HC Deb 08 February 1956 vol 548 cc1652-4
35. Mr. Lee

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will step up the scope and speed of the road programme from the £147 million in four years previously announced.

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir, not under present circumstances.

Mr. Lee

Is the Minister aware that technical development in many phases of the engineering industry is now being held up because our road system does not permit of large indivisible loads being taken to their points of destination? Will he, therefore, see that in the new age of automation and all that it means, we shall not be restricted and prohibited from making progress by an obsolete road system?

Mr. Watkinson

It is a very big question, for perhaps we ought to be carrying some of the loads on the railways.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

While it may be generally acceptable in present economic circumstances that the road programme should not be stepped up, will my right hon. Friend be quite explicit that these economic circumstances are not judged to be sufficiently grave as to reduce the announced road programme?

Mr. Watkinson

I shall be dealing with that in answering a later Question.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

In view of the Minister's statement, with which all of us on this side of the House agree, that many of the loads now on the roads ought to be on the railways, what action is he taking or proposing to take to bring about that state of affairs?

Mr. Watkinson

That is quite another question.

49. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what changes in the priorities in the Government road programme as already announced he is proposing to make.

Mr. Watkinson

I have no specific changes to announce at present, but I am reconsidering priorities. My immediate aim is to help traffic to flow as smoothly and as safely as possible, and the road works which I shall authorise in the coming year will be selected with that aim in mind.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will bear in mind the value of the motorways in the road programme, and will he also bear in mind that industry is very anxious that the road programme should advance as fast as possible?

Mr. Watkinson

I am just as anxious as my hon. Friend that we should try to get the best roads as quickly as possible, and I have indicated in my answer how I think we can best do it in the immediate future.

Mr. Usborne

Does the Minister know that the authorities in Birmingham are very anxious to build an inner ring road and have consulted the Government about it? Will he say whether there is any prospect of permission being given for that at an early date?

Mr. Watkinson

I am going to Birmingham on Saturday morning to look at that ring road.

Mr. John MacLeod

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the most extraordinary policy is being carried out by his Department in making narrow roads with passing places on new trunk roads in the Highlands of Scotland, which have the effect of making the roads much too narrow? Will he took into this very serious problem? All the local authorities think it is quite wrong.

Mr. Watkinson

If my hon. Friend will give me details I will certainly look into them.