HC Deb 17 February 1960 vol 617 cc1375-404

7.55 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

It is rather fortunate that we finished the last Adjournment debate so early because, with Scottish Ministers present, it allows a number of hon. Members, including myself, to raise a matter about which, when we saw that the previous Adjournment debate was likely to end, we gave some notice to the Government Whip. We hope that the Minister will listen to what we have to say. We do not expect that he will be able to reply in detail because we appreciate that he has not had time to prepare a reply. At least, he may be able to give us some information about what is happening.

The subject which we want to raise is the present road programme in Scotland, the progress that is being made with it, and the effects of some of the more recent happenings in Scotland on that programme. We are proceeding with the building of the Forth Road Bridge and, as far as I know, the work on that bridge is up to schedule. The Government have decided to build after that the Tay Road Bridge. There is a fair amount of concern as to whether or no the Government will in fact have built an adequate approach road system to the Forth Road Bridge by the time it is completed. I have tried to follow the Government's plans and I am bound to say that I do not know the answer to that.

At present the Government do not seem to be pushing on very quickly with the making of the A.1 into an adequate road. If we regard that as one of the main approaches we have to ask ourselves a number of questions. I remember when you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I may say this, raised very often the question of the Dunbar by-pass. In connection with the A.1 trunk road coming from the north-east, which is the road most used during the winter, there is no doubt that that bypass is not good enough. That can be said of part of the road as it goes through Berwick.

When we come nearer to Edinburgh, the general proposition is that we should have a ring road around Mussel-burgh and Edinburgh. I was particularly disappointed yesterday to learn from the Joint Under-Secretary that this proposed ring road was at present only a line on a proposed development plan which had not even been approved by the Secretary of State. This is too bad. If I may say a word about part of my own constituency first, Musselburgh—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Austruther-Gray)

Order. The hon. Member mentioned his own constituency and he is, of course, quite in order, as he and the House know, in raising any subject on the Adjournment. He made the point that he had warned the Minister that he intended to raise this matter, but I think it right to point out to the House from the Chair that these unexpected subjects raised on the Adjournment without warning to other hon. Members may be a little unfair to hon. Members whose constituencies may be affected, but who have had no notice of the subject coming up for debate and, therefore, are unable to make a contribution. I put that point to the House because I think that it is my duty to do so.

Mr. Willis

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for saying that. I quite appreciate that there is a certain suddenness in this matter, and it might appear to be unfair. I certainly do not wish to be unfair to anyone. The opportunity has occurred tonight, and the subject I am raising is an important one about which many people are concerned. There has been much correspondence and many articles in the Press about it and it has been the subject of discussion within local authorities and between the various local authorities concerned. I felt that the opportunity should be taken to say something about it. Once again, I say that I have no desire to be unfair. I have no doubt that others would have something to say in pressing the needs of their constituencies, although they might not, perhaps, say exactly what I have in mind.

To return to the subject of the ring road, the roundabout at Wallyford has now been completed. In passing, I must say that the very high wall which has been built around it does not meet with much approval. It obscures the view and makes driving round the roundabout rather hazardous, because one has no idea what other traffic is coming round. But that roundabout has been completed now, and we want the proposed by-pass for Musselburgh.

In Musselburgh itself, everyone is greatly concerned at the increasing volume of traffic along the high street. I understand that the Musselburgh Council has put this matter to the Secretary of State and urged the need to proceed with the by-pass. This is something which has been discussed for a great many years. I raised it myself, I think, as long as five or six years ago during private Members' time one Friday. The by-pass should be linked to a ring road around Edinburgh so that the traffic which might be expected as a result of the opening of the Forth Road Bridge does not all have to come through Edinburgh.

We already have serious traffic problems in Edinburgh. Indeed, they have led to a very peculiar thing happening in one of the most beautiful squares in the city, Charlotte Square. The main road has been lowered several feet below the pavements there because the corporation wanted to make sure that the heavy traffic which was to be expected around the square would not endanger the foundations of property on the north side. I do not profess to be an expert on these matters, but I am bound to say, judging by the results, that that seems to have been an act of vandalism in the square.

The traffic problems of Edinburgh are becoming worse every day as the volume of traffic coming into and passing through Edinburgh increases. We do not want added to this all the additional volume of traffic which may be expected to use the A.1 in order to reach the Forth Road Bridge. We want a ring road around Edinburgh for that purpose. Also, we want a ring road to gather up the other roads which come into Edinburgh and to divert traffic making for the Forth Road Bridge. The A.68 which comes down from Dalkeith is another way across the Border from Newcastle. It does not quite come into my constituency, but it is on the borders of it. This road, again, comes into a crowded part of Edinburgh. All round Edinburgh one finds roads which come in at very awkward places.

The Government ought to be making plans to make the way clear for what is likely to happen. At Bathgate, West Lothian, there is to be a big industrial development, and this development is expected to lead to a great increase in the use of the roads. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) has already raised the question whether the present A.8 from Glasgow to Edinburgh should be a dual carriageway road. Alongside the A.8, on the verges, there is a considerable amount of land. I am not an engineer and I do not know about these things, but I imagine that, although a substantial sum might have been involved, it would not have cost so very much to have made the A.8 a dual carriageway road. Accidents happen upon it. Three-lane roads usually tend to be rather dangerous because of the manner in which people use the centre lane.

What is happening in central Scotland indicates that there will be a very great increase of traffic, particularly industrial traffic. Industrial traffic, of course, even more than private motoring traffic, demands better roads, because of its weight and size. The time has surely come for the Secretary of State to think seriously about the A.8.

There are other ways in which the present road programme for Scotland is not good enough. We debated this matter in the Scottish Grand Committee last year, in July, I think it was. It was pointed out then that we had in Scotland an expenditure equivalent to the Goschen proportion of the national expenditure, that is to say, about eleven-eightieths, or whatever it is. This is really not good enough. I do not know whether the position has changed since then. After all, the land area of Scotland is two-thirds the land area of England and Wales, and some of the terrain is very difficult.

We are trying to bring about a great increase in tourist traffic. Mr. Hugh Fraser and his committee are considering all sorts of plans in an effort to open up some of the areas of Scotland for more tourists. The fundamental requirement of tourism, of course, is roads, the more so when branch railway lines are being closed in the north-east of Scotland, such as the line which took traffic to Dornoch and other places. The problem is one of roads.

I know that the Minister is doing something about certain of the roads, the road to Mallaig, for instance. What about the road to the Kyle of Lochalsh? Everyone knows that that is a disgraceful road. If we want to attract a large volume of traffic, we must do something about that.

Whenever I speak to people in London, I say to them, "You should go to the Highlands. There is no finer scenery in the whole country, indeed in Europe." There is no need for people to flock abroad. Some people take my advice, and after they come back, I say to them, "How did you enjoy your visit?", and they have nothing but praise for the Highlands, but they always end up by saying, "But, oh, my goodness, the roads. I would not go back there again, not because of what is there, but because of the roads". Surely it is time that the right hon. Gentleman tackled this problem. In north-west Scotland, there is some of the finest scenery in the world. Is it not time that we showed far more vision and tried to make the road system adequate?

In June and July, I suggested in the Scottish Grand Committee that what we needed was an extension of the A.9 right round the north coast of Scotland and down the west coast. I also suggested that some of the difficult crossings ought to be bridged. I should have thought that Ballachulish could have been bridged. What progress is being made with the road around Loch Carron in order to avoid the Strome Ferry?

With the best will in the world, I say that I do not think that we are getting anywhere near our proper share of the road programme. I am convinced that if the Glasgow—Edinburgh road were situated in the Midlands or in the south of England, it would have been a dual carriageway years ago. No one in the south of England would tolerate such a road as the Glasgow—Edinburgh road for five minutes, and therefore we should not tolerate it. I often go to Norfolk at the weekends and motor round the rural byways, which take two lanes of traffic. When I was last in north-west Scotland I was astonished to find that single-track roads with passing places were still being made. These are main roads, not rural byways, along which we hope to invite thousands of tourists to travel. A much better and bigger road programme than we have at present is required to solve the needs of our industrial belt, of our cities, such as Edinburgh, and of the tourist trade which we are trying to build up in north Scotland.

I apologise for having raised this subject at such short notice, but in this House one has to take the opportunities which arise. I have done that, not in an endeavour to try to score off anybody or to gain any political advantage, but because I am convinced that the vast majority of people in Scotland, whether they are motorists or pedestrians, are concerned about the roads. If they are pedestrians, they are concerned because they cannot get across the streets in Musselburgh to do their shopping. If they are motorists, they are concerned about the narrowness of the roads and the loads which are being carried. The same applies in Edinburgh, and many other places in Scotland.

While my hon. Friends and I appreciate that the Joint Under-Secretary of State cannot answer all these points in detail, I hope that he will be able to tell us something about what is going on.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

We are indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) for raising this matter tonight. In a debate earlier this evening, I referred to the roads in the City of Edinburgh. Like most other cities, we are faced with tremendous expenditure on road renewal to carry modern traffic. This is imposing a tremendous burden on local taxpayers. I raised the matter because I thought that the Scottish Office, when considering these matters, might take into consideration the burden which is falling on local taxpayers. After all, if the internal roads of the city cannot cope with modern traffic, tremendous congestion will be caused throughout the country; and that would be very costly for industry.

We all know that one of the most expensive items today is transport. The more we can facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, the better it will be for the country as a whole. Like some other cities in Scotland, we in Edinburgh have this problem, and I hope that the Scottish Office will pay attention to it. As my hon. Friend has said, a ring road round Edinburgh becomes more and more imperative. Not only the normal increase in traffic, but the development of the new Forth Road Bridge makes this matter extremely urgent. If traffic is to move, it is essential that this ring road should be provided.

I hark back to the question of industry. If we in Scotland are to attract the industries we want to attract we must have suitable roads. I should like to mention the road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the A.8, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) in a Question to the Scottish Office less than a fortnight ago. I am sure you will remember, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the building of that road was promoted by the Government to alleviate the appalling unemployment which there then was in Scotland.

It was intended, in the first place, that that road should be a dual carriageway from Edinburgh to Glasgow. Despite the endeavours of the Government to create employment, because of the outcry about cost the Government cut it down to a single track road. I am told that the original intention was to have a dual carriageway, and that there is sufficient space along the road, with very few exceptions, for a dual carriageway to be built. I should have thought that, in view of the great development in traffic, since those appalling days of unemployment a case had been made out for a dual carriageway on the A.8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said, we expect considerable industrial development along that road. If the British Motor Corporation carries out its intended development at Bathgate, which is only 14 miles from Edinburgh, it is essential that we should have a modern road.

I now wish to say a word in what might be regarded as a parochial sense. If the industry is to prosper, we in Leith should obviously expect to be carrying a considerable part of the traffic which will come on to the roads as a result of the British Motor Corporation development at Bathgate. With our shipping services between Leith and Scandinavia and Leith and the Continent, we are admirably suited to carry the traffic. We have a port and the facilities to carry the traffic. However, we need roads to meet the situation.

We raise this matter tonight in, I hope, a very constructive way. If we are to have development in Scotland, roads must be one of the top priorities. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to say something about the matters that we have raised, and certainly about the road connections between Edinburgh and the West, and the ring road round Edinburgh, and, if I may put this in third place, the cost of new roads to the local authorities, including the City of Edinburgh.

8.21 p.m.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

I am sorry that I have been unable to inform the Joint Under-Secretary of State about certain matters which I wish to raise concerning my constituency, because it was only a short time ago that I knew that this discussion would take place.

We are all very pleased that the Forth Road Bridge is in course of construction. Naturally, we shall be delighted if it can be completed by the scheduled date in 1963. I have previously asked the Secretary of State for an assurance that that would be so, and he gave me the assurance that, to the best of his knowledge, the bridge would be completed by that date.

The Forth Road Bridge will be of great advantage to the people of Kirkcaldy Burghs in gaining access to Edinburgh and the South. But we require an access to the North just as much, and that brings me to the subject of the Tay Road Bridge. I regard the Tay Road Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge as complementary, and I believe that it would be in the interests of Scotland in general, as well as of Fife, Dundee and Angus in particular, if both projects could be completed at the same time.

Since the cost of the Tay Road Bridge is only about one-fifth of that of the Forth Road Bridge, one would assume that, if the Secretary of State's road programme were sufficiently wide, arrangements could be made to have the Tay Road Bridge completed at about the same time as the Forth Road Bridge. That would give great advantage to persons in Fife and the north of Scotland who will be using the Forth Road Bridge, and would inevitably ease the burden borne by industry on the North-East Coast and help to bring to that part of the country some of the light industry which is so badly needed to alleviate unemployment.

There is also the question of access from Fife and the rest of the east of Scotland to Glasgow. It is almost a nightmare for a motorist to undertake the journey on the road between Fife and Glasgow, for at any time of the day or night the motorist will find himself behind a heavy diesel lorry and be completely frustrated through lack of even a three-way carriageway, which would, in some cases, assist the motorist considerably. I am certain that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, if the same conditions obtained in England they would have been remedied many years ago. The road to which I refer is a most important thoroughfare between the east and west of Scotland.

Another aspect arises from the introduction of part of the car industry into the middle of Scotland. I understand that there will be the possibility of cars being exported from Burntisland as a result of a reciprocal agreement which may be made by a local industry in Burntisland. The ships which bring certain raw materials into the port will be so constructed that they can carry cars for export. Therefore, once the bridge is completed and the new car industry is in full swing, we shall require a considerable improvement to be carried out on the coast road between Inverkeithing and Burntisland.

I wish to draw attention to the apparent inadequacy of the roads programme in relation to my constituency. We had a central development in Kirkcaldy which necessitated the widening of Charlotte Street, which is causing a complete bottleneck in that part of the town. It was only as a result of very strong representations made to the former Minister of State when he was making a courtesy visit to the burgh, that we eventually obtained permission to go ahead with the development.

But that is only one of the many developments which are necessary in the burgh. I would draw to the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary the necessity for giving a grant for the construction of a viaduct over Valley Gardens, which is part of a new housing estate on the west side of the burgh. In some respects it is tied up with the Forth Road Bridge road system and the cross-town roads in Kirkcaldy. Also, tied up with the provision of the viaduct is the very important question of improving the sight lines and corners at Bennochy Road and Forth Park Gardens.

These may seem to be rather parochial points, but they are extremely important in relation to the road system of the Royal Burgh of Kirkcaldy. I hope that the Secretary of State will do his utmost to ensure a tremendous improvement in the Scottish road programme in the future.

8.26 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I hope that my hon. Friends from the east of Scotland will not worry too much if a voice from the west is heard in the debate.

Mr. Willis

We welcome interventions by the west, because that will help to strengthen our case about the inadequacy of the present road programme.

Mr. Ross

I am sure that I shall have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) in anything that I say about our needs in the west of Scotland. I also hope that I shall have the support of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), because he also represents a constituency which straddles one of the main roads in the west of Scotland leading from the Border through Dumfries to Glasgow.

I am concerned about the whole aspect of this problem. It worries me to hear people talking about the Goschen formula. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East spoke about it in relation to roads. I am a supporter of the Forth Road Bridge. I help those who raise their voices for Scotland about that project and, indeed, about the Tay Road Bridge. But these things should be treated as national projects and should not be taken into account when the ordinary road programme is being calculated. Without these two items the programme becomes fairly small and must concern everyone who has the wellbeing of Scotland at heart.

We are having our hopes revived about the coming of industry to Scotland, but many ancillary industries, which depend upon these larger industries that are coming, may decide whether or not to establish themselves in Scotland on the basis of how good our roads are. No one can look at Scottish roads today and be satisfied, both from the point of view of industry and of what is held out as one of the great hopes of the Highlands—tourism. We cannot have tourism without roads. We are to close railway branch lines. If we are to have roads do not let us make the mistake of having roads on which one car cannot pass another and, indeed, can hardly pass a bicycle.

Can one imagine English tourists on Highland roads discovering that they have to reverse for half a mile to a small passing spot? Yet I believe the Secretary of State is thinking of single-track roads in the North.

Mr. Willis

He is building them, let alone thinking of them.

Mr. Ross

That is quite wrong. I hope that we shall have more realistic plans for roads and more imaginative ones for the Highlands. No doubt we can build up tremendous tourist industry in Scotland, but much of it will never get past Stirling unless we wake up our ideas. It will have to stop at Dumfries, which will probably suit the Joint Under-Secretary of State. Unless he does something about the centre of Dumfries, tourists will probably have to stop there.

Attracting these smaller industries depends a great deal on roads, and the roads just are not there. It is terrifying to go into an ordinary Scottish town on a Saturday morning, or on a Monday morning. We are in the middle of winter, but a motorist going into Kilmarnock or Ayr cannot find a parking place. What is will be like in July, I do not know. What is the Secretary of State doing about the by-passing of the burghs on main roads? Is he facing up to the problem of the Ayr-Kilmarnock road? Work is in progress on the bypass between Kilmarnock and Prestwick, but it is a long way from being finished. When will it be finished? Is the work up to the standard deadline?

I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State realises what will happen when it is finished. It is only in the first stage, which is to carry extra traffic to by-pass Prestwick, taking it across country to Whitlets, and then it is in the heart of a new housing estate. It joins that road 100 yards from school No. 1, Whitlets School, and 200 or 300 yards down that road one comes to school No. 2, Braehead School; another 200 yards or so along is the racecourse. I do not know what will happen when the schools are not on holiday on race days. A few hundred yards further on there is yet another school, St. Margaret's. Over the railway bridge there is Wallacetown School and the road there leads to another school, Russell Street.

This is the road which is to carry the additional by-pass traffic until the bypass is complete. The traffic will go through one of the oldest streets in Ayr, George Street. What that will be like in the summer I do not know. We then arrive at the wrong side of the new bridge in the very heart of Ayr.

The alternative is that after passing the racecourse traffic would have to go along Somerset Park and down the side of the racecourse along Craigie Road, winding along a road to the station. That traffic will mean an extra road for a bridge which was never intended for this amount of traffic and which Ayr Town Council found last summer that it had to repair and which it will now have to rebuild, more or less, all because the Department did not build the bridges first, as should be done in any road programme. A new bridge is necessary to carry that extra traffic and yet, when the by-pass is complete, the bridge will be used by only half the traffic for which it will have to be designed.

I wonder whether, even now, the Secretary of State could not reconsider this second stage of the by-pass. I am not satisfied that it will save motorists time, or that it will be to the advantage of the town. The police will have many problems in dealing with traffic which will stream down to the North side of the new bridge. Parents of young children will have much cause for anxiety, because three of the schools I have mentioned are primary schools and one is a nursery school. This is far from an ideal position.

All this additional traffic will still have to cross Prestwick Airport. Do the Government have any thoughts for the future? Are they content that the second airport in Britain and an alternative for London Airport should have a main road, from Glasgow to Ayr, crossing a runway? Every time an aircraft lands or takes off the road has to be closed. The state of affairs last summer was fantastic. What it will be like in two or three months, with the by-pass still not ready, I cannot imagine.

I know that this is not entirely the responsibility of the Secretary of State, but he must have overall supervision of the Scottish road programme. The position this summer will be serious and it would be as well if the Government thought about it now. In what little work they are doing on main roads I hope that the Government will not forget one point. If they have not appreciated it from their experience of traffic on Scottish roads last summer, they will appreciate it from experience in the coming summer.

In such conditions traffic is forced off main roads on to secondary roads, which are the administrative and financial responsibility of local authorities. The state of these roads today is worse than pre-war. The standard of maintenance and repair is below what it was pre-war because local authorities have no money available to pay for keeping them in good repair.

During our earlier debate on the General Grant Order we were chided by the Secretary of State for Scotland because we mentioned roads. He said that they were not covered. It would be unwise if I did not deal with roads in Scotland now. I hope that now that we are discussing a subject which covers roads I can talk about them. We do not require legislation, which is one of the faults that we might have strayed into in this Adjournment.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is no longer out of order to refer on the Adjournment to a matter which might require legislation.

Mr. Ross

That allows me considerable scope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I will spare the Joint Under-Secretary and not ask for new legislation. I would be giving him the answer to my questions if I put something that obviously required legislation. He would be able to say that there was no time for legislation. The legislation is there. What is required is additional finance for the local authorities who have been clamouring for help for a long time. Such assistance would enable them to keep our roads in Scotland up to the standard required by local authorities, and the standards which will be demanded by the traffic being syphoned on to these roads from the main roads.

Can the Joint Under-Secretary hold out any hope for the people of Scotland that, in addition to the road work that is going on, efforts will be made to tackle the bottlenecks in towns? People in Dumfries are fortunate in having a wide causeway beside the river, but once one leaves that and crosses to the other side one gets into a certain amount of trouble. It is not too bad in Dumfries, but, in Ayr, what was once a fine arterial road which went straight through the town is now becoming impossible for traffic and pedestrians, particularly on holidays and Saturday afternoons.

We were promised a by-pass, and one was planned before the war. I suppose that one day the Government will provide it, but when they do they will find the road flanked by housing developments all round the Western Road. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will assure us that congestion within our towns will be tackled, and that special financial inducements will be given to local authorities to tackle the problem.

There is one place which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) knows well. It is the road through Stevenston from Kilwinning. I do not know if the Joint Under-Secretary knows the place that I am talking about, but the standard of driving must be very much higher than one would expect from the standard of sentences given by some of those who mete out punishment. There are relatively few accidents, despite the hazards that drivers face when going through Kilwinning. Two cars and a bicycle cannot pass one another on the main street. Getting through Stevenston without an accident speaks highly for a driver's standard of driving.

I would be glad to hear from the Joint Under-Secretary that at last the Government have persuaded the Treasury that in relation to the road programme in Scotland a question of eleven-eightieths will not be raised when dealing with major projects such as the Whiteinch Tunnel, the Forth Road Bridge and the Tay Road Bridge. Those projects are outside the scope of the Scottish Road programme and we should be treated on the basis of what we need in Scotland to ease the position. If the Joint Under-Secretary wishes us to exercise our influence and pressure in any way upon the Treasury or anybody else we shall be glad to help him.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)

I do not want to keep the House late on a night like this, but it is essential that I should place on record the fact that some of the points made by hon. Members opposite are not entirely correct. We have had a long catalogue of very parochial matters. Many towns and villages which are congested in varying degrees have been mentioned, and we have been failing to see the wood for the trees. Somebody ought to say exactly what the position in Scotland is in regard to main roads. Listening to hon. Members opposite, one would gather the impression that there are no main roads in Scotland. Much of what has been said would tend to frighten away industrialists and tourists, whereas they can expect something completely different in Scotland.

It may be that we were a little late in starting our road programme in Scotland, but that was not entirely the fault of the present Government. I motor a great deal in Scotland as well as in England, and my experience of Scottish roads is that generally they are better than the roads in England. Once a motorist gets north of Carlisle he finds a tremendous improvement on the road to Glasgow. In a short time there will be a double-track road the whole way. Every time I go home I see the road from Glasgow to Stirling, which will also be a magnificent double-track road. A good deal of progress has been made on this road. There are some excellent roads in Scotland, and the Government are doing a great deal to improve others.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

Nobody said that they were all bad.

Mr. Hendry

I believe that all the hon. Members who have spoken are from the south of Scotland. I do not know what experience they have of the roads northwards from Perth, but we have been told that there is nothing north of Perth. I would point out that from Perth to Aberdeen there is one of the best roads I have struck, considering the amount of traffic on it. I use it very frequently, and I would commend it to any hon. Member opposite who wants to see a really good road.

Beyond Aberdeen there is a first-class road, in my constituency, to the heart of the Highlands at Braemar. If hon. Members opposite wish to see good road work I recommend them to drive to the Devil's Elbow in the midst of winter and see how it is kept open. It is a miracle, and somebody should pay a tribute to the people who look after that road by sweeping it and keeping it open.

I merely wish to place on record the fact that industrialists and tourists who come to Scotland will find roads better even than those in England, and the House ought to commend the Government for the work they are doing in improving roads throughout Scotland.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)

I want to take this opportunity to elicit some information from the Minister. The Boulevard is a road running through Clydebank to Loch Lomond, and on the edge of this road there is a development known as Drumchapel, which is as big as Stirling, but there is only one way to it from the main road. This has been built up to a huge community, but the fact that there is only one way in and one way out means a great deal of frustration for people working at Singers on Clydebank. They can spend as much as thirty-five minutes in a bus, getting home from work.

Although it has not reached a sufficiently practical stage for it to be put before Glasgow Corporation, a plan exists which can shorten the distance by 50 per cent, or even more.

What support have the Government given to such a proposition? Will the burden fall entirely on the local authorities or does it rank for grant? I think that this is more than a service road, but I should like to know. On these big schemes where there is only one road, workers become frustrated by the traffic delays which they experience.

A tremendous number of vehicles are registered in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow, where it is difficult to find room to park a car within a mile of St. Enoch's Square. The cost of a Road Fund licence for a private car is £12 10s. and it is £20 or £30 for buses. It would seem that car owners in Scotland pay out a great deal of money, but little of that money is spent on the roads. It might be worth while estimating the amount of money collected in taxation and comparing it with what is spent on the roads. When the question of a tunnel at Prestwick was considered it seemed to be a case of either money or time, with emphasis on money and not time. I think that we might take a look at these matters.

8.51 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) has misunderstood some of the things which have been said during this debate. There was nothing parochial about the speeches which I have heard and I am certain that the part of the debate which I did not hear was of an equally high standard. But we welcome the intervention of the hon. Gentleman. We wish to encourage more Tories to support their Government openly in this Chamber. It is regrettable that the cut-and-thrust of debate is often absent from our discussions on Scottish affairs. It would seem either that the Government supporters have taken a vow of silence or that one has been imposed upon them. I hope that the example set by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West will encourage other Government back benchers, and that we shall hear more from hon. Members opposite than we have heard on many other occasions.

An important matter is the road problem which has been created at Prestwick Airport. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), Prestwick is not just some little airport, it is the second international airport in Great Britain. It is the point of arrival and departure for one out of every four passengers who cross the Atlantic by air. By means of Questions in the House and in Adjournment debates my hon. Friends and I have pressed the Government to face this problem. They have not been doing so, and are still not doing so. Even the Government were not aware of its magnitude, and it was only a year ago last June when, through a Question of mine in this House, it was decided to take a count of the number of vehicles which cross the main runway at Prestwick.

It was then discovered that on the average every day in the busy periods of the summer, 14,000 vehicles crossed that runway along the Glasgow-Ayr road. That is an enormous number, and every time an aircraft either lands or takes off, that procession has to stop. Indeed, on some Saturday afternoons, the procession, or rather the waiting queue of cars, extended from the verge of the runway almost into the town of Ayr.

The one easy solution to this problem was to put the road underground, which would have prevented that happening and would have kept traffic going, but the Government refused to spend the £800,000 necessary for that purpose. Despite the fact that an inquiry, over which the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) presided, made a unanimous recommendation that, order to facilitate transport and provide proper road accommodation, that tunnel was absolutely necessary, they did not do it, but they proposed another scheme to make a road round the western end of the runway.

Then, it was discovered, when appeals were being heard against the proposed road, that it would invade the private promises of a distinguished Member of this House. [Interruption.] I did not want to mention any names, but my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, Central (Mr. Manuel) has said that it was a former Deputy-Speaker of the House of Commons who is now adorning another place. So that solution has evidently quietly disappeared.

Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)

I hope the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting—

Mr. Rankin

No, I am not suggesting anything, because now I may be permitted to say that all the time I was in close consultation with that gentleman, who will appreciate what I am saying. He kept me in touch, and I do not think I am doing anything wrong in saying that when he is away from the House. I think the Joint Under-Secretary must have known that he did not look with favour on the proposals of the Government.

Sir F. Markham

I find this monstrous. By implication, there is here a hidden charge that a Deputy-Speaker of this House used his influence to divert a public road scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the inference, and I think this House ought to take umbrage at such an inference.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not take it that that inference was intended. I think that the hon. Member who has the Floor of the House can make it clear to the House that he did not intend any such inference.

Mr. Rankin

We, of course, welcome the advent of the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) to our debate. He is adding a little sparkle to the debate. Through no fault of his, he did not listen to the Adjournment debates in which I have spoken from this same spot in former Parliaments, nor to the Questions which, supported by others, I have asked on this matter. Consequently, he does not know the background, but I hope he will come more frequently to Scottish debates. Then he will be better informed.

What I am saying has been published in local newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman to whom I referred made no secret of the matter and I think he made representations to the Committee of Inquiry established by the Government to go into the whole case. So I am not revealing anything, but merely saying it in the House of Commons. I hope that the House of Commons is a place in which one can speak freely and which will never refuse to listen to facts. All I am doing is giving facts without any bias and without emphasising them one way or the other.

That road was made and I said at the time that captains of the great aircraft, like Boeings 707, which shortly will be flying in there, would not land or take off if there was traffic passing round the west end of the airfield. No captain today would risk taking off while moving traffic was underneath him, even though it was mostly below the level of the airport itself. The Joint Under-Secretary answered me, and he knows when it was—towards the close of the last Parliament. He said we were to have a new road round the east end, which would take away much of the traffic which presently crosses the runway. The 14,000 cars, bicycles and pedestrians would have the chance to use the new road.

My last Question to him in the last Parliament was to inquire when the road would be ready. He said, very wisely, that it would be ready when the big jets were ready to come in. There is synchronisation. Delightful, is it not? We shall have the road waiting for the jets, not the jets waiting for the road.

I asked about what period it would be ready and he said, in June of this year. All right, we shall wait and see. Today, in a certain place, those of us who are interested in these questions have been discussing aviation matters: I have been involved for nearly nine hours. The Boeings were to start coming in on 1st April this year and the road, which was to relieve the traffic, was not to be ready until June of this year, but the Air Registration Board has imposed on the Boeings certain safety devices which the Americans did not think necessary and has said that they are to be delayed for about six weeks.

In any event, these machines, we hope, will be flying into Prestwick by the middle of May, but the road will not be ready at least until June. That flings the Answer of the hon. Gentleman out of the window altogether. I agree that there is not a very big gap, but the road will not be ready when the aircraft are ready to come in, which means that this summer we shall still be faced with this enormous amount of traffic seeking to go south and south-west and being held up because of the airport. Congestion will be caused such as has annoyed travellers for the past few years on one of the most popular roads of Scotland. The Government do not seem to be doing anything about it so far. As a result of the road planning in that area, there was a period when the plans threatened to cut off the little village of Monkton altogether from normal access to Prestwick and the south. Under former plans that would have happened.

These are not parochial matters. They are very important matters which affect the movement of people who come to Scotland to spend money. Some of them bring dollars, and we do not scorn their dollars, nor do we scorn English £s. Yet when they come to Prestwick they will have to queue up outside Prestwick Airport, on either side, until the aircraft take off. I do not object to that because it is pleasant to sit and to watch aircraft movements. I hope that thousands of motorists will do that, and that, when they are fed up with sitting there, they will go into the airport and spend some money in the hotel. But if too many go into the hotel there will not be room for them, because it is too small, again because of bad Government planning. We should like to know what the Government are doing to provide hotels and other important amenities there.

I hope that the Minister will try to reconcile his earlier answers to me and will also seek to explain the road conditions at Prestwick Airport.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)


Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has already spoken on this Motion for some minutes. I had the honour to be in the Chair at that time.

Mr. Woodburn

On a point of order. I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, but so far it seems to have been taken as an additional debate. I appreciate the situation, however.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry, but it is not a separate debate.

9.7 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

We have had a very pleasant and interesting debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) on his intiative in opening it. It has enabled us to hear the points about which hon. Members are worrying, not only in their own constituencies but in Scotland generally. It has been a carpet slipper debate. Hon. Members have been at ease, and there has been a pleasant and agreeable atmosphere.

Mr. Rankin

Is that an invitation to behave differently on the next occasion?

Mr. Macpherson

No. I am glad that the debate has been conducted in this way. I hope that nothing takes place in what remains of the debate to disturb this agreeable atmosphere.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East talked first about the general progress of the road programme and then dealt with the Forth Road Bridge. He asked whether the approach road system would be adequate by the time the bridge is completed. The bridge is due to be completed by the end of 1963. We believe that the building of the bridge is well up to schedule at present. The north and south approaches will be part of the scheme and in due course will be let as separate contracts in order that they may be phased in with the building of the bridge itself. They are regarded as part of the scheme, and inasmuch as the scheme is to be completed by the end of 1963, the approach roads will also be completed by then. At any rate, that is the plan.

Side by side with that, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay), who is not at the moment in his place, mentioned the Tay Bridge, as did the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. The local authorities hope to be able to present the provisional order in respect of the Tay Bridge in 1961, just over a year from now. After the order has been enacted, the bridge has to be designed and built. It is physically impossible to expect that the bridge will be completed at the same time as the Forth Road Bridge.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East went on to mention the A.1, and in particular the ring road. He referred to the Question that he asked in the House yesterday. As I said rather hurriedly perhaps to him yesterday, procedures have to be gone through in this case. As he knows, after the plan is approved it will be necessary to make a trunk road Order, which may or may not be objected to and may or may not be the subject of an inquiry. After that, the road has to be designed. Then in due course we shall have to obtain the authorisation for building the road.

Mr. Willis

Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the project in this way?

Mr. Macpherson

It is at present in the development scheme. If the development scheme is approved, the probability is that we shall go on with these proceedings. I should not like to raise the hon. Gentleman's hopes too high about the speed with which we shall do it. We are preparing our plans for the next period of the road programme, and it is by no means certain that it will be in that. We shall have to consider it. I shall not comment on what the hon. Gentleman said about A.68, because I have not looked into that question lately.

There has been a good deal of interest in ring roads. The first step is to ascertain the amount of what is known as by-passable traffic which comes up to one side and out at the other, and does not have to stop in Edinburgh. For that purpose it is hoped that an origin and destination survey will be carried out. However, it is for the corporation to do that and we hope that it will shortly propose to do so. If it does, it will have our full support.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Glasgow—Edinburgh road should be a dual carriageway throughout. Plans are being made just now for part of the western end to become a dual carriageway on the Baillieston to Newhouse section. That is the first scheme. It is already under preparation and will be authorised before 31st March this year.* The hon. Gentleman referred to anticipated developments in the Bathgate area. The traffic difficulties on A.8 arise mainly because of the number of minor roads coming into it, and not so much from the alignment or contours. This involves a great deal of planning. The fact that anticipated developments are on the horizon now means that we have to look at that section of the road all over again. The Scottish Home Department, the county council, the B.M.C. and others are discussing * Note: Mr. Macpherson states that he should have said "31st March, 1962. what should be done. This means that not only the trunk road, but classified roads as well will have to be substantially remodelled.

Mr. Woodburn

One of the dangers on the A.8 is this three-lane traffic. Most people using the road have come to the conclusion that it would be better to have, say, a white line down the middle. At present, if two vehicles are approaching each other and then try to pass on the middle way there is a head-on collision, and it is thought that a number of accidents have been caused in that way. If there were a bar down the middle of the road, an accident would be the responsibility of the driver who crossed that bar. When this new traffic starts, when motorists have to pass long lines of lorries carrying cars the danger will be greatly intensified, because people will get into the middle lane and will not be able to get back.

Mr. Macpherson

There is, of course, a great deal in what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I was saying that, on the evidence, the fact that it is a three-lane carriageway only is not the main cause of accidents on this section. The main cause are the many junctions with minor roads, and that difficulty is not entirely overcome even with a dual carriageway. That is why close examination, and planning of alignment is required in deciding whether or not to make it, in effect, a road more of the character of a motorway, with flyovers and so on. All that is therefore being closely examined.

One thing mentioned by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was something that I once raised in a road debate, and I must say that I thought that after that it would never be raised again. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Goschen formula. This is a very difficult problem, and perhaps I may just say that in the present programme the proportionate expenditure in Scotland—admittedly, it includes the Forth Road Bridge and the Whiteinch Tunnel—is about one-sixth.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that that type of project should be regarded as a United Kingdom and not as a purely Scottish expenditure, but I must make the point that there are examples of the same kind of expenditure in England and Wales as well. That would have to be taken into account when considering any adjustments. I do not overrate it. I quite agree that the Forth Bridge Road and the Whiteinch Tunnel represent a large proportion of expenditure at the present time, but once those projects are completed we hope to be able to turn our attention more to the Scottish trunk road structure

Mr. Woodburn

I have never heard of the Goschen formula guiding expenditure on roads. That formula was determined by the population of the country. Surely, road expenditure should be determined by the amount of roads there are. Can the Joint Under-Secretary tell us what length of roads we have in Scotland compared with England, and how the proportion compares with the one-sixth that he has mentioned?

Mr. Macpherson

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the figure now, but I know that he will find it in the Report of the Royal Commission on Scotland. However, it was not I who mentioned this formula tonight. In fact, I have said that I would be very wary of ever raising it again—

Mr. Willis

What I said was that during our debates in July on the roads in Scotland it was pointed out that the proportion of the expense on roads in Scotland was in accordance with the Goschen formula. I then went on to say that that was quite ridiculous; that we really needed a lot more. I only said that that was what it turned out to be

Mr. Macpherson

I quite agree with the hon. Member. All I say is that in the present four-year programme the proportion is one-sixth, but as the hon. Gentleman mentioned the Goschen formula I felt entitled to comment on it. He then went on to deal with roads for tourism and mentioned some of the roads on the West Coast. As the hon. Gentleman and the House know, the Secretary of State for Scotland attaches the greatest importance to the development of tourism in the Highlands, and we are doing quite a lot concerning the road, programme in the Highlands. For example, in the crofter counties programme the expenditure for 1959–60 is £750,000; for 1960–61, £1 million; for 1961–62, £1.5 million, and thereafter £2 million. That was announced in the White Paper on the Highlands and it represents a very great increase.

By the end of this year we are hoping that roads to the value of £850,000 will have been authorised in the Highlands. In addition, there are also the special roads that are to be built. The hon. Gentleman wonders whether they should be one-track or two-track. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) referred to the Mallaig Road. This is now being made into a two-track road. It had just been started the last time I went over it and I hope that it has gone a long way since then.

I have mentioned all this to show that we are really doing something about the Highlands. It is very difficult ever to do as much as one would like to do, but at any rate we are actually taking steps to improve the position.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Kyle Road. As he knows, there is a diversion between the Glen Garry and Glen Moriston. It is being done as a two-track road and is a combined effort by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) spoke of the burden of road renewal in burghs and that was also mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small). This again is a very old story because it is a very long time since a settlement was made under which the burghs would be responsible for their own roads. By and large that remains so. The responsibility for roads are pretty well defined and known in the country as a whole now.

I cannot answer the question of the hon. Member for Scotstoun about Drumchapel In certain cases it would be a question of the classification to give to a road. I would not like to give any particular answer to him on that question at the present time.

I will certainly look into all the points raised. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was good enough to say that he did not expect me to deal in detail with all the points that would be raised. The previous debate was on Barlinnie and this debate seems to be on bar nothing.

Mr. Hoy

Whatever we are barring we are not barring roads. The city will be faced with a problem. I spoke about the A.8 and the approach to Edinburgh and to Leith docks. It may be that the corporation will be compelled to undertake major road expenditure. Has the hon. Gentleman anything to say about road development in that area and what assistance the Corporation might get if it were to undertake a major development there?

Mr. Macpherson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are improvements going on in the west of the area now which can serve as a by-pass or a sort of outer ring road in due course. I would not like to go into detail because I should like to give more exact information when I get the chance.

The debate has covered almost every area of Scotland. It began in the East, migrated to the West, and there was then a very welcome incursion from the North-East. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) in paying a great tribute to the roads in the north-east of Scotland; they really are a treat to drive on. Also, we have had a little mention of the South and the North.

The House may be interested to know just how the road programme is proceeding. The amount of Government expenditure to be authorised in the period 1958–62 is £40 million. In the first two years, £27 million was authorised, and that included the Forth Road Bridge, £15,500,000, and the second Clyde tunnel, £3 million. The work in hand, or expected to be in hand at the end of next month, will amount to about £30 million. This includes local authority contributions also. This leaves about £13 million or £14 million worth of work to be authorised by 31st March, 1962. It is too soon yet to make any prophecies about what may happen after that. We are at present considering the programme, and there may, of course, be some revision of it even before that.

As the House knows, we have so far concentrated on two priorities, both of which happen to be classified road projects, namely, the Forth Road Bridge and the Clyde Tunnel. I am sure that no one objects to either of them. Now that they are fully committed and going ahead it will be possible to transfer more of the funds to trunk road improvements. Our proposals for 1960 and 1961 will soon be made known in the Estimates.

Work is proceeding on nearly every scheme which has been authorised. There are at present six schemes costing over £100,000 out to tender now. When these are let, there will be only one large authorised scheme still to go to tender. There are 20 miles of the Glasgow-Carlisle road now under construction and a contract for a further five miles is just about to be let. Apropos of that, I know that anyone who drives over that road at the present time encounters certain difficulties. One is always bound to encounter difficulties when roads are being improved. This, to some extent, is my answer to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock on what he said about the Ayr bypass. During the time when roads are being improved, there is bound to be trouble, and it is too early to say what the effect will be when the improvements are made.

Mr. Ross

There is nothing there which should affect anyone at the moment. The roads are being constructed where there are no roads now. I do not really know what relevance the hon. Gentleman's comment has to the remarks I made.

Mr. Macpherson

I shall carefully study what the hon. Gentleman said. I was not entirely familiar with the particular point he was raising. I thought he was saying that once one improved section of the Ayr by-pass had been completed and the other had not there would be a good deal of local trouble there.

On the Carlisle Road, two more schemes, covering about six miles, are to be authorised in the next few months. This will mean that there will be about 30 miles under reconstruction, which is about as much as the traffic will stand, as anyone who uses those roads will agree. About eight miles of the Glasgow-Stirling road will be completed this year and then two sections will remain—the Cumbernauld-Castlecary section and the Denny bypass. Both are being prepared. We expect that if the two authorities, Dunbarton and Stirling, can prepare the plans in time, both will be put out to tender in the next financial year. Both have been held up by difficulties with the line of the road.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) raised one of his favourite subjects, the question of Prestwick. We have often heard him speak about this matter during the last fifteen years. It has been agreed with the county council that the runway crossing will be reviewed when the jets are operating and when the effect of the by-pass is seen. I know the hon. Member's point of view on this matter. He had made it clear and with great persistency in the House, but I do not think that it is worth while pursuing it further tonight.

Mr. Rankin

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman can say when the bypass to A.77 will be ready for use.

Mr. Macpherson

I would not like to say that without notice. I was invited to make a prophecy and I made it. That is always a rash thing to do. We can still hope that the prophecy will come true, but I am bound to say that I would not like to make the same prophecy so much closer to the event tonight.

As I have said, I think that we have had a very useful debate. I should like to thank all hon. Members who have taken part in it and have borne with me what necessarily had to be a rather scratch answer.

Mr. Woodburn

With the permission of the House, I should like to say how much my hon. Friends and I appreciate the courtesy which the Joint Under-Secretary of State has extended to the House in taking on this debate at very short notice and to thank him for the excellent way in which he has dealt conscientiously with every point which has been raised. He could not have dealt with the matter better if he had had a week to prepare his reply.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes to Ten o'clock.