HC Deb 05 June 1957 vol 571 cc1236-8
20 and 21. Mr. Gower

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if, in order to assist the early authorisation of the Severn bridge project, he will consider the institution of a special loan fund to meet the estimated cost; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what reply he has given to recent representations from Welsh and west of England local authorities regarding the need for a Severn bridge; what reasons have caused this project now to be relegated in terms of priority below the scheme for a Tyne crossing; and if lie will make a statement.

33. Mr. Grenfell

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now give an assurance that arrangements will be made to initiate the Severn bridge project during the life of the present Government.

Mr. Watkinson

I have told the local authorities that I will include the Severn bridge scheme, which with the ancillary roads is estimated to cost some £36 million, in my road programme as soon as economic and financial considerations allow. The way in which the scheme is financed will not affect the priority which I can give to it.

Mr. Gower

As my right hon. Friend has said, as he has done on former occasions, that the cost of this scheme appears to be the obstacle, would it not be wise to give the public at large the opportunity of showing their confidence in such a project, which would be of great benefit to Wales and south-west England? Secondly, is it not a fact that this scheme until a few years ago ranked in priority well above the Forth and Tyne crossings —[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it is a fact—and can he explain why, so mysteriously, this scheme has been deferred and the others have been allowed to proceed?

Mr. Watkinson

Perhaps my hon. Friend did not take note of the last part of my Answer. I said that the way in which the scheme is financed will not affect the priority which I can give to it. As to the argument on which schemes have priority over others, I think the House has already indicated that I would be unwise to enter into that.

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was the belief of the conference that if it agreed to the toll system, it could get a much higher priority, and that now the representatives of South Wales authorities are beginning to believe that the right hon. Gentleman led them up the garden path?

Mr. Watkinson

That just is not so, What I said to the conference, which the right hon. Gentleman attended, was "No tolls, no bridge", and I am glad that they now agree on the question of tolls. That, at least, will make the construction of the bridge possible.

Mr. Wilkins

May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that it is twenty-one years since a committee sat to inquire into this project and made representations to the then Government? How does it come about that after twenty-one years of negotiations we now have to take second or third place to the Tyne tunnel, the Tay bridge, or the Forth road bridge?

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the Minister assure us that those of us living on the Tyne will not be put back because of this extraordinary wildcat scheme for a bridge which appears to defer the project for a Tyne tunnel, which has been before the House for very many years?

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Minister aware that in 1922 I mentioned the matter of the Forth road bridge?

Mr. Gower

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek the earliest possible opportunity of raising the matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.