§ 34. Mr. Woodburn
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made towards consideration by local authorities and others of the proposed under-water crossing of the Forth; how far it will be competent for the existing committee for the Forth Road Bridge 1858 to do so; and what otherwise is being done.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The local authorities represented on the Forth Road Bridge Joint Board accepted, on 18th March, the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation that, in consultation with the Secretary of State, he should appoint a group of independent experts to consider the proposal for a tube under the Forth and its merits in relation to a bridge. The necessary steps will be taken as soon as practicable. The present Joint Board was set up under a Provisional Order to build a bridge; and new powers would be needed for the construction of a tube.
§ Mr. Woodburn
From Press reports it appears that the existing Board has no power to deal with the new proposition. Is the Minister going to take steps to see that no delay is occasioned by the Board—which must make the decision—being in its place when this committee has reported? What is causing delay in appointing the committee which is to carry out the scientific investigation?
§ Mr. Stewart
There has been no avoidable delay. The authorities met on 18th March and asked that in the drawing up of the terms of reference they should be consulted, and that the terms should include a reference to roads. We are in the process of getting the terms of reference agreed, and as soon as that is done everything possible will be done to get the committee started.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether we can have a definite statement one way or the other about this tube before the General Election?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Government have given, as the hon. Member knows, a firm undertaking that a start will be made during the next four years with a crossing of the Forth, either by bridge or by tube, and we stand firmly by that undertaking.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
Is my hon. Friend prepared to give a date by which this new committee will be set up?