2. Air Commodore Harvey
asked the Minister of Transport how much money he expects to spend over the next three years in the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing roads.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
In the current financial year, up to £8,795,000 will be spent on maintenance and minor improvement work on trunk roads, and grants up to £17,930,000 will be payable to county councils for similar work on classified roads. For works of major improvement and new construction, commitments up to £806,000 on trunk roads and £2,352,000 on classified roads may be entered into this year, but only a small proportion of this will be spent on new roads. I cannot say what funds will be available to us for these purposes in the next two financial years.
Air Commodore Harvey
While appreciating that my right hon. Friend has this matter very much in mind, may I ask him also to bear in mind that as far as this country's immediate economic future is concerned new roads and better roads for Britain are just as important as developing A-bombs, and nuclear energy for industry, and will he give this matter his earliest consideration and do what he can to relieve existing problems?
3. Air Commodore Harvey
asked the Minister of Transport how much money was spent on building new roads and effecting major improvements on existing roads during the years 1935–1939; and how much was spent in 1952.
Figures of expenditure on public highways for the financial years 1935 to 1936 to 1938 to 1939 are contained in the Reports on the Administration of the Road Fund for the years 1936 to 1937, 1937 to 1938, 1945 to 1946 and 1948 to 1949. The latest figures available are for 1950 to 1951, Which are in the Report for the year 1951 to 1952. I am sending copies of these reports to my hon. and gallant Friend.
Air Commodore Harvey
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that he has got out of this Question very easily?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Would the answer not have been much shorter if the hon. Gentleman had given us the figures?
The figures are calculated in a very large number of ways, and I felt that my hon. and gallant Friend, who takes such an interest in these matters, would desire to study the Reports in detail, and possibly table another Question when he has considered them.
§ 21. Mr. Harold Davies
asked the Minister of Transport how much a year for the next 10 years he intends, in accordance with his 10-year programme, to spend on British road improvements.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The 10-year programme outlined by the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) in 1946 was deferred owing to the country's economic and financial circumstances. I cannot forecast what funds will be available for roads in the next 10 years.
§ Mr. Davies
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the County Councils' Association, when giving evidence to the Select Committee on Roads, said that we are now only maintaining roads at the rate of 70 per cent. of our pre-war maintenance, and is he also aware that all Governments in the last 40 years have collected every penny to the tune of £370 million a year from road users and that road users are getting back in Government grants about £33 million?
§ Captain Pilkington
Is not the hon. Gentleman very far seeing in suggesting that my right hon. Friend is going to be there for the next 10 years?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would the right hon. Gentleman consult the Prime Minister and see whether there is any hope of restoring the Road Fund to the purpose for which it was originally intended, since the money is provided by motor-car licences? Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister himself nearly 30 years ago diverted it from its proper purpose?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman knows very well that no responsible party leader, either on the Government or on the other side of the House, would say that Road Fund payments should be devoted solely to the roads. With regard to the other question which was put to me by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), it is regrettably true that maintenance has fallen. I think the generally accepted figure is some 15 per cent., and I can assure the House that I am deeply conscious of my responsibilities and am most anxious to be able to take some practical steps.