HC Deb 04 November 1959 vol 612 cc1008-11
4. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the official statement on 28th January that the road programme for England and Wales was to be planned on an expenditure of not less than £60,000,000 a year, whether he will now state what increase is proposed over that expenditure in order to double the programme over the next five years.

40. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the extent of the road programme.

Mr. Marples

I shall press on with the national plan for roads already announced as fast as resources permit, but I am not at present in a position to make a further statement.

Mr. Janner

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what plans he has in the way of finance for these schemes? Is he aware that our provision of finance for this purpose is desperately below that of other countries? In view of the seriousness of the situation and the promise to double the speed of the programme, will he ensure that adequate finance is supplied and urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to supply the necessary funds?

Mr. Marples

I shall do my best, but I do not think the hon. Member need worry unduly, because Tories have always kept their election manifesto promises—[HON. MEMBERS: "Have they?"]—especially on red meat and 300,000 houses a year.

Mr. Peyton

Does my right hon. Friend realise that in any assault he may be contemplating on the Treasury to double the amount of money spent on the road programme he will have the full support of this House? Will he also make an announcement at the earliest possible moment so that the planning can go ahead without delay and continuity in this work can be assured?

Mr. Marples

In private life I have been on the ground and I know that rhythm is an essential part of civil engineering technique. I shall do my best to see that finance is available and at the same time that continuity is preserved.

Mr. Strauss

Perhaps you. Mr. Speaker, will permit me before putting a supplementary question to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of my colleagues on his appointment to his present office and to wish him success. May I tell him that if he wants to be a real success he should consult with and take the advice of the Opposition on all occasions?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the opinion of all who study the road programme, and certainly of my colleagues, the Government's present programme, which means continuing the present rate of expenditure over the next few years, is wholly inadequate to the needs of the nation?

Mr. Marples

I am making my own assessment of the position, as every new Minister does when he comes into office, and I hope it will not be inadequate.

27. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Transport, having regard to the announcement on 20th October by the British Motor Corporation that it proposes to double output in the next two years to 1 million vehicles annually, and to the expansion plans of other manufacturers, which will raise the present 8,500,000 vehicles to 12 million by 1963–64, what steps he now proposes to take to ensure that growth of new motorways and major improvements of existing roads keep pace with the increase in the number of vehicles.

Mr. Marples

Careful account is kept of the potential increase in the number of road vehicles registered in the United Kingdom, though the volume of traffic and its concentration are more significant to road construction. The standards currently being incorporated in motorways and other major improvements are likely to prove adequate for some years to come. New works will be pushed ahead as fast as the country's resources permit.

Mr. Nabarro

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the whole of the road improvement programme, including the new motorways, was designed for a rate of increase in the vehicle population calculated three years ago, and that in the last three or four years the rate of increase has gone up enormously? Having regard to the potential rate of increase in the next few years, can my right hon. Friend really contend that the present programme is likely to be adequate?

Mr. Marples

Having come to this Ministry new, naturally this is one of the things that I am looking into, and I have not yet formed an opinion. I will gladly accept my hon. Friend's advice and guidance in the matter.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Nabarro, Question 28.

Mr. Nabarro

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. There is so much noise going on that I cannot make myself heard. Question 28.

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