Since the war, with the backing of the Government and good work by the people in our various constituencies, we have developed what I think we can call a new industry. I refer to the tourist industry. People of all parties have contributed to the success of our efforts. The latest available figures from the Travel Association show that in 1947 the total amount brought into this country as a net gain through foreigners visiting us was £30 million. So far, in 1948 we have already collected a net gain of £40 million.
We know that if there was more shipping space, especially for people who wish to bring cars, many more dollar spending people would visit this island. We hope that they will come here in the next few years. To serve those people we must improve the roads. I can think of one very great improvement which might be brought about. Why should we not follow the idea of the Grande Corniche in the South of France? Why should we not have a magnificent modern motor road round the coast of this island? There is a road like it in the Isle of Man. We should have the periphery completely covered by a modern road which we could use ourselves and which would be a great source of income as a dollar earner.
I should like to mention one small item which I have found invaluable when travelling in the north. I refer to the use of the cat's eyes—a simple but most 1793 practical invention. They are a magnificent asset on fog-bound roads, such as we get in the north. I ask the Minister to impress on those who will be responsible for the development of these roads the necessity for carrying that idea further. Why should we not have a green cat's eye system along the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh showing the direction north? On the right-hand side of the road, there should he a red cat's eye system showing the direction south. These eyes should not be in the middle of the road where they can be particularly dangerous. Why should we not have the green eyes on the left hand side so that we can hug the kerb?
Another suggestion is that we should have a good serviceable kerb. There is a danger that some hard kerbs tip over a car where, if there was a softer kind of surface, an accident might be avoided. I was motoring to York to catch the London train about three weeks ago when my front tyre burst. Fortunately I was near Wetherby racecourse and the side of the road was soft. The car, being rather low slung managed to keep its balance. Had I been further out on the Great North Road where there is a hard kerbstone at the side, the car might have turned over and there might have been a by-election at Great Yarmouth. I ask the Minister to consider this point. I appeal to hon. Members to support this Bill on account of the help it would provide to the tourist industry.
East Anglia, that great bulge of England, is, I think, among the worst served places in the country in road facilities. People in my constituency want one great wide modern road as envisaged in this Bill running through Norwich—or perhaps by-passing Norwich with a fly-over—up to the Midlands. We should get an immediate beneficial result from that. We should attract more people from the industrial areas with their fast moving cars which we hope they will have in the next few years. That would certainly redound to the prosperity not only of my own constituency but of other resorts on the East Coast. It would benefit especially the Norfolk coast where there is a fair amount of sunshine in the summer. That part of the coast is so high in the sunshine list, that the Ministry of Fuel and Power in making winter fuel allocations 1794 appears to think that we have sunshine throughout the year.
After tourism, the principal industry in my constituency at the moment is fishing. There is at present a great fishing season in progress. Herring are coming in in great shoals. The bloater is never as good to taste as when its is eaten in Yarmouth. That is a self-evident truth. The nearest we can get to eating them in Great Yarmouth, is to transport them as quickly as possible to the industrial towns. If we had a great motor road running from that part of East Anglia to the industrial areas, the herring could be loaded straight from the drifters, packed in ice, and delivered so that people in the industrial towns could have fresh fish for breakfast. It should be remembered that there is not a town in this country which is more than 100 miles from the sea. With a certain amount of imagination, a scheme of that kind could be achieved.
It has already been mentioned that from a strategical point of view we must have good roads. They must be good roads and they must get away from that besetting sin of narrowness. We must have wider roads. Industrial traffic would be able to move much more quickly if the roads were wider. I will give one example of the difficulty that can be caused by the narrowness of our roads. It is a short distance from Newcastle to Barrow-in-Furness across that narrow neck of country south of the Scottish border. In fact, Mr. Speaker, you and I know that very well because in the past we have spent a very happy time there persuading the electors to vote one way or the other.
During the war a battleship was in course of construction on the Tyne. In Barrow-in-Furness they had facilities for building a great casting which was an integral part of the battleship and which took many months to make. When the cast was made it was necessary to transport it across country to Newcastle. It was found that there were two roads which crossed the north of England. The more modern of the two was too narrow. The older one, built by General Wade at the time of the Jacobite Rebellion, was a little wider, but it was not wide enough. The result was that it was necessary to ship the casting down the Irish Sea and through the English Channel. Just as the ship carrying the casting was passing the Isle of Wight a lone 1795 German raider dropped a bomb, hit the vessel and it sank at once. The casting was lost, and a further period of 12 or 18 months had to be spent in making a new one. That was a colossal waste of time. It was colossal inefficiency in time of war. If ever we have a war again we shall need our roads more than ever, especially if we are to be a forward base for other armies besides our own. Above anything else, we shall need our transport to be as efficient as possible.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby (Dorset, Western)
It is a pity that during this Debate we have not heard more about the position of roadways abroad. I was sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn), after he had alluded to that point, did not deal with it at any greater length. I say immediately that I support this Measure, but I must confess that, like other hon. Members, I was a little puzzled when it was introduced at this stage, at a time when the existing roads undoubtedly are deteriorating very fast, owing to the fact that it has been necessary to cut expenditure on them. I wondered whether it was perhaps a bit of a smokescreen to divert attention from the deterioration of other roads. I hope, however, that is not the case. I can think of at least one really good reason for introducing this Bill now: that is, that it is necessary when planning to know as far ahead as possible where new roads are to be built. If this Bill means that the Ministry of Transport will really get down to it with the other interested Ministries, and will lay down now the exact course of the future motorways so as to remove existing doubts, a useful purpose will have been served.
One or two of my hon. Friends have not, for various reasons, agreed on the advisability of introducing this Bill at present, but I do not find myself in any great agreement with them. I admit as much as anyone the difficulties of the economic position, but in this question of transport, which is an important factor in our production both for the export market and for our home needs, it seems to me that we can be penny wise and pound foolish.
If we look at the figures of the way transport is divided between the roads and the railways—incidentally, I was 1796 disappointed that the Minister had not more to tell us of the general picture as he saw it, what part he saw roads playing in the future and what part the railways—when we look at those figures, we see at once that the railways are transporting a little less goods traffic than they were before the war. The weekly averages of loaded train miles of freight in the three years 1936, 1937 and 1938 were higher than they were in the last two quarters of 1948. Now we hope that the nationalised railways are doing something to put that right but, in the meanwhile, it is obvious that extra freight is being diverted to the roads. When we look at the licensing figures for the roads we see that the numbers of vans and lorries have gone up from 478,000 in 1938 to 661,000 at present, a very sharp rise, so that obviously from those figures alone the tax which is being put on the roads is much greater than it was before.
There is no doubt that the case for these motorways must rest principally on the goods traffic, but I should like to make an allusion to passenger traffic as well because, after all, a lot of passenger traffic is important from the point of view of business, and is work which, in one way or another, is connected with our economic position. Here again the figures, comparing pre-war with the present day, are striking. The railways monthly average has sunk very much between 1937 and 1948. Similarly, when one turns to the roads, the number of licensed motor vehicles for passenger traffic is far lower than it was before the war, but there is every indication that it will be made up as soon as the new vehicles are available.
It seemed to me that the Minister made out quite a good case for building new motorways rather than spending a great deal more money in trying to bring a lot of our present roads up to date. Although some of our roads are good and straight, where they come from Roman or even pre-Roman times, others are nothing more than glorified bridle paths. It would be a mistake to go on spending money on some of these roads, although some sections of them form part of the most important roads in the country.
I am sure that the general principle behind this Bill of segregating the 1797 different types of traffic is quite right, and that we have probably been too slow in adopting that course in this country. I saw the other day an example of the difference between the way in which the railways were treated 100 years ago and the way we treat our modern by-pass roads. It was in Warwickshire where, within one or two miles, can be found a railway line built a hundred years ago, which was hardly used and is now closed, and a modern by-pass road. In the case of the railway line the most excellent arrangements were made for getting from one side of the railway to the other. The many farms there which were split up were extremely well catered for. That, however, is not the case with the modern by-pass road. One farm is split hopelessly in two with buildings and one or two fields on one side of the road while the bulk of the farm is on the other. Consequently, the cattle have to be taken across the road, which is dangerous for them and slows up the traffic. I believe it is important that adequate bridges should be built, not only over any new motorways that may be constructed but over the existing trunk roads.
The Minister mentioned—and it has been mentioned in a pamphlet issued by the Road Transport Federation—that road which runs between St. Albans and Coventry. I know it well and I had occasion to drive down it on Monday night. One cannot help being struck by the inadequacy of that road. In the old days it was much less used than it is today—I think the Minister's figures will support this. As I travelled down that road on Monday evening, however, the amount of traffic was enormous. The width of the road varied greatly, dazzle conditions were extremely bad. Overtaking was difficult—for example, in one place there were four of the 40' R.A.F. vehicles trailing close one behind the other so that one had to get by all four at once. As it was a twisty road, that was obviously the kind of thing which ought not to have been happening. Sign-posting was bad—unless one is assuming that all the drivers know the road thoroughly well—and I did not see a single police car endeavouring to see that proper road manners were observed.
If I may be excused from following other hon. Members and striking a constituency note, I am a little perturbed 1798 that no provision seems to have been made for the south-west of England, whose claims I hope will be re-examined, because there are many activities there which are of great importance. With regard to the new motorways themselves, I was a little disturbed by the terms of Clause 12 which permits other traffic to cross the motorways at certain points. I hope that will not be allowed except in exceptional circumstances, that the normal practice will be fly-overs, that there will be as few points of access on these motorways as possible, and that the Minister will be slow in making special cases.
There is another point which needs to be stressed, the importance of not allowing vehicles to stop on the road. It is very important that there should be proper places beside the road where vehicles can get off the road if they are going to be stationary, particularly at night, for otherwise they are a great nuisance. Hon. Members will remember the care that was taken in military sectors in Europe during the war when notices were posted saying, "If you must stop, get off the road." The same is just as important in this country in time of peace, yet one has only to go down any large trunk road to see vehicles pulled up all along it and often at corners.
There is one other point which I hope will not be lost sight of in the routing of the motor roads, and that is an attempt to avoid the foggy valley or the foggy hill as the case may be. Fog is a most horrible nuisance on a large road of that kind, and in some cases routing could be altered with that end in view.
Before I close, I should like once again to refer to the necessity for laying down quite definitely where these roads are to go, though I think we all realise that they cannot be built for some considerable time. To publish their proposed routes is most important not only for farmers, who have to plan for a certain acreage of farm land many years ahead, but for landowners who also have to plan for the future. A landowner will not wish to put up a farm building where later on there is going to be a motor road. It is also very important for education authorities and for planning authorities to know about the routes these roads will follow. 1799 I have in mind one case where a site seemed the obvious place for a school. It was decided in the end not to put a school there, because it had been rumoured that the Ministry of Transport would one day wish to build a new road across that land. It was impossible to get any information whether the road was following that route. Having sat on a local planning authority, I know how often cases of that kind cause great embarrassment, and it is better for all concerned to know as soon as possible what routes will be followed. For these reasons I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Walkden (Doncaster)
I assure the House very readily that I will be brief. What is more, if I may refer to the speech of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Digby) I will not strike a constituency note. That is partly due to the fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) has already referred to one particular road, which is undoubtedly not only a danger and out-of-date, but totally inadequate. I believe it is receiving the attention of the Minister. I am, of course, referring to the A.1 road which passes through the centre of Don-caster. A previous Act, the Trunk Roads Act, enables the Minister to get on with the job in that case. Therefore, I refrain from further comments on that subject.
With the exception of the speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), the speeches have been friendly in every sense of the term. There has been a large measure of agreement on the necessity for this Bill. What is more, everybody recognises that such a Measure should have been passed long ago, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on the way he explained the Bill, as well as on introducing it. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary is here to listen to my remarks. I want him to note that, so far, every hon. Member seems to have concentrated on motorways. No one has noticed that the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states:The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the construction of special roads preserved for specified classes of traffic.1800 Then it gives examples:Motorways for motor traffic, footways for pedestrians, cycleways for cyclists.and so forth.
There is a new principle embodied in this Bill to which I wish to draw the attention of the House, for it may have serious repercussions. In the days of the Coalition Government, Sir Herbert Williams, the then Member for South Croydon, and I spotted something in a very simple Measure which referred to cyclists and the compulsory use of cycle rear lamps. We expressed our concern on that occasion; we were not opposed to the idea of compulsory rear lamps for cyclists, but we wondered whether in that particular Clause, there was going to be recognition of a particular cycle lamp for cyclists, and whether, if that lamp was not used, they would be taken to the police court where they could be punished by being fined up to £2.
Recently I have been inquiring whether Sir Herbert Williams and I were justified in our fears and also to discover exactly what has happened since that legislation became law. I am assured by police officers in various parts of the country that about three-fifths of the average cyclists disregard the law and do not use rear lights on cycles. Despite all the progress we have made in regard to motor cars, rear lamps and the use of high voltage lamps, we have not yet produced an efficient cycle lamp. That brings me to the simple principle in this Bill that may cause a whole series of complications. I refer to Clause 12 (3), which states:If any person uses or crosses a special road in contravention of this section or of any such regulations as aforesaid, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain later on whether, in passing this Measure, we are giving assent to the principle that if a cyclist fails to use a roadway provided by the nation, or by a local authority with the blessing of the nation, we shall impose a punishment of up to £20. That is an entirely new principle, and I ask for guidance on the matter. At least in one country I have visited, which has a considerable mileage of cycle tracks, it is a punishable offence for 1801 cyclists to fail to use these particular cycle tracks. Cyclists there can be dealt with severely. I think the punishment for a second offence is a fine which is the equivalent of £5.
I raise this question because I have not seen any comment made in the Press or elsewhere about these cycle tracks. It is laid down specifically that we are to provide cycle tracks, but I find that in the case of a road along which I pass almost every day—the Sutton by-pass—the cyclists disregard the cycle tracks provided on either side, with the result that the 'bus drivers use the sort of language only London 'bus drivers can use. I hope that if there is anything in this Bill likely to lead to prosecutions and convictions, the Minister will consult the various organisations representing the cyclists so that he will know their views on the matter. This principle has not been decided as yet, and the cyclists are not all in agreement about it. If we are to lay down these roads for a particular class of user, then everyone concerned should understand the law. I do not commit myself on this matter one way or the other. If the Minister will adopt the course I have suggested, we could then, if it is necessary, take steps later on to deal with any offenders. I have much pleasure in supporting this Bill, for, as they say on that great road across the Zuyder Zee, "A nation that lives, builds for the future."
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
There was a great deal I wanted to say before this Debate began, but most of what I wished to say has now been nibbled away by the Members who have already said their piece and trotted out. I welcome this Bill for entirely different reasons from those so far mentioned. I welcome it because it is a promise of work for the unemployed when the slump comes. My experience with regard to road development has been a very unhappy one. I had occasion to go with a deputation to the Leader of the House, at a time when there were thousands of unemployed and all the necessary material and machinery, to point out to him that the main West Road from Scotland to England had not had a single man employed on it to improve on the work of Hadrian.
1802 The same thing applies even today, so I am not in the least disturbed about the money which is to be spent on these beautiful roads. If we believe that we are able to build all these beautiful new roads, together with a beautiful Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as atom bombs, for the next war, we are living in a fool's paradise. It is a wonderful thing to discuss this Bill all today and to think of what we may be able to do. We might be able to do all these wonderful things in a sensible and reasonable world, but I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a few practical questions.
Take the case of the road from the Cunningham coast to the City of Glasgow. It is a most important road which is congested with traffic. By the side of that road is a railway with trains that run practically empty. The service to some ports has been cut down from one train per hour to one train per two hours. The reason the trains are not being used is because fares are far too high and the service is not run to suit the public. I should have thought the Department would have seen to it that some of the traffic on the road was diverted to the railway. Personally, I think we should be far more sensible if we were discussing the electrification of the railways. That would be far more useful than anything proposed in this Bill, which will not come into operation, as someone has so modestly said, for at least two years, although I think 20 years would be nearer the mark. These roads will be widened and improved all right if it is for war purposes, but not for peace-time purposes.
I do not like the idea put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) that everything the motorist pays by way of taxation should be spent on the roads. I do not agree with that at all. The money other people pay by way of taxation is not all spent for their particular benefit. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) was very effusive in his praise of the Minister. He said that the proper title for this Bill was the "Road to Recovery Bill." Were it not for my admiration for my right hon. Friend I would call it "The Road to Hell Bill," because it is paved with nothing but good intentions.
1803 It so happens that I do not use the roads if I can help it. I fly from London to Glasgow because I can never get out of this place quick enough. To get to Northolt Airport I have to go down the Great West Road, which is one of these new modern roads. By the side of that road I see some beautiful villas and bungalows, but I would be so bold as to say that I would not live in one for nothing, nor would I allow anyone who is going to bring up children to live in them. It would be far safer to put the houses alongside a railway, and let the children play on the railway lines. Some very rickety bridges have been built across that road, and people have to walk for half to three-quarters of a mile between one bridge and another. That is the prospect which is being eulogised.
§ Mr. Scollan
New roads will have to be cut through farms. Are the farmers to have tunnels cut under their land, or bridges built over it? After all, the road has to be made somewhere. One Member suggested putting the roads on the tops of hills. I do not know whether he had an elevated railway in mind, a switchback, up one hill and down another. Imagine doing this in the Western Highlands, going up and over Ben Lomond and down to Vennacher and over Ben Achray and down to Ben Ann. The Minister should take the suggestion seriously. There would be millions of people who would wish to see such a highway.
We in Scotland could do with some very good roads. The hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) spoke of road bridges across the Forth and the Tay. I sat on a special Commission which considered objections to placing a road bridge across the River Forth. We recommended that the objections should be overruled. The objections were understandable, because the North British Railway Company were concerned about the loss of fares which might result. But now the railways are nationalised, so I do not see any reason why such a road bridge should not be built. Someone wanted to know whether there was power given to the Minister to build bridges. Well, I have never heard of 1804 building roads without bridges. is it permissible to build a bridge across the Eden, at Carlisle?
§ Mr. Scollan
Yes, and another one is needed. Is it permissible to build a bridge across the Tweed, at Berwick? When we get to the River Forth, however, it is not permissible; a special Bill is required. A special Bill is also required to build a bridge across the River Tay. The Minister made it clear to my hon. and learned Friend that he did not intend to become embroiled in a Forth road bridge controversy. That meant that such a bridge would be ruled out, irrespective of what is in the Bill.
Anyone who says that it is possible to make trunk roads without the loss of agricultural land is talking nonsense. Must a farm be truncated to make a road for fast-moving traffic? Must the farmer have a tunnel under or a bridge over his land? What is proposed in the Bill is all very nice on paper. It has been said that it is nice to go to Germany and see the great military highways there. I thought they were the most horrible things I had ever seen. I thought they were positively ugly, uninteresting and dull, and spoiled the whole of the landscape. I believe that the provisions of this Bill will not come into operation for another 10 to 12 years, and that the costs will be greater than we realised. Many of our present roads were built on the poverty of the unemployed—a shilling a day and a bowl of soup to the worker.
The problem is to find somewhere for motorists to motor. If prosperity comes to this country in anything like the measure we visualise, there will be so many people with motor cars that the present roads programme will have to be doubled. Take London. There are places here where it is quite impossible to put 50 per cent. more traffic on the roads. I hope the Government will approach the problem from a different angle. The question of whether our roads, and the nation itself, can bear the burden of pleasure motoring will have to be seriously considered by the Government.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan), 1805 because I support the Bill for the same reason as he does—that I believe it will do something to meet the needs of the unemployed in the years to come. The hon. Member said that many of our present-day roads were built on poverty—a shilling a day and a bowl of soup. From the way in which the Government are going, I believe that is what will happen when future roads come to be built.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The hon. Member for West Renfrew said that the roads are full of traffic and trains are running empty because fares are so high. The way to overcome that is to reduce the cost of fares and put on more trains. But the railways are now nationalised; they have become a monopoly which is uneconomic, incompetent and inefficient.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
If private enterprise were running the railways today, they would reduce fares and put on more trains, which more passengers would then use.
I congratulate the Minister on bringing in this enabling Bill, which is both complementary and supplementary to the legislation which has been going through Parliament for the last two or three years. There has been all this nationalisation which makes for incompetence and inefficiency, and the result will be that when Marshall Aid ceases in the early part of 1950, there will be very severe unemployment. I say that it is a very wise action on the part of the Minister to bring in this Bill now. The Minister said quite clearly that it took at least two years of preparation and planning before a road could be begun. Probably it will take three, four or five years, and that is just about the time when unemployment will be severe in this country. For that reason I congratulate the Minister very heartily on introducing this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Molson) said that he was glad these things would not be done at any rate in his lifetime. He painted a gloomy picture of the amount of capital money required to build these roads, and so on. I believe that the need for building these roads will become very 1806 acute sooner rather than later, for the reason I have given. Hon. Members opposite have drawn attention to the diversity of views expressed on this Bill from this side of the House. On this side there is initiative, enterprise and freedom of speech. We are not like a lot of sheep, or like geese, that all cackle the same thing in the same way. We have opportunities for expressing our views, and we do so. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York) disagreed with this Bill mainly on the grounds of the ill effects it would have, as he thought, on agriculture.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
The hon. Gentleman could not have been listening. Geese cackle, and it was to geese that I referred when I mentioned cackling. May I now turn again to what I was saying about the hon. Member for Ripon who disagreed with this Bill because he felt that it would be harmful to agriculture. At the outset of his speech he gave illustrations of the efficiency of the roads for himself and other people, and in that way I thought he contradicted himself. After all, these new motorways that are proposed will undoubtedly improve the efficiency of the country. I will not repeat the arguments advanced from all sides of the House about the saving of fuel, the avoidance of accidents and the saving of time and money and other desirable features, but this Bill, when it is carried into effect, will undoubtedly make this country more efficient. That is why it is supplementary and complementary to all the other Bills going through which are making this country so incompetent and inefficient.
Objections have been made by those who feel, quite rightly, that agriculture may be badly harmed by the proposals in this Bill. It is obvious that when a road is driven right through the country and farms are cut in half, it is awkward and inconvenient. But when the railways went through the country, the same thing happened. When a railway was driven through the country, consideration was given to farms which were cut about. I suggest, therefore, that if adequate bridges are provided, agriculture need not be harmed, any more than it was by the railways. If proper care and attention is paid to that aspect, there really is not 1807 much grievance on the part of the farmers. Where a farm is knocked about a bit, I hope that proper compensation will be given. If 25 acres are knocked off a farm of 100 acres, it is not right just to compensate the farmer for agricultural land. Generally speaking, the buildings on his farms are so arranged as to enable him to farm that particular area economically, and if a piece of the land is knocked off, quite a bit of the earning value of the farm is taken away. I hope, therefore, that the question of compensation will be considered.
Is it necessary to have so wide a green verge? Surely if the green verges were practically done away with, the amount of 12,000 acres of land which will be required might be very substantially reduced. If, for some reason or other, it is necessary to have fairly wide grass verges, I hope it will be possible for them to be cultivated. There is no reason why they should not be cultivated without in any way hindering traffic. Ether make them wide enough so that they may be cultivated, and so lose as little agricultural land as possible, or else use as little land as possible for green verges. If it is said that it is desirable to have places on the side of the road where cars can pull up—and I agree that it is desirable to have places for people to wait without interfering with the free flow of traffic—there is no reason why at convenient distances proper places should not be made. I hope that those considerations in regard to agriculture will be taken into account.
I congratulate the Minister on foreseeing the conditions that will exist in a few years' time as a result of the present policy of the Socialist Government, and I congratulate him on his Bill as being the first bit of really constructive future planning by this Government.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I listened with some amusement and amazement to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). The hon. Member will not think it strange that those of us who listened to him thought that he was speaking without having taken into account in the slightest manner what this Government have done, and the way in which the country has accepted all that the Government have done. The correct way in which he should have 1808 approached this matter, in my view, was to have said that the planning that took place in the Labour Party before this Government came into office and power has been carried into practical effect. It is only natural, having had the vision that the Labour Party had, that when this Government came in that vision should extend into the time when it will be necessary to carry into effect the very important Measure which is being introduced today.
I think that that is the real basis on which the consideration of this Bill should be taken, and I congratulate the Minister for having had that vision, and for having undertaken what the Conservative Party have left undone for many years. He has introduced a Measure which will provide an improvement in transport in this country, which is essential and is very long overdue. When the Gracious Speech was being discussed in this House I took occasion to point out that it was time that a Measure of this nature should be placed on the Statute Book. I felt at that time, as I feel now, that it is not just merely a Bill for the purpose of expressing a desire or wish that something should happen. I believe that it is a Bill which derives from a thorough understanding by the Minister of what is necessary in the future, and I believe in the near future, and is in keeping with the course which he should take in order to provide the facilities which are essential for improving transport.
Those of us who have seen in other countries the type of road contemplated in the Bill will know very well that many of the arguments used today against the Bill are futile and are contradicted by the facts. Take, for example, the great park-ways in the United States. The suggestion that they are an eyesore in entirely wrong. On the contrary, they have been planned in an entirely different way. No road could possibly possess landscapes, either natural or prepared, which would satisfy the desire of every connoisseur travelling along it, but these roads were planned to provide the best surroundings possible.
The first argument which was used against the Bill was that the motorways would give opportunities for speeding. A motorway is not a high speed road for the motorist. It is a development of transportation as logical as it is inevitable. The figure of 192,000 motor 1809 vehicles on British roads in 1911 has been mentioned, but those vehicles now number between 3 million and 4 million, while not a single road has been built solely for motor traffic. That is a startling example showing how the specialised road improvement has failed to keep pace with the development of the internal combustion engine and with the increase in the flow of traffic. The result is that our roads are out of date, which fact produces high transport costs and waste.
Today, even under our system of fuel restriction, our roads present a sorry spectacle of congestion. Many types of vehicle jostle one another, to the danger of pedestrians and cyclists, and 20th century road transport in Britain is, to all intents and purposes, worse than if it were operating under a 19th century road system. The proposed programme will do a considerable amount towards improving the situation and putting our road system upon a proper footing.
The point has been raised that it is bad economy to deal with this matter at the present time. I ask the House to regard the matter in its true light. The motor roads will bring a reduction in congestion, and also of accidents on other roads, through the transfer of traffic. There will be a tremendous saving by the transfer of traffic, both in time and in cost. A higher average speed will be obtained, even though speed limits should not increase. There will be a large reduction in regard to stopping and starting of vehicles, which will result in a saving of fuel. A further saving will result from a decrease in low gear work and in accelerating and decelerating.
Tests were taken before the war on German roads and they showed the difference in performance of a 3.2 litre vehicle running between two places about 100 miles apart, first on an old road and then upon a motorway. On the old road there were 102 gear changes and on the motorway only four. There were 491 brake applications on the old road and three on the motorway. Manipulations of the steering wheel of more than 2.3 inches were 570 times on the old road for once on the motor road.
The second point which I would emphasise, although it has been made before, is that these roads will bring about a considerable reduction, and per- 1810 haps almost the elimination, of accidents. Figures have been referred to showing that the reduction on the German motorways was 83 per cent. in the accident rate, and a very considerable percentage in America. Those figures stand out in such a way as to show that the case presented by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) was erroneous.
The point has been made that on one mile of motor road as many as 4,400 commercial vehicles a day at least are carried, and it is reasonable to expect that in due course the density of traffic on the motor roads will be much greater. Operating costs upon one mile of road carrying such traffic would be £51,439 a year, on the basis of the old roads. It has been estimated that on the new roads it would be only £36,423. That would be a saving of £15,016 a year. It is true that from that sum about £1,000 per mile would have to be taken; nevertheless, the economy would be considerable. A yield of about £14,000 a year on an investment of £150,000, which represents the cost that would be expended, is something that might appeal even to the most pernickety financier seated on the Opposition Benches.
§ Mr. Janner
An hon. Member has referred to the unnecessary use of capital expenditure in this connection. In my view, the modernisation of the road system, and particularly the building of motorways, ought to be seen in their true perspective as part of the national programme for capital development. Their construction should be regarded in exactly the same way as the building of new steel plants or the provision of new machines in textile mills, and as a step towards increasing industrial efficiency and reducing costs, as well as improving the standard of living. Capital development must be properly balanced if these objects are to be attained.
The modernisation of British industry needs not only modern industrial equipment, but also modern roads and port facilities, with plenty of fuel at reasonable prices. If we take one example from the present capital expenditure programme, we find that it provides for £130 million for electricity in 1948–49, while large sums are also being expended on steel, coal, oil, chemicals and cotton. This 1811 Bill will enable motorways to take their place in this development queue on their merits, based strictly on the contribution they would make towards cutting down cost and improving industrial efficiency.
I think the House and the country ought to express its indebtedness to the British Road Federation for the inquiries which that body has made. The results of those inquiries, which were quoted by the Minister today, have shown beyond any measure of doubt that not only should this Bill be introduced, but that we should immediately take in hand the preliminary measures for the purpose of getting into action in two years' time. It will probably take about two years before these measures can be carried through, as the Minister stated, and we should immediately proceed, so that, at the end of the two years, we may really commence with the creation and building of these roads as something of extreme necessity to the country. They will not interfere with other methods of transport, but rather will be supplementary to them.
As to the point regarding employment, it is perfectly true that, in some districts, the building of these roads will afford opportunities for employment should there be anything in the nature of unemployment there, but, even if there is no unemployment, and I think the policy of this Government will ensure that there will be none—[An HON. MEMBER: "The generosity of the Americans."] No, the policy of this Government, because, if it had not been for this Government the position of this country, even with the assistance we are now getting, would have been extremely serious. It certainly would not be anything like our present position in which there is the possibility for men and women to live in comparative comfort—I do not say luxury.
That is particularly clear when we compare our conditions with those which prevail in other countries, and, in view of the fact that we were faced with great difficulties when we entered into office.—[Interruption.]—Private enterprise would have ruined our economy and would not have had a planned system. It would have removed controls and caused chaos to exist in the country instead of a planned economy. Therefore, hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway would have 1812 found that state of affairs to which I was referring. Be that as it may, however, on the non-contentious side, those who have agreed with this Bill have shown a proper view of the situation as it exists in regard to transport, and I hope the Second Reading will be carried without dissent.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I would like to join issue with the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) on his remarks in the last few minutes of his speech, but I fear that if I were to carry that matter any further, I should very swiftly be called to Order. I think, however, it should go on record that, although we accept the hon. Gentleman's co-operation in regard to the Bill, we most strongly repudiate the part of his argument which was contained in the latter part of his speech. If I do not follow him in the earlier part of his remarks, it is because there, generally speaking, I find myself completely in agreement with him. He made a very detailed and carefully reasoned argument, which, if I tried to follow it, would merely involve me in repetition.
I desire to come back to the Minister's original remarks. He gave us an exceedingly interesting survey of the historical situation from 1066 and all that, which I think we all appreciated, but I could not understand why he did not start earlier. Reference has been made to the roads which the Romans built, and if the right hon. Gentleman is claiming that the mantle of the old road-builders has now fallen upon him, and that he is the lineal descendant of the Emperors Hadrian and Caligula, I think he ought to have told us more about their roads. It would be very interesting to know what was the length of road which the Romans built in this country, how long it took them to build it and what was the cost, and then compare those figures with the figures about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking at the present time.
I believe we should find that the efforts which the right hon. Gentleman intends to put forth will result in no greater length of road, and in no better roads—though they may, perhaps, be a little larger—will result in the roads being built in no shorter space of time, but only at a vastly increased cost. So I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the example 1813 of his lineal predecessors, the Emperors. Who really did build our roads, and I urge him to carry his reactionary outlook right back to its proper source. [An HON. MEMBER: "How far back?"] About 2,000 years.
If he was interested in the matter, the right hon. Gentleman knew that he could count on my general support for this Bill, because when we were discussing the Trunk Roads Bill in Committee two years ago, I think almost everyone on our side of the Committee advocated the creation of roads of this type to provide greater facilities for traffic. I find it a matter of great regret that the Bill and the proposals embodied in it contain no reference whatever to the direct alleviation of the terrible congestion of the roads in my part of the country, namely, the south of England. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that the traffic now being carried by the trunk roads and the "A" class roads between London and the South Coast resorts is such that it is actually hampering the proper business of these particular coastal areas. Unless something substantial is done to alleviate the congestion of traffic on those roads, whether under this Bill directly or indirectly, or under preceding Acts, the situation will become exceedingly serious.
It is time something was done for transport. It is true that our civilisation, as we understand it today, has been developed on two main lines—one the development of printing, and the other the development of transport. The Government have effectively killed any development with regard to printing by the limitation of newsprint, so that that side of our civilisation which depends upon the development of printing has been stultified as a result of their efforts. Let us hope that they will try to make up some of the leeway by improving the development of transport.
Most of these new roads must of necessity be carved out of agricultural land. I hope very much that, wherever it is possible, by adjustment and good planning, agricultural land will be avoided and less valuable or less useful land used. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the total acreage involved by the direct acquisition of land for the proposed new roads is a comparatively small amount, namely, 12,000 acres; 1814 but that is not the sum total of it: that is not the sum total of the deleterious effect which these roads will have upon farming. There is also the question of intermediate disturbance by the dislocation of lateral communication between farms. There is a better yardstick, I think, by which to judge it than the total acreage, and that is the total number of farms which will either be cut off or inconvenienced. That number, I believe, will be found to be a far greater proportion of the total number of farms than the total acreage is of the total agricultural area. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind with great sympathy. because it is the farmer's livelihood. It is upon his farm that the farmer and his family depend, both for their living and their home.
In the action which it will be necessary to take, there will be a great deal of individual hardship. But having said that, and though representing an agricultural constituency. I believe that the scheme, as a whole, will be to the benefit of agriculture. Agriculture, possibly more than any other industry. Is dependent upon road transport. Everything which cones on to a farm has to come by road, and everything which a farmer sells, whether it is the daily milk or an annual cash crop. has to be removed by road. Therefore, the whole question of road transport is one of the vital factors, and one of the most important costing factors in agriculture.
The fact that the scheme will be good For agriculture as a whole is all the more reason— if it is going to benefit the general community of agriculturists— why the greatest and most sympathetic attention should be paid to individual cases where hardship may occur. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to use every opportunity of consultation with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who has various powers under the Agriculture Act whereby he can adjust the boundaries of farms and soften the blow which is bound to fall on individual farmers. I hope that when these roads are planned, the Ministry of Agriculture will be brought fully into the picture, so that the least possible damage need he done to the individual farmer.
Generally speaking, I believe that the project is capable of being a good invest- 1815 ment. Hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate so far have very largely considered it as a capital expenditure which does not appear to be going to yield any worthwhile return——
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
— but I do not think that is true, and I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) agrees with me. I believe that it is a good investment, and should be looked upon as such. The great question is whether the expenditure of the money will be wisely carried out. I believe that the Motion which I had the privilege of sponsoring in this House during last Session, and which attracted the support of something like 175 hon. Members, but which did not attract the eye of the Leader of the House to the extent of gaining us an opportunity to debate it, would have been a very valuable one.
It proposed to call for the appointment of a Select Committee to consider all the problems which are going to arise under this Bill— for example, what would be the best way of implementing the proposals contained in the Bill? There have, I know, been many committees and commissions of one sort or another which have considered and produced very valuable reports on road transport; but most of those reports are now, to some extent, out of date. Most of them regarded the matter from some particular angle. What I felt was necessary, and what I believe the right hon. Gentleman will sooner or later regret he did not have, was a comprehensive and impartial review of the situation, in order to collate and co-ordinate the best available opinions, both nationally and internationally, on the vast project he has undertaken.
Now that we are embarking on this project, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether we in this country know how to build motorways.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
I am glad to see the Minister indicating assent, although I feel that he is expressing a very high degree of confidence, because this is a project which has not, so far, been proved effective in this country. If we look at 1816 our own trunk roads, we find that their production has been slow and costly, and that the permanence of the way has not been good. The maintenance requirements have been exceedingly high, and, generally speaking, not a good investment for the amount of capital originally expended. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman could have given us more indication of the lines upon which these motorways will be built in future. How long will the work take? I believe that the Alaska Highway was built at the rate of six miles a day, which is an incredible speed. I also understand that the German autobahnen were mostly built at the rate of a mile a day, which, again, was a tremendous speed. I certainly do not think that anything which our Government have done up to the present indicates their ability to compete with speeds of that description.
What are these roads going to be made of, and how? I believe that a very experienced body of road engineers was recently sent from this country to inspect the German autobahnen. They had the opportunity of seeing them, not only from above, as we see a road, but also in sections where the roads had been blown away, and they were thus able to see the details of construction. The report that I received—although I cannot vouch for it—was that they were astounded at the ability and the technical detail involved, and that they did not know of any method of construction in this country which could compare in the results obtained, with the construction of those autobahnen. There is certainly no doubt about the amazing way in which those roads stood up to the war-time traffic they had to carry, considering the virtual lack of maintenance during the past six years.
What about the cost of these new roads? The right hon. Gentleman quoted an overall expenditure of about £150,000 per mile. How is that figure arrived at? As I understand it, we have no machinery in the country at the present time with which to build these roads. Therefore, I should like to know whether it is based on the assumption that by the time the Government are ready to build the roads, we shall have the machinery, or whether they are assuming that we are going to create the factories to produce the machine tools which will be necessary to produce the machinery with which to 1817 build the roads. If we are to do all that, then I think the Minister's estimate, that about two years will elapse before the project can be started is a very great under-estimate indeed.
As regards the type of road, I wish the Minister had been able to tell us rather more than he did. Is it to be the double-width double-road system, or is it to be what I consider the very perilous system which we have at the present time, the double-carriageway with a three-width traffic on each side? There is only one thing which is more dangerous than that, and that is the single carriageway with the three-width traffic way down it. Even with a treble-width traffic way on a one-way road, there is very great danger indeed when the temptation arises to have three vehicles passing at speed. Therefore, I should be very glad to have some indication of the Government's intention in that matter.
There is the smaller but equally important matter of high-speed roads, referred to by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn), from the point of view of kerbs. He appears to be advocating a soft, presumably resilient or rubber kerb, which might perhaps be an ideal but would be a very expensive one. I believe that an absolute case has been made for the rejection of the 90-degrees kerb and for at least trying out the kerb set back at an angle of 135 degrees. That in itself would be a very strong safety mark for these roads. Then there is the question of anti-dazzle protection, about which we have heard nothing. It is to be hoped that there will be some form of screen between the dual carriageways to afford protection.
I was alarmed when the Minister referred to petrol stations and cafés on these roads. I trust that if they are to be available to the users of these roads, they will be set well away from the roads, and not even flush with them but on subsidiary side roads so that they will take the traffic right away, and thus avoid any possibility of interference with the main stream of traffic. The same thing applies to the power of authorisation which the right hon. Gentleman has for crossings under Clause 12. I hope he will use those powers with the utmost care and as seldom as possible. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for West Leicester as regards the potential 1818 beauty of these constructions. I think they are purely utilitarian necessities, but if we must have them, at least let us make them really efficient, and they cannot be efficient if they are going to have other streams of traffic crossing them.
§ Mr. Janner
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any knowledge of the American system, but if he inquires into it, he will find that in America regard is paid to the aesthetic position. It can be done.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
It is entirely a matter of opinion. Personally, I do not consider that America is as beautiful a country as our own. Consequently, any such infliction which has to be imposed on our countryside is a detriment rather than an improvement.
One further point that I would like to mention as a matter of detail arises out of Clause 12 (4), by which these roads will not be built-up areas within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act. The other day we had some argument about that when the Parliamentary Secretary was unable to accept an Amendment which I moved to achieve the same result with regard to all new roads, but I am glad to see that in this Bill it is agreed that it will not be necessary to impose a 30 mile-an-hour speed limit on these roads as a result of having lighting every 200 yards along them.
The Minister referred once or twice to the necessity, before this Bill comes into operation, of a case having to be made out. I wish he had elaborated that point. If there was a question of a new trunk road alteration or a new special road to be created, he said that upon each occasion a case would have to be made out. I appreciate, of course, that that is necessary, but by whom and to whom has the case to be made out, and how has it to be made out? I would like to know particularly whether it is contemplated that there will be vast series of public inquiries all over the country from John o' Groats to Land's End in order to ascertain whether there is a necessity for such a road and how it should be created. If it is intended to have public inquiries of that description, I cannot see how we are ever going to get a motorway at all. But if it is intended to make inquiries of the industrial organisations, the motor organisations and all other interested 1819 parties who are going to benefit or suffer as a result of the creation of these roads, I agree that such inquiries should take place. I should be grateful if the Minister could give us some further indication of what he meant when he said that a case would have to be made out.
Finally, I stress the essential point that motorways are of no earthly use unless there is a satisfactory link between them and the centres of industry and population. It is no good carrying the motorway up to the end of the Kingston by-pass and then leaving a congested area through which traffic has to get before it reaches its destination. No satisfactory way of dealing with that has yet been suggested. Before we start building motorways, one of the first problems that should be considered is how to get the traffic from the congested centres on to the motorway in the most economical fashion possible.
To summarise, provided that the preparatory work is adequate before the final work is started, I am convinced that this proposal is economic. There is the saving which has been referred to in tyres, petrol, man hours, and so forth, by the use of these roads. It should work out at roughly 10 per cent. of the capital cost of the road itself, and that is a very good investment to have for the benefit of the country. I do not like the picture of motorways, because I am old-fashioned enough to appreciate the roads which we have in Sussex—"the rolling, reeling road" referred to by G. K. Chesterton when he wrote:The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.However, I do recognise that in these austere times of utility and necessity, the days of those roads have passed, and we must suffer from these efficient motorways.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
My intervention will be very brief, because nearly every aspect of this Bill has been thoroughly covered in the speeches already made. The economic case has been fully made out. The roads of this country, for the most part, were constructed for an entirely different type of traffic from what we have now, and those which have been constructed on more modern lines, through being all-purpose 1820 roads, lose a very great deal of the advantage because of the continual necessity for slowing down, stopping and so on.
From the economic standpoint, there is one small matter in which I should like to correct any false impression that may have been created, and that concerns the economy effected in petrol, oil, tyres and general wear and tear. That is entirely due to the fact that vehicles can run at a uniform speed without any appreciable change in speed, direction or gears. The greater the speed, other things being equal, the greater the expense in petrol, oil, tyres and so on. I do not want it to be assumed from the statistics provided by the Road Federation, for instance, that a high speed means economy in these matters, because it does not. The Road Federation actually mentions the point fairly, but I think it is a point which might be overlooked.
Coming as I do from an agricultural constituency, I most heartily agree with those speakers who have regretted that 12,000 acres, probably mostly agricultural land, will have to go. I endorse all the pleas made for economising as much as possible in the use of good agricultural land for this purpose and, in particular, I hope the type of fly-over junction will be very carefully worked out so as to use the very minimum of land. I think the autobahnen in Germany are exceedingly wasteful in the type which is generally provided. They use quite an unnecessary amount of land.
The principal point to which I want to refer is the question of road safety and the contribution which these motorways can make towards it. I do not accept what one or two hon. Members have said about the enormous part which road construction plays in road safety. It does play a part. A bad road surface does encourage accidents. But the figure which has been quoted of 58 per cent. of accidents due to bad road construction is, I think, completely and utterly false. I believe that figure was produced by the surveyor of one county of this country, but I do not think it has been accepted by any reputable authority and I believe all statistics show that bad road construction accounts for only a comparatively small proportion of road accidents. In fact, so far as streamlining goes and the cutting back of corners, it has been found very often that the number of road acci- 1821 dents, particularly fatal ones, actually increased because people were enabled to go at much higher speeds. At the same time, it is quite obvious that segregating motor traffic from other forms of traffic does provide a great measure of road safety.
I do not think we must exaggerate the degree of road safety which will be achieved through these motorways, because, after all, they are to constitute only one per cent. of our total classified roads. They will have a much greater effect on road safety than that one per cent. represents, of course, but I do not believe it will be as great as some people might suppose. The only way to verify the percentage would be to consider what proportion of the accidents which are taking place now would have been prevented had one of the motorways which are projected been in existence. I do not think the proportion is likely to be so very high. So far as the Bill goes, I think it is all to the good.
There is one point in which we can learn something from the German autobahnen. I believe they started by having no speed limit of any kind, but they found eventually that they had to have one—a high one, of course, but nevertheless a speed limit. I believe they also found that when drivers of motor vehicles came off an autobahn on to an ordinary road they were apt to go much too fast. They had fallen into the habit of travelling at a very high speed and they almost automatically tried to continue it on the other roads. That is a point which would need to be carefully guarded against and I think it points very much to a principle in which I have always believed—that there should be an overall speed limit quite apart from that in built-up areas. That is a reform which ought to come.
I hope that these motorways, on the other hand, by giving people a road on which they can go fast and, on the other hand, by emphasising the necessity of making a difference between the motorway and the ordinary road, may improve matters in regard to driving at excessive speeds. I hope we shall no longer see such things happening as those which happen now, with motor cars going at anything up to 90 miles an hour on an ordinary highway of this country. If people want to go at speeds of that kind 1822 they should restrict themselves to the motorways, when they are built, and until the motorways are built, they should fly. I think those are all the points which remain to be brought out, so far as I see them, and I wish success to the Minister in the new departure, long delayed but badly needed, which he is now making.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
Had I the time I should like to join issue with the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton) in his contention that road construction had not a substantial part to play in road safety. I feel that evidence could be produced to show that the assumption he made was not borne out by practical experience. I do not want to pursue the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury, however, because I want to pursue for a short time the Minister of Transport.
The Minister had a very easy passage here today—much easier than he deserved. Many right hon. Gentlemen opposite have easier passages than they deserve, but I want to refer in particular to the Minister of Transport. What has he done today? He has come to this House as a sort of advance guard of progress. He is the man who is going to set right what has been neglected for so many years. He is the man who is going to put motoring on the map. But what is he doing at the same time? He is the master operator of toll bridges and toll roads. He runs more toll bridges and toll roads than any one person or authority has ever run in the history of this country. And yet he has the effrontery to tell the House that he is going to make the country a perfect paradise for motorists to live in.
That is really appalling. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman has no right to come down to the House with this Bill, in such circumstances. He is imposing an intolerable burden on the Opposition. We should not have to spend our time trying to force Socialist Ministers into a progressive way of thought. That should not be our function. They should themselves be seized of the need for doing away with these things. Yet for months and months past we have been pressing the right hon. Gentleman to do away with something which should have been done away with a very long time 1823 ago. I say it would have been much better if the right hon. Gentleman had come down today and said, "Instead of presenting this Bill, I am going tomorrow to do away with the evil of toll bridges and toll roads."
Hon. Members opposite amuse me by talking about the kind of fly-overs they intend to have, the kind of road service they intend to have and how wide the roads are to be. A more pertinent question is, when are we to get the roads? Under the Socialist Government all that we get are the things we do not want, and the things which are the least useful. It is more than likely that we shall have our toll bridges and toll roads persisting for the whole life of this Government, and that we shall not have our motorways.
However, if I dispute the views put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, I also dispute some of the views of some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) and my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). I am really surprised at the attitude they have taken on this issue. I realise that capital development is conditioned by the circumstances in which we live, and that we have to examine every proposal to see that it is fully justified, and whether it is or is not a prior necessity; but I do suggest that these roads are a prior necessity. I base the contention largely on the fact that in using British labour and British materials we shall save an enormous amount of imported materials, such as fuel, tyres, and the hundred and one things that go to make the transport system. Therefore, I say that the expenditure is fully justified.
I think it is justified, too, because the motorists in the past have had such a raw deal. No class in the country has been knocked about and abused so much as the motorists. All have put everything they could on the motorists, and the motorists have been the most easygoing class in the community. I am sure, for instance, we could not have done to the shop assistants, as a section of the community, what we have done to the motorists. They have had to bear heavy burdens of taxation, and no Government—and I am not saying this in praise or condemnation of any particular one— 1824 has given the motorists what they have been paying for. Indeed, as I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman earlier today to say, there has been raiding of the Road Fund, and I am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood ford (Mr. Churchill) was the first to indulge in that predatory practice. However, no subsequent Government has seen or followed the righteous path, and Governments have "soaked" the motorists and not given them what they have needed.
What we have done during the past 20 years has been to spend in the main far too much money in maintaining existing roads and not sufficient in making new ones. The level of surfaces on the secondary and the third-class roads is absolutely incredible. One may drive down a side road, along which, perhaps, only one car goes every day, and find that it has a magnificent surface. That is very pleasant, but it means, in many ways, a waste of money. There is no doubt about it, we have spent far too much money in maintaining secondary roads at a high level, and insufficient in driving new roads where they have been needed.
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has brought this Measure forward. I hope to see him implement it, because I believe that the bad boys of the Railway Executive will be after him very soon. I am glad to see these roads developed, because we do not want to see a feather bed made for the State transport colossus. We want to see the best kind of transport developed.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not come to that Box in a few months' time—as I suspect, in May—to say that he has considered carefully the great increase in the number of "C" licences. There is a case for dealing with certain gentry who are getting "C" licences for reasons not connected with transport, but I exclude them from this argument. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not in a few months' time say that he is concerned about the increase in the number of "C" licences, and that some limitation must be placed upon them. I hope so because, if we are to be efficient as a nation of producers, we must have the cheapest form of transport, and must not allow the State monopoly to tie us to any method of transport which is 1825 expensive and out of date. That is the danger of a State monopoly. So I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if the evil thought has crossed his mind— and I believe it has— will think again, and not come to that Box to suggest that there should be a limitation upon the "C" licences.
The capital expenditure that is involved in this enterprise is really very small. When we consider that each year we spend on an average £1,500 million in capital expenditure, the amount of £150 million which will be spent over a period of 10 years is by no means heavy. I think the Bill is justified by the saving it will make in our transportation costs. Even under the present rather benighted Administration we must look forward to an increase in the number of motor vehicles. It is simply foolish for anyone to say that provision should not be made here and now for roads to take those vehicles. The extent to which, during the period from 1914 to 1938 when there was a rapid increase in the number of vehicles, we did not make sufficient roadway is absolutely startling. We have to see that we make adequate provision for road vehicles, so that in the future we do not have cars made to fit the roads, but roads made to fit the cars.
The right hon. Gentleman has done the right thing in bringing in this Bill, even though the possibility of its immediate implementation is very unlikely. It is one of the few right things which the right hon. Gentleman has done since he has been in office, and I can only hope that the ideal put forward in this enabling Bill sees the light of day under some Administration or other.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I rise to summarise the arguments which have been adduced from this side of the House, and to say that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), in saying that we will give general support to the Government in getting this Measure on to the Statute Book. As I am the final speaker from this side of the House in this Debate, it will perhaps not be inappropriate if I refer to one or two of 1826 the other speeches which have been made tonight.
I think that the first thing to do in regard to this Measure is to try to find the facts of the position. The Minister will understand that I am not accusing him of giving false figures to the House when I say that the way in which he presented the figures to the House gave— unwittingly, I think—a misleading view. As I understood the Minister, he said that the new all-purpose trunk roads would cost £175,000 per mile and the motorways would cost only £150,000 per mile; and therefore there would be a saving all round. He is not quite right in either of those figures.
To start with, no one has ever suggested that completely new all-purpose trunk roads should be constructed. The only suggestion I have heard is that the existing trunk roads should be repaired, straightened and brought up to the standard, that the Minister of Transport thinks suitable. If anyone has suggested providing completely new all-purpose trunk roads, I think the suggestion is a lunatic one, and I do not think that the Minister would consider it for a moment. I suggest that the right figures to compare are £150,000 per mile for the motorways and £140,000 per mile for bringing the existing trunk roads up to the proper standard. In fact, these motorways are going to cost more money than the Minister has suggested in his opening speech. They will cost more than £150 million.
The British Road Federation are quite frank in their statement. If the thing is to be done properly— and it is not worth doing it at all unless it is done properly — and these roads are carried right through into the towns, and through centres like Birmingham, Manchester and London, the total will not be £150 million but £550 million. We had better know what is the real expenditure, and then we shall have a better idea of the matter. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to confirm my figures as to the full programme. The Minister got into trouble with my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) when he gave his example and gave the accurate figures— the comparison between straightening a road already bad and putting in a new one. The cost was £500,000 more.
1827 The hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) talked as though this Bill was going to produce the Severn Bridge or the Forth Bridge, or some other bridge. This Bill will not produce a bridge at all. Indeed, it would, of course, be scandalous if the Minister, at this particular moment in our affairs, really contemplated building such bridges. I remember the Minister coming to the House in the middle of the crisis, or in the middle of the week when the Government discovered that there was a crisis, and announcing that the Severn Bridge was about to be constructed. I thought then that that showed an amazing inconsequence, and I hope that he will not give way to political pressure from anybody on either side of the House, to indulge in vast schemes of capital construction at this particular time.
The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron - Leader Kinghorn) produced one of those suggestions which illustrate what hon. Members opposite have in mind. He wanted a road constructed the whole way round the island—like that round the Isle of Man. I think he intends to run races round it, beginning and finishing at Great Yarmouth. I often wonder whether some hon. Members opposite have the remotest conception of the chaotic state into which His Majesty's present Government have brought the economy of this country. If they had, they would hesitate before producing some of the more ludicrous suggestions which they put forward.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) both referred to the amenity angle of this matter, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, in replying, will say something upon that subject. It seems to me that if we exclude pedestrians from motorways, then there is no reason whatever why some motors should not be excluded from some pedestrian routes of progress. There are places in this country— on the Downs particularly— which could be safeguarded for people who go on their feet, but which are at present used by motor traffic. This may not be a matter for the Minister to decide, but I hope that at 1828 any rate the appropriate authorities will be encouraged to keep those areas specially for pedestrians
The hon. Member for Cambridge also asked a question about garages. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us— it is not plain from the Bill— whether the Ministry contemplate building the garages? Do they intend to set up as café owners along these roads? What will be the respective fields of public and private enterprise in these various accessory establishments? I think we are entitled to an answer to that question. That there should be something on the lines of British Restaurants on these autobahnen is an astonishing thought.
The position of the agricultural industry is extremely important in relation to this Bill; the interests involved and the methods of dealing with them, are very complex. I listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. York). The hon. Member for South Molton thought that, on the whole, the Bill was of advantage to the agricultural industry, whereas the hon. Member for Ripon thought it was not. I am on the side of the hon. Member for South Molton; and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) took a similar view. After all, there are 31 million acres of agricultural land in this country, and even supposing that these thousands of miles of road were built— and in this Debate I have not heard anybody who thought they would be built very soon or very quickly, but even supposing they were all built—it is only four acres in every 10,000, which does not seem to be a very substantial sacrifice to have to make for a great advantage and improvement in road transport.
However, I warn the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that in Committee it will be necessary to look very carefully to see whether the interests of these farmers are adequately protected. It is all very well to talk rather casually about cattle "creeps," across the Floor of the House— I am not suggesting we should have a cattle creep under the Floor of the House of Commons; very funny things might come across it. It is very easy to talk casually about the advantage of cattle "creeps" in general, but quite a lot of cattle "creeps" are 1829 required under a great main road satisfactory to go any way towards curing the damage which farmers suffer when their farms are cut in two.
There are other matters, such as where an existing road is turned into a special road and a farmer wakes up one morning to find that he cannot drive his cattle into market. Very careful provision has to be made for alternative routes, which at the moment— I do not want to go into it in detail—on my reading of the Bill scarcely look as though they are dealt with properly. There is also the agricultural tractor. It seems very doubtful whether they will be able to drive along these roads. It seems clear that they will have to be able to do so unless a great deal of our agriculture industry is to be brought suddenly to a standstill.
It is in the interests of agriculture that we are passing this Bill, and we do not want to do something which will cause agriculture considerable damage. I am fortified in my opinion that this Bill is, in the main, to the advantage of agriculture by the support that has been given to it, with some safeguards, by the National Farmers' Union. After all, a road haulage industry— and an efficient road haulage industry— is of the very greatest possible advantage to the farmers. It is the development of road transport over the past 25 years which has probably led more than anything else to the increased prosperity of our farmers.
My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak spoke mostly about capital investment. I am bound to say that I differ from him in his remarks about agriculture. He under-estimated the importance of road transport to the agricultural industry. In particular, he under-estimated the effect of a 25 per cent. cut in road transport costs. The effect of that on the farmers of the West Country wishing to serve the London market is vital to the whole of their future marketing arrangements. A substantial cut in transport would make all the difference to the producer, and it might make some difference to we consumers at the other end. My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak took an altogether too gloomy view of the future of our society. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) joined him in his criticism, but 1830 he was not quite so gloomy. My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak seemed to think that at no time in the foreseeable future would we ever feel ourselves capable of building a modern and decent system of motor roads in this country. I think that is too gloomy a view. I think he under-estimates both the extraordinarily depressing effect a Socialist Government has on this country and also the immense prosperity that would come under a Conservative administration. At any rate, I do not take such a gloomy view of the situation. I agree, however, with his concluding remarks. He concluded on a theme about which I wish to talk in a few moments.
What incredible and blatant hypocrisy it is for a Government that has just passed a nationalisation Measure to coordinate inland transport and is continually complaining of the drift from the railways to the roads, to bring forward a Bill for an enormous increase in the efficiency of the roads. For some extraordinary reason the Minister made no reference whatever to that vital subject in the whole of his speech. Before I say something on that, there is another subject with which I wish to deal. I have seen this Bill before. It was drawn up under the Caretaker Government, and I always liked it. I thought it was a Bill which would enable sensible planning to be done. People would know the sort of roads we were going to build. It would reduce accidents and increase the efficiency of road transport. I was Parliamentary Secretary for about three weeks, but I learned a good deal more about transport in that short time, than some of those who have represented that Ministry have learned in a very much longer period.
When the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) complimented the Minister on his great vision, he paid him a tribute that should have come to me. Members opposite have complained bitterly about the waste of time. They have said that the Bill should have been introduced earlier. In saying that they have not been criticising us; they have been criticising the Minister, who has had the Bill in a pigeon— hole for 31 years. The Minister was not interested in enabling successful planning to be carried out, or reducing the number of road accidents. or increasing the efficiency of 1831 motor transport. What he wanted to do was to nationalise the industry, because that was what the Left Wing of the Labour Party wanted him to do. The hon. Member for West Leicester and the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth, who complained about delay in this matter, should realise that priority was given to a doctrinaire nationalisation Bill, and that this Bill was left in the background.
There are three ways in which we can deal with our roads. One is to do what we are doing now— patch the pothole. That is the policy of the Government. They are living on the accumulated capital of the past, on the wealth which has been built up by previous and different sorts of Government in a more spacious age, eked out by generous subventions from the United States of America. The second way is to round off the corners of existing trunk roads, to try to straighten them by removing the worst and most dangerous places. I do not think we ought to under-estimate the difficulty of doing that. Anyone who has seen county council workers working on such corners will realise that it will be a long time before we straighten out all our roads. It is not an easy job; it is a specialised job. It is much easier to use modern equipment to drive a new road than it is to fiddle about with the corners of an existing road. Straightening roads is an expensive business, because houses have to be acquired and demolished—and some are very valuable properties.
The third way is to build new highways. But what we shall do is to continue to patch potholes. The Minister will not straighten existing roads, nor will he build motor roads. Nor should he, because we cannot afford it. We have been flinging money about as a nation. I shall not go into what was done by the recent Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I ask the Minister not to follow in the footsteps of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Already, £250 million have been voted to be spent on the gas industry in the next five years —which is a quarter of the first American Loan. It would be quite wrong of the Government seriously to contemplate, in the immediate future, the vast capital construction which is outlined in this Bill.
1832 Priority ought to be given to exports and houses for the people. They are badly needed. Motorways compete in steel, concrete and labour with the housing programme. I put homes for the people a long way before increased road efficiency. People cannot be efficient if they have no home in which to live. I believe the Bill is necessary, however; that it ought to be passed now and should have been passed earlier. We have to make up our minds about our long— term building programme. It is necessary to do so for the sake of planning, though I am not in any way accusing this Government of planning. It is necessary not only for Government planning, but for industrial planning. The industrialist in South Wales or Birmingham wants to know whether a new motor road will eventually connect these two places, because such knowledge will make a lot of difference to his present and ultimate decisions. It is necessary at this moment to make our decision whether we have these motorways, whether we patch potholes, or round off the corners on the existing roads.
It is also necessary for the Ministry of Transport to clear up their relationship with the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The complaint of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning has always been that the Ministry of Transport never used to say where their roads were to go. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning would plan magnificent schemes of house construction, and then they would wake up one morning to find a new road running right through the housing scheme. Are relations better than they were in my day? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's answer will be "Yes"—but he appreciates the point.
The next thing to which I want to refer is accidents, about which not a great deal has been said. The motorways scheme follows the recommendations of the Committee on Road Accidents. A great deal of thought has been given to this subject. One thing is quite plain to everybody— if on the roads there are to be perambulators, cyclists, motor cars and lorries, they are bound eventually to hit one another as, in fact, they do hit one another. Unless the traffic is spread out, there are bound to be accidents almost at the present rate. But we are not going 1833 to get rid of the accidents by dealing with roads only outside the towns. I want to know whether it is proposed to carry these motorways right into the towns. Obviously that means not a new motorway but taking the existing road and making it a special road. Is that contemplated by the Ministry or not? We ought to be told, because it is vital to the future of our policy.
I am not going to ask the Parliamentary Secretary now about compensation for severance or taking over land, but supposing an existing road is scheduled by the Ministry as a special road, what compensation is there for change of user? Supposing there is a road, passing by a farm, along which I normally go to town to market, and suddenly I find that this road has been turned into a special road for motor traffic only: what provision, if any, is there for compensation. I know there is provision for stopping up access to a road or for taking away gas or electricity, but I cannot find anywhere in this Bill any provision for compensating a man for the fact that he can no longer use the road outside his premises. I want to know whether there is any provision, and, if not, whether any is to be introduced.
Let me give an example. Let us suppose that a special road is to run into London. I know what the proposals were: they were to exclude pedestrians from that road, which would decrease very substantially the number of entrances into it. It was a recommendation of a sub-committee of the Road Accidents Committee. The difficulty about it was the extraordinarily high rate of compensation that would have to be paid to all shopkeepers along the route. Instead of pedestrians and bicycles going slowly past these shops, all the shopkeepers would see would be fast-moving motor cars, which are unprofitable things. The difficulty in the past was the high rate of compensation. Is it proposed to tackle that subject? I see nothing about it in the Bill and we are entitled to be told these things.
Next there is the question of cost. The Minister ought not to be allowed to get away with the statement in the Bill that no estimate of the cost can be made at all. I think it is quite plain that an estimate of the cost can be made. It 1834 is true that it may alter, and if the £ continues to depreciate under this Government obviously it will alter. but we can make some estimate of the cost as it would be today. The British Road Federation have made an estimate that the cost would be £550 million. This is made up of motor roads £100 million; London traffic arteries £100 million; traffic arteries in major provincial towns £150 million, and in smaller towns and rural roads £200 million. Is that a right estimate or a wrong one? If the British Road Federation can make a reasonable estimate, I am sure that the Government departments concerned can do so too.
It is not good enough for the Minister to come to the House of Commons and ask for a Bill on the basis of statements as vague in regard to estimates, as those which are made at the moment. I think the Government ought to be generous in their estimate. I should think that £150,000 per mile an under-estimate of what this scheme is going to cost. It will be no good to build these roads for now or for 10 years' time; they should be for conditions in 20 years' time. I should think that £155,000 or £170,000 per mile would be nearer the right figure, as well as providing for accessories, which will cost quite a lot. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can make some estimate of the cost.
I agreed with some portions of the speeches made by the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) and by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). The point was that, as a device for dealing with a future recession, the Bill was valuable. It is desirable that the Ministry of Transport, who are such large potential spenders of public money, should have their plans for roads, bridges and so on drawn up considerably in advance. I hope they will do so. They should have all these schemes for road building and for bridges ready so that when unemployment develops, say in South Wales, some of the potential labour force can be devoted to their construction.
Now I come to a point which I think is fundamental in this matter. I want to know what on earth the Government think they are doing in introducing the Bill at all. I can understand the necessity for these roads, but I cannot see how 1835 the Bill gets into the Government's programme, because it seems to run directly contrary to everything they have ever stood for. What is the object of building motorways? It is to reduce the cost of motoring, of heavy transport and of road haulage— passenger buses and the like— and to save time, fuel and tyres. The estimate of the saving is perhaps £60 million a year. What happens? Traffic naturally tends to flow to this efficient service. Instead of carrying goods on railways, people will go to the roads because costs will be reduced. The estimate is that the reduction in cost will be 25 per cent. Surely hon. Members must know that if costs are reduced by 25 per cent., something happens. It is not the case that we just reduce costs and nothing happens. People go there from somewhere else. Some hon. Members have actually mentioned this fact in the Debate. The hon. Member for Cambridge did so, and the hon. Member for Western Renfrew quite honestly mentioned it. It is rather an obvious thing to mention. Everybody mentioned it except the Minister. The Minister has always stood for co-ordination. I never understood what that meant, but I do now, because the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that it means putting the bus fares up, so that people are driven back to the railways. He saidBus fares may be increased and rail fares lowered as a first step in the nationalisation plans, as the co-ordination of road and rail facilities and charges, which are now out of scale, is the first job of nationalisation.That mysterious character, Sir Frederick Heaton, says the same thing. I think he is now in this business; he was in Tilling's, but I think he has now gone over to one of the boards.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
He says:One of the first necessities in a uniform system is for road and rail passenger fares to be brought into better relation. Put bluntly, that means that all road fares which are in competition with the rail should be considerably increased and many rail fares possibly reduced.What on earth are they doing, spending £550 million of public money to reduce the fares on the roads, only to have to increase them in order to drive the traffic back? What sort of co-ordination 1836 is this? leseems to me most astonishing, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us. We shall give him a full half hour, which is what I have had. What is his answer to this? He may say he will use the profits to subsidise the railways, but what about the "C" licences? The more he improves these roads, the more people will want to go on them, either in their own motor cars or driving their own goods in their own vehicles. Is my hon. Friend right and is he going to stamp out the "C" licences?
I support this Bill. [Laughter.] I do. I think it is a necessary Bill, a Bill which a Conservative Administration would wish to use and, I think, would be able to use. However, for the life of me, I cannot see how a Government all of whose public statements—and Sir Cyril Hurcombe is saying the same thing— complain of the drift of passenger and goods traffic from rail to road, can contemplate spending these vast sums of public money only to put the bus fares up. "Better highways for higher bus fares," is a strange slogan for the Government.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan)
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) generates a great deal of energy in agreeing with us. I wonder what he would be like if he were disagreeing with us on a Bill? Sometimes I feel like saying, "Save us from our friends." I am not at all sure that I do not prefer the dissent of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) and of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) to the agreement of the hon. Member for Monmouth. We are witnessing, of course, the usual spectacle these days of Tory dissension. They cannot agree among themselves. According to the hon. Member for The High Peak, things will be so bad that we shall never be able to do this under a Socialist Administration; while, according to the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) things will be so bad that we shall be driven to do it.
That is the sort of argument we have had to put up with from hon. Members opposite on this Bill, and I must say I prefer the solid arguments that were directed to the merits of the Bill that, 1837 came mostly from this side of the House. As the hon. Member said, I have half an hour in which to deal with some of these important items. He took upon himself to reply to some of his hon. Friends, and therefore I shall not need to devote quite so much of my time to them as I need have done, had I not such an invaluable ally as the hon. Member for Monmouth.
I think my right hon. Friend has cause for satisfaction in the way in which this Bill has been received. The hon. Gentleman claims some credit for it on the strength of a three weeks' nodding acquaintance with the Ministry of Transport, but I am bound to say that as a result of 13 months' experience of it, I have learned of the great amount of preparation, drafting, co-ordination, discussion, that civil servants and Ministers must put into a Bill of this character before it can be produced. I should like, as one who has had no connection with the preparation of this Bill in its technical details, to say that a great deal of preparation has gone into it.
The Debate today has ranged over four main matters. Two of them are in connection with agriculture, and they concern the position of the farmer regarding both severance and compensation; the third is in connection with what I may describe as amenities, which were referred to by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) among others; and the fourth concerned the general position in regard to the capital investment programme. In commenting on the points that have been raised, I want to deal with them as far as possible under these four main headings, because they seem to me to make up the content of what we have been discussing. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman had allowed me more time, I should have been able to deal with him more faithfully, but, unlike him, I am not in the happy position of irresponsibility; I am supposed to deal with the merits of the Bill.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) filled in the picture painted by my right hon. Friend by illustrating the importance of the transport industry. He emphasised that we were not reversing the capital investment programme for 1948, and I completely agree with him. He also made a point about the cost of these new 1838 roads, and he said that the comparison should be with the cost of bringing an existing road up to a proper standard. I am inclined to agree, and I think there should be a discount made in respect of that particular cost, rather than that we should regard the cost as that of constructing an entirely fresh road. I think we are at one on that particular point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked whether the estimates that had been made include compensation for stopping up roads. This estimate is a very general figure, as indeed are all these estimates, but there was a factor included in the calculations for that purpose.
If I might come to the general point affecting agricultural land, let me say that one of the matters very prominently in our minds in the preparation of this Bill has been its effect on the rural community. Clearly, we cannot drive these motorways through agricultural land without disturbing the agricultural community to a very considerable extent. That is inevitable if we are to achieve the object of this enabling Bill, and I think that what both sides of the House would want us to do is to direct our attention to reducing to the smallest possible extent the hardship imposed upon any farmer through whose land these motorways may pass. That is the position from which we start, and we shall welcome any assistance we can get from any part of the House when we come to the Committee stage in making certain that the agricultural community is treated in a fair and proper way in this respect.
I can understand that there will be occasions when the farmer will be put to considerable inconvenience, and I shall outline the procedure that will be followed before the farmer reaches the position where his land is torn in two. The hon. Member for Monmouth, who always speaks in parables, spoke of the farmer getting up one morning and finding that he could not drive his sheep to market. In that case, he will have been a Rip Van Winkle, and many events will have taken place before he finds himself in that situation. Broadly speaking, if I may paint the picture as I see it, what will happen is that the. highway authority responsible for preparing a scheme for a motor road will, in the initial stages, take into consultation the farmers and all other 1839 interests affected by what they are going to do. That will be a preliminary step before the preparation of a scheme.
Having taken farmers and other affected interests into their confidence, and discussed with them, for example, the question of alternative access, and the many vital questions that will concern people who are going to be in this picture, it will then be their job to prepare the scheme and agree it with the county council, or the planning authority it may be, and submit it to the Minister. At that stage, it would be the Minister's job to advertise, and to send to the affected parties— I do not mean to the individual farmer, but to the highway authority that had put up the scheme, and also to the other authorities who may not have put up the scheme, but may be affected by the proposal— the full details of what is proposed. It will then be for those who are adversely affected, and who may not have been able to agree with the highway authority originally promoting the scheme, to submit to the Minister their objections and their proposals for alternatives.
At that stage, it will be possible— I do not say it will take place in every case— to hold a local inquiry. On the whole, if there were substantial objections, it would certainly be the Minister's intention to hold a public inquiry. But I do not think the House would want him to commit himself to holding a public inquiry into every objection that might be made. Any Minister of Transport would regard himself as bound to consider serious and sensible objections. We have had considerable experience of similar matters to this in the Ministry of Transport during the last few years, and I think that the practice and procedure which have grown up there for holding public inquiries and deciding what objections are frivolous and what are serious, have given cause for general satisfaction. That practice and procedure will be followed in this case.
If a public inquiry were held—as it would be in the case of a serious objection—the farmer would have another opportunity of putting to the person— I say the farmer because he is most likely to be the person affected by the stopping up of his land— holding the inquiry, his objections, of proposing alternatives, and 1840 of sifting out the matter with the highway authority which originally submitted the scheme. After that has been gone though, it comes back to the Minister to confirm or reject the scheme, and then the hon. Member's farmer may wake up and find that his road has been stopped up. I think it will be agreed that he will have been asleep for an awfully long time if he has not realised that fact before that time.
On the question of compensation, my right hon. Friend is anxious that, in the Committee, we should give the fullest possible consideration to this matter. It will fall into two parts. There is, first of all, the question of compensation to be paid for the actual cost of acquiring the land that may be taken over and turned into the road. That can be fairly and simply determined on its market value under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. There is also the second and more difficult point— compensation for severance, for loss of rights. That will be a matter of some difficulty and will require a great deal of careful consideration. I hope that we shall have the assistance of everyone when we get into Committee in considering this matter and making certain that we give to anyone adversely affected the fullest safeguards possible. As far as the matter is covered at the moment, it comes under Clause 13.
I should now like to deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Twickenham, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds), the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton), and the hon. Member for Monmouth about cafés, rest houses, and amenities generally. It is not the Minister's intention to enter into the restaurant business in this way. The object of the Bill as it is drawn at the moment, is to enable land by the side of a motor road to be acquired for the purpose of the erection of cafés, rest houses, petrol stations, and suchlike places which will be needed if these roads are to have the fullest use made of them. It will be for the highway authority as the planning authority to make certain that the structures which are erected—they will not be the Minister's structures or the highway authority's structures—do not disfigure the motor 1841 roads in the same way that some of the things we have on some of our roads do.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
I do not wish to delay the hon. Gentleman, but will he make clear whether these buildings will be right away from the motorway, on a loop road?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman will have noticed from the Bill that we are taking powers to acquire more land than the 220 yards which has been the figure so far, and it is for that purpose that we were proposing to do so, as well as for the provision of "lay-by's" to which the hon. Member for Chichester referred.
The hon. Member for Twickenham asked if I could give an assurance that the Bill could be used for the preservation, for example, of the Berkshire Ridgeway for pedestrians. I can readily say that my right hon. Friend's intention is that any highway authority which cares to submit a scheme in order to restrict for the use of pedestrians a track like the Berkshire Ridgeway, would certainly have his sympathetic consideration. I am not going to commit myself on it at this stage— that would be making a mockery of the procedure in the Act— but it is certainly our intention that such a scheme should be carefully considered.
The hon. Member for Twickenham also suggested that the contours and amenities of the roads themselves should be carefully looked at. My right hon. Friend has been very keen on this matter. Indeed he has appointed—it is in the Estimates for all to see— a skilled horticulturist who has made a speciality of landscape study, and I think any hon. Member who has seen the model which is now in a Committee Room of what a motorway can look like will agree that there are points there in which man has almost improved upon nature. I certainly dissent from the view that man cannot improve upon nature. I am sure there are ways, but I will not go into any illustrations now. It is our intention that the amenities of these roads shall be preserved and developed. We can either have one of those gross ugly cuttings through a steep hill with the limestone cliff rising bare off the road, or we can have a rounded contour running back from the road so that it looks part of the landscape. That is 1842 the sort of objective which we intend to attain under this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made a very thoughtful speech. He said, in relation to this matter of amenity, that we had not made any reference to it here although it was in the Trunk Roads Act, 1946, and he rather deplored the fact that we should have left it out. Let me remind him that many of these roads will, in fact, become trunk roads under that Act. Therefore, there is no real point in being tautological in this Bill and repeating something from an earlier Measure which covers roads which will come under this Bill. There is no particular difficulty about this matter. What is much more important than the words written in the Bill, is the intention behind the Bill, and on that there can be no doubt at all.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made one point with which I should like to deal because it has cropped up in other speeches, although not in all of them. He said: "The whole point of the motorway is that it should be straight." Indeed, that is not the case. Certainly the first example which was built in Germany, the Frankfur—Mannheim road which was built in 1935, was dead straight, but it was found that drivers got drowsy and fell asleep, with the result that there were a lot of accidents. The later roads constructed in Germany were, in fact, nicely rounded curves so that there was not that dead, dull monotony when driving along at a fast speed. It is the case, as the hon. Member for Chichester said, that a number of expert surveyors and other people who are knowledgeable in these matters have been to Germany recently. They have brought back a full report upon these roads and I hope we can learn from the experience which the Germans had in that connection.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge also said that while there are penalties in this Bill for using the roads improperly, there is nothing to ensure that those for whom the roads are provided must use them. Here I want to deal with a point raised by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden), who put the reverse position. If I understood him aright, he said he was frightened that cyclists might be fined if they did not use these roads or tracks which were provided 1843 for them. My hon. Friend the Member, for Cambridge is right and my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster is wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge stated the position correctly. It is the case that no one can compel a person to use these roads. It is not the case that we can fine someone for not using the roads. That, I think, is the answer which the hon. Member for Doncaster wanted.
§ Mr. Walkden
I referred to two countries which have enforced a decision on the correct use of these cycle tracks—South Africa, too, may I now add. It is very important that we should understand the principle we are adopting.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The principle we are adopting is quite clearly laid down in the Bill and it does not imply that anyone who does not use one of these roads should suffer a penalty for not using it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge also asked about Clause 12 (2, b). The intention of that Subsection is that pedestrians should be allowed to cross the road, but we hope this provision will be used only in most exceptional circumstances. We realise that there may be a case in which, in order to avoid very great hardship to the farming community, for example, we shall have to give permission, but it is not a provision which we want to see used very frequently, as everyone will understand. The provision will stand, however, for the protection of the farming community and in order that we can make the hardships they may have to suffer as reasonable as possible.
The hon. Member for Cambridge also asked me a question about the Cambridge "Backs." They have really nothing to do with this Bill, but as they have aroused some public attention let me say just this, in one simple sentence. The Minister sees no reason at all why making the Cambridge "Backs" into a trunk road, should alter the type or character of that road in any way. This is to some extent a legal argument into which I will not go, but, as I see it, whether we schedule the Cambridge "Backs" as a trunk road is more a question of legality and finance than of anything else.
§ Sir G. Fox: But
surely if you schedule it as a trunk road, it is necessary to make a dual carriageway, and if so you must cut down trees?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not want to say any more on the point, because I have many other points to cover in the few minutes left and we also want the Money Resolution.
The hon. Member for Chichester raised a number of points. He and a number of other hon. Members said that my right hon. Friend suggested it would be two years before we started work on these roads. This is not, in fact, what he said and it is as well to get this on the record. What he said was that it is his experience that before one can actually put spade to sod, it takes two years preparatory work; that is, from the moment when one decides to do the job until the moment one actually starts work. His reference to two years was precisely that. He did not in any way mean to imply that we should start work in two years time or at any fixed date whatever. The hon. Member for Chichester also emphasised the need for adequate preparatory work. I agree with him completely in that. The Minister will take the initiative and public inquiries will be held into these matters as they arise.
The hon. Member for Monmouth raised one or two other matters on which I should like to comment. He asked whether the motorways would run into the large cities. I would remind him that this is an enabling Bill. It is not a Bill which purports to set out exact routes, or exact ways in which the job is to be done. The London orbital road is clearly the type of road which might come under this Bill. As the hon. Member knows, from his long and varied experience in the Ministry, it is our intention to proceed with that road. As far as other cities are concerned, of course, it may well be the case that the motor roads would by-pass most of them. Clearly, there is agreement between us that we must in these circumstances make it possible for traffic to effect a junction with those roads. That is our intention, but I should not like to go into any greater detail on the point. We very much appreciate the point, however.
As the hon. Members are here, I should like to comment on some of the general observations made by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby 1845 and the hon. Member for The High Peak about the necessity for the Bill, the general economic position, whether we were leading the country to ruin, and so on—whatever the text was two days before the Edmonton by-election. I submit to the House that, broadly speaking, the case for these motor roads has been made out on the merits and that the present road system is inadequate for all the reasons that have been given—that it is productive of delay, that it costs a great deal of money, and that there is loss of amenity to townspeople who have to suffer the heavy traffic through their towns. Let me say, in parenthesis, that there is a by-product of advantage here to those townsfolk who are at the moment suffering from heavy traffic passing through their villages and towns. They will be relieved of that heavy traffic when these motorways are constructed, and life, perhaps, will be a little more tolerable in those towns than it is at the present time.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My general case is that here is a giant young industry that has outgrown its suit, that it is out at the elbows, and that its suit is really a thing of shreds and patches; and that in present circumstances, and because of the present size of the industry, we ought to improve our road system. So I say that, on merits, the case has been made out for this Bill. It seems to me that hon. Members who take the opposite point of view are driven to one of two conclusions. Would they propose to hamper the development of this industry and restrict it, or, alternatively, would they let it grow? Do they not think that, rather than hamper its development, they ought to provide a suitable suit of clothes for it, now that it has reached its present size?
§ Mr. Molson
The point that I was trying to make was that it is desirable to cut one's suit according to the cloth.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Of course, that is precisely what has been done, and that is why the industry has outgrown the roads today. That is why we are suffering from the delays and the additional cost that have been so amply described today. I now come to the point that if, 1846 in fact, it has outgrown its suit of clothes, and we have got at the present time to ration the number of new suits, the question becomes one of the relative priorities and the timing of the issuing of the coupons and the circumstances of redeeming them. That is the whole case for this Bill. It enables us to say that at such a moment as the capital resources of the nation will permit, we will issue the coupons that can be redeemed in this particular form, and enable the industry to buy its new suit. That is the whole point.
I really am surprised to hear hon. Members opposite complain about the absence of planning. That is hardly a conventional Tory argument, but some fresh faces have been having a day out today, and perhaps when the Debate is read in other quarters tomorrow they will get a bit of a wigging. I readily accept the criticism that we ought to plan as efficiently as we can, our central economic resources, and if I am carrying hon. Members opposite on that and the need for intelligent foresight such as this Bill enables us to take, then I think that we are taking a step forward. I commend the Bill to the House. I think that a case has been made out for it, and I hope that the House will now give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to forget the point about road fares.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman is not going to tempt me from a discussion on the merits of this Bill to that general ground, but I will make an offer to the hon. Gentleman that I will debate this with him in Cardiff at any time he likes.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I asked the hon. Gentleman a very clear question—to say how he could justify the expenditure of some £500 million of public money on these roads, when his whole policy was to put the 'bus fares up in order to push traffic back on to the railways. I think that is a fair question which ought to have an answer.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If it is a fair question, I can answer it very shortly. It is not proposed that buses should run on these roads, generally speaking.
§ Mr. Molson
It is a point which was made, and it is an important point. The 1847 whole effect of these roads is that they will be in general competition with the railways, and how can the hon. Gentleman justify the policy of nationalisation of transport in order to integrate the two, and then support new roads which are competitive with the main line railways?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not think I can discuss that point in two minutes. One cannot discuss a question which has agitated the minds of the public for 30 years in two minutes. I will, however be very happy indeed to have a discussion at any time on this project with hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not know if it is intended to take the Money Resolution tonight, but if so perhaps there will be an opportunity of discussing this point which is vital because £125 million is involved, and I think that an answer should be given.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.