HC Deb 28 January 1959 vol 598 cc1057-9
33 and 34. Sir L. Ropner

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) whether he has yet concluded his negotiations for the purchase of the toll rights of Selby Toll Bridge; and if he will make a statement about his plans to construct a new bridge;

(2) whether his Department still intends to proceed with the pre-war proposal to construct an east-west by-pass road at Selby; and when work on this project will be commenced.

Mr. Nugent

A scheme for rebuilding the existing toll bridge, which carries trunk roads A. 19 and A.63 over the River Ouse at Selby, was included in the road programme subject to the reaching of a satisfactory settlement of the toll question. It was at the same time envisaged that a by-pass would eventually be constructed.

Negotiations with the toll owners have shown that the probable cost of acquiring the tolls would greatly exceed the amount we feel this scheme justifies. Accordingly, we are not prepared to proceed with it.

We intend to include the scheme for a by-pass, which is a long-term improvement, in its due place in the order of priorities in the road programme, but I am unable at present to say when that will be.

Sir L. Ropner

Does my hon. Friend recall that the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies gave a very specific undertaking that of all the existing toll bridges in the country Selby would be the first to be relieved of toll charges? Will he assure me that that pledge stands? Secondly, can he give no indication as to when work is likely to start on the by-pass?

Mr. Nugent

I am afraid that I cannot do more today than say that we now intend to include it in our road programme. I cannot give a date. As regards the pledge to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, the answer is that we have given very careful consideration to the cost of buying out the toll and we feel that it would take too big a slice of our total Road Fund moneys to justify it.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell us how much it would cost? Are there no means of purchasing it, by compulsory purchase or otherwise? Why should it stand in the way of a road improvement?

Mr. Nugent

We have not reached precise figures, but the indication that we have of the probable cost is that the amount involved would be more than we consider this particular scheme would justify—[HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"]—as a total sum in our road programme.

Mr. Davies

How can the Minister know that the amount would be too much if he does not know what the amount is? Could he tell us what the amount is?

Mr. Nugent

I should like to see that question on the Order Paper, because I have not got a precise figure. We have made it our business to find out approximately what sum would be involved, and that sum, in our judgment, would take too big a slice of our total Road Fund moneys to justify it.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us who the owner is and whether he is trying to exploit the public?

Mr. Nugent

No, I think not. It is a private company, I believe. We are satisfied that, in terms of the use, the kind of figure that we expect to be asked is about right.

Mr. Gower

Could my hon. Friend follow the procedure which was adopted in Cardiff, whereby the Penarth toll has been acquired by two local authorities, Glamorgan and Cardiff, those authorities recouping by levying a toll over two years and thereby repaying the capital cost? Cannot that be done by the Minister in this case?

Mr. Nugent

I am afraid that that would not solve this particular problem.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Minister please have another look at this? The House does not feel satisfied that he is moving with anything like urgency. As the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) has reminded us, he has been pressing the question about tolls for many years, but matters are allowed to go on and we seem to make no progress. The by-pass is a pre-war venture which is still being talked about. There is an element of great urgency here, and I should like the Minister to give an undertaking that he will arrive at a decision very quickly in this case.

Mr. Nugent

The decision to build the by-pass is a valuable step forward, because, when it is built, it will to a considerable extent relieve the traffic now going over the toll bridge.

Mr. Woodburn

The Minister keeps referring to our Road Fund. Could he tell us how much money is in the Road Fund?