HC Deb 28 July 1960 vol 627 cc1873-972

3.58 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

I beg to move, That this House expresses its grave concern at the growing traffic congestion and accident toll on the roads; condemns Her Majesty's Government for its failure to tackle this problem adequately; and calls upon it to prepare and carry through a comprehensive long-term programme designed to provide Great Britain with a safe and efficient transport system. This is a Motion of censure on the Government and my task, as I see it, in initiating the debate, is to do three things: to describe what the problem is; to say frankly what we believe the Government have done or are doing to try to solve it; and, thirdly, and perhaps most important, to show what we on this side of the House think ought to be done to solve it. I will use only a few figures, but, nevertheless, they are alarming in their importance. I know that the House does not like too many figures, so I will try to avoid giving too many.

On the roads of Britain today there are about 9 million vehicles of one kind or another, and in 1965 it is expected, on present trends, that there will be 11½ million to 12 million. I obtained these figures from the Ministry of Transport. If we look even further ahead, in ten years—although that is not very far away—we expect to have about 15 million to 16 million vehicles on the roads. On the Minister's own survey of the use of the roads for freight today, we know that about 45 per cent. of all freight is carried on our roads, that the railways carry about 35 per cent. and that the waterways carry about 20 per cent.

When speaking of transport by waterway, I would point out that I am personally affected by this issue, in that my constituency is a docks constituency and many people there earn their living from the transport upon our rivers. The figure of 20 per cent. carried by waterway is reducing almost every month. I am advised by my friends who are employed as watermen and lightermen that the amount of traffic on the river is declining month by month.

This is a great tragedy. One has only to think of the River Thames, this great river, to realise that it is a most economical and certainly a most convenient form of transport. I am sure that the Minister, who, in many matters, is an artistic man, will agree with me that there is no better sight than that of a small river tug pulling six or seven barges, loaded with tons of cargo. It gets in nobody's way. One imagines that water transport should be encouraged, but, in fact, it is declining.

In dealing with the carriage of freight upon the roads, I would highlight the fact that already 62 per cent. of the trunk roads, which carry this enormous amount of freight, have traffic beyond their capacity and that 13 per cent. of the trunk roads have a volume of traffic which is twice their capacity. That illustrates the present road congestion.

I will not overstate the case about accidents. There are other hon. Members here who have paid much attention to this subject. In particular, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who takes every opportunity of reminding the House about road accidents. I will, briefly, give the figures to show the present position. In 1959, 6,500 people were killed and 327,000 injured. I must put it on record that not all the injured were seriously injured, but over 100,000 of them were.

This means an average of 38 casualties every hour of every day and night. It means that two people are either killed or injured every three minutes of the day. Those who have tried to calculate the cost of these accidents on our roads estimate that it is over £200 million. This is purely the administrative costs and the cost of insurance on accidents alone. This is the problem which we face a problem of roads which are not capable of taking the existing traffic and a traffic volume which, as both sides of the House agree, is increasing in a terrifying manner.

How are the Government dealing with this problem? What are they doing? I will not go back over the years, but will deal with the position as I see it now. I look forward to the Minister telling us about the remarkable improvements which we are to have as a result of this debate. We have a four-year programme, which carries us to 1961–62, of about £280 million. It is estimated that about £250 million of this programme has already been authorised, although not all of it has yet been spent. I understand that that is the position up to April, 1961, and that for the year 1961–62 there will be about £31 million left of this programme. The Minister has already put it on record that from 1961 onwards the annual expenditure on our roads will be not less than £60 million.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that the road programme is determined by the level of the actual expenditure approved each year. Parliament does not approve this expenditure until March of each year, and the House will understand that, since the preliminaries and authorisations of new construction schemes can take up to five years, road authorities, particularly the county authorities, are in an impossible situation in trying to produce expensive and far-reaching urban road schemes. I will deal with that later.

The Minister's statement means that capital expenditure on the roads will continue indefinitely at the present rate, yet we know that all expert opinion, including that of his own Road Research Laboratory, is to the effect that to meet the demands not only of today, but those which will quickly come upon us, the programme should be three times the existing level and about £300 million should be spent upon our roads each year.

We can set in advance the entire road achievements for the life-time of this Government if we accept the Minister's statement of £60 million capital expenditure for England and Wales each year for the years ahead. We shall have more motorways. We shall have additional by-passes and more bridges. We shall have some tunnels and I have no doubt, to be fair to them, that the Government will make an attempt to tackle some of the problems which are associated with our five major traffic routes. But the Government will leave virtually unsolved the problem which I and my hon. Friends think the biggest of all—that of urban congestion.

What do we need in Britain, in tackling this traffic problem. What we need is clearly known by the experts. I am not referring to Transport House or to the Conservative Central Office, but to those who spend most of their time dealing with such problems. I will quote, as an example, the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Institution bases its conclusions on the two facts which I mentioned earlier —that 62 per cent. of our trunk roads already have traffic beyond their capacity and that on 13 per cent. the volume is already twice the road capacity. The Institution says that the minimum which is required is 800 miles of new motorways at a cost of about £300 million; and improvements to 6,000 miles of trunk roads, to cater for present traffic or future traffic, which would cost about £900 million. The Institution says that a large sum of money would have to be spent on urban improvements, such as ring roads and road junctions.

The total cost of this would be about £3,500 million. Spread over twenty years, that is £175 million a year, or spread over ten years, which brings us to the 1970s, when we expect to have about 15 million to 16 million vehicles on the roads, it is about £350 million a year. This figure of £350 million ties up very closely with a figure put forward by the Road Research Laboratory, which has said that the amount of money at present being spent on the roads is utterly inadequate.

I know that when we use these vast figures many hon. Members and other people in the country say, "This is fantastic. You cannot spend it. It is ridiculous even to think of sums of this kind." But when we look abroad we find that foreign countries are doing extremely well in this respect. Italy will spent £900 million on new roads alone in the next ten years. Belgium is already spending at the rate of up to £1,000 million over twenty years. Western Germany is building 500 miles of new roads by 1962—in a three-year period—and is spending £300 million on the improvement of the rest of its highways.

The first question which I must pose to the House, therefore, is this: if we decided to spend about £300 million a year on our roads, could we achieve such a programme? Is Britain capable of producing a programme of such magnitude? I will call in aid, as no doubt the Minister expected, not a Transport House journal but a journal of the Conservative Party, even if it is not the official Conservative Party—a journal which, I gather, is read by all hon. Members opposite, which is called Crossbow and which is published by the Bow Group. The Bow Group has given this matter its attention.

I will quote from Crossbow on the road programme: Muck shifters rust away in dumps. Contractors claim that they could nearly double the amount of new road work that is undertaken each year—without increasing staff or plant. Small contracts are awarded in fits and starts and take years to build. This is the present situation in road building—the direct result of the complete lack of a forceful policy. Meanwhile, Mr. Marples has temporarily diverted public interest towards road safety and his lieutenants cover up the absence of a coordinated programme by enumerating a long list of all the odd jobs on which work is being carried out. This creates a fine impression of an active ministry but does little to tackle the basic problem of shortage of good roads—the lack of which, as a trading nation, we cannot afford. Having given the figures of the vehicles on the roads in various years, which I have already given, it continues: Yet work cannot be found for most of the million army of machinery which was assembled in the effort to get M1—Britain's first major stretch of motorway—finished on time. Not only was a fine team of road builders disbanded, but the bulk of the machinery now lies idle. In a survey recently carried out by the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors among forty-one major road contractor members, it was found that out of 3,406 machines suitable for road work, nearly half,…were 'resting'. We need a massive road building programme. We have the machinery to do it, but we have a Minister who keeps talking about the problems. However, we now learn from sources which no doubt the party opposite will be impressed with that half of our road-making machinery lies idle today. That is a great indictment against the Minister.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

It is only fair to the Minister to say that a good deal of that road-making machinery, some of which I have seen, is broken down and smashed up and is out of use at present for that reason.

Mr. Mellish

The point is that, because of a lack of continuity in Britain's road-making programme, a good deal of the machinery is becoming obsolete and rusting away. Our case is that the Ministry of Transport can be blamed. The machinery is now out of use because there has been a lack of planning.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

Is the hon. Member aware that the contractors who built M.1 informed certain Members of Parliament who attended the opening that they would not use the same machinery on a continuing contract and would sell it secondhand anyway?

Mr. Mellish

I can only answer that it is clearly established—indeed, we have it from business sources—that today a vast amount of machinery is not being used. The programme of planning of the Minister, as I hope to show shortly, completely disposes of any argument that we as a nation could not do this job.

I am rather surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always claim patriotism as a quality which they alone possess, are ashamed and doubt whether Britain could produce a massive road programme. They should be the first to claim that we can do it and will do it. Instead, they try to find excuses as to why some machinery which is available is not able to do it.

There are one or two statements about the M.1 in the second Report from the Committee of Public Accounts, which I will call to the attention of the House. The Report says, in paragraph 91: The Minister's own engineers were not in really close touch with the scheme and the consulting engineer had undertaken heavy additional liabilities without informing the Ministry. There had moreover been undesirable delay even in informing the Ministry of the way the cost was increasing. The Report speaks of a most deplorable lack of consultation in connection with the first stretch of motorway built under this Government. The Minister will no doubt tell us that he is taking action to see that it does not happen again, but it has already happened on one of the most important roads which have been built.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The criticisms by the Public Accounts Committee arose because of efforts to allow the road to be built more quickly, not through building it too slowly.

Mr. Mellish

It is a very poor show that the consulting engineer on a £71 million scheme did not even consult the Ministry. The Ministry had no knowledge of what was going on. It is impossible to attempt to defend the Ministry. The fact that the Ministry had no idea of cost substantiates our argument that questions of co-ordination construction and planning must all go together. It would be deplorable if we went on as we have in the past. Even in the case of the great M.1, it can be said that the Ministry did not know what the cost would be.

The Report says, in paragraph 85: The Ministry of Transport informed Your Committee that the provisional estimates which proved so inadequate were really no more than inspired guesses… That is another indictment from our own Committee.

Talking about major schemes, the Committee said, in paragraph 86: Moreover, they were informed that, where a major scheme proves to be much more expensive than expected, it is normally necessary, in order to keep within the Vote provision, to put back the date of other schemes. In Your Committee's view deferment for this reason of a scheme which is ready for execution is not conducive to economy. Because the Ministry makes no real co-ordination of plans, and because of the limitation of funds, major schemes are being put aside. Further than that, we now learn, rather late in the day, of the appalling way in which road schemes which have been undertaken have been managed.

I want to say a few words about the delay in London, the greatest city in the world. Two plans were produced for London by the committee of which the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R, Nugent) was chairman. The hon. Member was a very distinguished chairman. Two plans were submitted, one to cost £200 million over twenty years, the other to cost £120 million over the same period. In the result, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Transport accepted the second scheme, namely, that costing £6 million a year over the next twenty years.

The most appalling frustrations are being experienced even with the £120 million scheme, which is totally inadequate and has been sneered and jeered at by many people outside the House. For a scheme of twenty years' duration, costing £6 million a year, there must be fed into the pipeline all the money necessary to acquire the land. It is not sufficient to vote the money each year. It must be done in advance of the acquisitions.

I am asked to say today with full authority that there are tremendous delays in the London Plan. The London County Council is prepared and willing to adopt the £200 million put up by the hon. Member for Guildford, if the Minister will only give approval. We in London are prepared and willing to adopt a bigger and finer scheme.

I can give instances of frustration and delay. The present Government have very little to be proud of on roads. They can be proud of hardly anything which they have done in connection with transport. I am sure that the Minister will announce that the Blackwall Tunnel is one of the schemes which is now being implemented. The House will be interested to know that this tunnel was condemned in 1926. In 1960, ten years after a Tory Government have been in power, it has now started. I suppose that we ought to be grateful at least for one tunnel.

Another instance is the Hyde Park Corner scheme, about which so much has been said. It will cost £51 million. The House may be interested to know that on the eve of the scheme starting the Ministry of Transport, without any prior warning to the authorities concerned, said, "We shall cut the scheme back by £1 million. We have not got the money." That occurred after the scheme had been approved. The two underpasses were to be taken away and £1 million cut from the scheme. Eventually, after much argument, and after the matter had been raised in the House, the £1 million was put back. What a way to plan and govern such a major scheme, when at the last moment planners and others associated with the work are expected to be able to produce decent schemes.

I see that last night Sir Alfred Bates, who is certainly not a friend of hon. Members on this side, who is chairman of the Planning Committee of the County Councils Association, denounced the Ministry of Transport for existing delays on roads. A county council official said: The prevailing state of uncertainty about even the appropriate date by which sanction will be given to new road proposals is causing grave difficulties to all of us. In some instances there are very real problems in developing parts of the county because the future road construction programme is so much in the air. We have been told again and again about the Victoria Tube, the demand for which is so obvious. It has been deferred very often. We now understand that the Stedeford Committee is one of the reasons why we cannot have it. South London caters for many millions of people and should have tube transport. It will certainly not get it, nor is it scheduled.

When we think of the problems of today and consider what the Government have been trying to do we have every right to table a Motion of censure. This debate has been cut short and is to be finished by just after eight o'clock. I will now briefly state some of the things which we on this side think ought to he done. I have argued before that the Ministry as it is now constituted is far too large. I cast no slur upon those who are working in the Ministry, except those on the Government Front Bench. I do not think that they are very competent. Those who work in the Ministry as such are doing a first-rate job and anything I say is not to be regarded as deprecating or denigrating what they have done or are doing.

The Ministry is too big; it is trying to do far too much. We believe that a Minister of State ought to be appointed to deal with roads and traffic, and that this Minister should have certain powers, some of them now vested in the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He should have powers to have under him a national highways construction board, a board with practical responsibility not only for the planning of the roads but for seeing that they are built. We are not asking that this board should have the power to direct labour—it could send out the jobs to contract—but that it should see the whole job through, with continuity of planning right from the beginning—not, as in the case of the M.1, with a bottleneck at one end and another at the other. That it not planning; that is madness.

We have to think not only of comprehensive plans, but also of Treasury approval for such schemes as the board puts forward. We want Treasury approval of a sum of money not only on a year-to-year basis, but for a period of years during the lifetime of the Government, so that, with a Minister of State in charge of genuine planning, he could make certain that plans will come to fruition. We do not want, as we have at the moment, the matter to be dealt with on a year-to-year basis, so that, towards the end of the year, when funds are running low, one major scheme after another has to be refused precedence and the promoters are told to wait wait their turn. Every local planning authority feels absolutely frustrated, and is sick to death, while the Minister is continually giving the impression, as Crossbow rightly said, that an enormous job is going on.

A previous Minister of Transport, the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), once said very wisely that we need less verbiage and more trunk roads. In his case, we had neither talk nor trunk roads. From the present Minister we have certainly had plenty of talk, but very few roads. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to take it from us that the nation is not impressed by words, but with deeds, and I warn him that the situation is so serious today, and will be even more serious in the future, that he must get up at that Box today and say that comprehensive planning is now to be the pattern which the Government will accept, and that we are to get more money spent in this vital direction.

4.23 p.m.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: conscious of the importance of fast and safe road communications in an expanding economy welcomes the substantial improvements already made to the British road network, notes with satisfaction the determination of Her Majesty's Government to increase and intensify their measures to deal with the problem and pledges its support for all necessary action to eliminate traffic congestion and to improve road safety". I wish to thank the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) for the reasonable tone which he adopted, and also to commiserate with him in one respect, which is that we are all to he short of time in this debate. I have no doubt that many points which he wished to make could not be made, because the Opposition wish to debate another matter. Our time in this debate has been cut down by 25 per cent., from six hours to four and a half hours, so I will try to cut down my speech accordingly, though I do not think that I shall be able to cut it as short as the hon. Gentleman cut his.

First, I shall speak in this debate for England and Wales. I dare not speak for Scotland, for reasons which the House well knows. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is here. I should like to take straight away two points which the bon. Member raised in his opening speech, even at the risk of taking a little longer, because the hon. Member has not been quite as comprehensive as he might have been. He said that we could do more, and he quoted in evidence the report of the conference, Highway Needs of Great Britain, 1957, which was published by the Institution of Civil Engineers. The chairman at the last session was Sir Herbert Manzoni, and the conference agreed that we could do more, but the words which the hon. Gentleman did not quote were these. Sir Herbert Manzoni said: The resources of men, materials and plant could be made available if long-term planning"— and I emphasise this— were adopted, and the whole operation treated as one of major national importance and adequate priority. It is a question of what the nation desires most. The point is this. In Western Germany, which the hon. Gentleman used as an example, they are certainly building more roads, but they are spending even less on education. For example, per head of the population, Western Germany is spending £9.5 annually, and we are spending £16-5. The point which Sir Herbert Manzoni made in his summing up was that we can alter our priorities and do almost anything. He said that it is a question of what the nation desires most.

The next point which the hon. Gentleman made was about a lack of continuity in the use of machinery for road-making and muck-shifting. This is very interesting indeed to me, because when I saw the report in the Press, I looked at it most carefully. The real measure of spare capacity in the industry is the eagerness of contractors to tender for work. I speak as an ex-contractor. If there is no business about, we get twenty people tendering. If the order books are full, we get practically nil. What are our recent experiences? For the Lancashire section of the Birmingham-Preston Motorway, we put out to tender two sections, and the amount was over £15 million worth of work. We got three tenders for one, and four for the other, and of those four, three were the same as the tenders for the other half of the job.

The firm which complained that its machinery was idle did not tender, yet it was precisely that firm which told the Press that the work was not being given out by the Ministry. The firm was free to tender or not, as it thought fit, but it is wrong that that firm should say that it had machinery available and when tenders are put out, not to tender for the work, and then to accuse the Ministry of not putting the orders out. I think that is utterly disgraceful, and I have told the firm so.

Mr. Mellish

There is not only one firm involved, and the Minister must not ride off on that. There is a considerable number of firms, as was shown by a census, and half their equipment and plant was idle. They have said so.

Mr. Marples

I will deal with that point, but they were the people who said that their machinery was not being used because the orders were not flowing continuously. The orders were flowing continuously, but they did not tender. I think that is a fair comment to make.

Now I come to the other point which the hon. Gentleman made, and I want to make this point, because the hon. Gentleman made his speech fairly. In building and civil engineering, one must have regard not only to money, but to making a technical assessment of the resources available, which include men, materials, machinery and management—what is known in the industry as the "four Ms"—and this does not relate to machinery only. An architect in private industry would not allocate £1 million worth of work to a firm of contractors unless he knew that it had the lot—men, materials, machinery and management.

When we were in Opposition, we moved a Motion of censure on housing. The party opposite made mistakes on housing. We complained that they signed the contracts and allocated the cash but ignored the technical considerations. They started a lot of houses, and many of my hon. Friends will remember that they forgot about the supply of materials. We then had a great campaign—the "Finish the Houses" campaign. Houses already under construction were held up, and there was a "Finish the Houses" campaign. This was disastrous for the building industry, and its repercussions were felt even ten years later, and for this reason. People who were putting the tiles on houses were fully employed, while electricians, plumbers and carpenters were unemployed. The party opposite made the mistake on materials. The mistake which the hon. Gentleman made in his opening speech was the mistake on men.

One has only to look at some of the difficulties in London at the moment. One finds that all the urban schemes are held up for lack of men. This is what happens with full employment. I agree that full employment is desirable—none of us wants to see anyone out of work—but it brings its problems.

Carpenters are an example of this. In all urban schemes, carpenters are needed for making the shuttering for the concrete. In the country's employment exchanges there are 5,250 vacancies for carpenters—and there are 582 carpenters unemployed. They are having difficulty at the Hanger Lane under-pass in getting the carpenters necessary to do the work. That goes for every single region in the country. From London and the South-East right up to the Northern region we are short of skilled men for certain classes of work.

That means that it is no use thinking of a monetary figure and saying that that represents the number of roads to be built. The monetary figure has to be translated into and equated with the materials necessary. Again, in London and the South-East—that is Kent and Surrey-1,486 carpenters are wanted for constructional jobs, but there are only 146 unemployed. However much money is allocated it is of no use unless that manpower position is corrected.

That was never mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. While I do not blame him, in a way, I must say that wherever one looks, over every section of the country, skilled labour of this kind is needed, and we are trying to take some remedial measures to produce it. The hon. Gentleman did not attempt to equate resources with demand, and if that is not done it will mean utter disaster—

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

It would help if the right hon. Gentleman told the House what specific action he is taking to deal with carpenters, lack of whom, he says, is holding up the road programme.

Mr. Marples

That will come later. I shall give my speech after I have answered the hon. Member for Bermondsey. The hon. Member for Bermondsey made the point against the Government that we ought to give a certain amount of cash, but he has not said how that cash can be matched by resources. That is a weakness in his remarks in exactly the same way as it was the weakness in housing when the party opposite was in power. And the same weakness appears when the party opposite is in Opposition, on a Motion of censure—

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley) rose

Mr. Marples

I am sorry. The right hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to appreciate that normally I would give way, but we are 25 per cent. down on time for this debate. Many hon. Members want to get in on it, and 1 think that it would be very much better, therefore, if I got on to my own speech.

I say to the hon. Member for Bermondsey that we have realistically calculated the resources available—and I really have spent a lot of time on it. We have to do that, otherwise we might have a "Finish the Roads" campaign in the same way as we once had a "Finish the Houses" campaign, and we do not want that. [Interruption.] The party opposite started a great number of houses, but the difficulty was that it never finished them.

The Government have just reviewed the whole question of the road programme and expenditure on new and improved roads. They have decided that an increase in the road programme should be authorised at once. At present, first priority is given to the five major projects which were announced by my predecessor. These five major projects constitute the major through routes for road transport in England and Wales, and along them will flow—and, I think, from the experience of M.1, flow freely—a very substantial part of the nation's industrial and export traffic. I think that there is general agreement that the priority given to these projects was, and is thoroughly justified.

The hon. Gentleman rightly said that the problem is not getting from city to city—though that is, of course, a problem, too, but it will not be in about five years' time. The problem is what one does when one gets to the congested urban areas. The hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that a large proportion of our people live and work in the great conurbations—that horrible word, but I do not know a better. It is here that we have the greatest concentration of traffic in the urban areas, and there are a number of things we can do. We can have better use of existing roads, as we shall have in London, with one-way streets, parking meters, more off-street parking, and so on, with which I shall deal later.

Obviously, the biggest single contribution towards solving the problem, will be new and improved roads. There is no doubt about that. But I warn the House that whilst that is the biggest single contribution it may not, by itself, necessarily solve our problems. In Los Angeles, and some other American cities, they have the best roads I have ever seen, but they have destroyed the heart and soul of the city. I should not like to see that happen to London, and neither would the hon. Gentleman. Therefore, we have to watch that carefully when we build urban roads.

When dealing with this subject we must keep three points firmly in mind. The first is that this work places a great burden on local authorities. They have to initiate the schemes and get engineers to work them out, and it all means taxing their resources. Secondly, it is expensive—some of the land is not what would be called cheap. Thirdly, it will take a long time to plan; the land has to be acquired and people must be rehoused. On that point I agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey who moved this Motion of censure against me. I think it is the third that he has opened against me—it is like Quarter Day—like paying the rent. I have to answer a Motion of censure every Quarter Day.

All I would say is that in regard to classified roads—that is where the Government give a grant to the county boroughs and the large conurbations—out of £65 million spent this year on new roads, £16 million is allocated to classified roads. That is the weight of the effort we are making in the urban areas at the moment. The Government have decided for planning purposes that Government expenditure on classified roads—practically all of which will be spent in urban areas—should be fixed over the next five years at £150 million for England and Wales.

This means that for the next five years the average grants to local authorities will be twice the present year's expenditure of £16 million. But, of course, the local authorities will have a lot of work to do—planning, acquiring land and so on—so, in practice, it will mean that their rate of spending over the later years will rise to almost three times the present year's expenditure of f16 million. That is a substantial contribution towards solving urban congestion as we know it now, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree.

Therefore, much of the increased resources to be devoted to the road programme will go on road schemes designed to relieve urban congestion. In addition, however, it has been decided to accelerate the rate of work on the five major projects. This will mean a substantial increase in expenditure on motorways, and our aim will be substantially to complete the five major projects over the next five or six years, and at least to start the Yorkshire Motorway in the same period. I might add that nothing hurts me more than to see the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) sound asleep when I make that shattering announcement.

This will mean that by the middle 1960s these principal through routes will be second to none, and will be fully adequate for the traffic for many years to come. I shall use all the resources of my Department to see that these new projects will meet the highest standards of design. Detailed programmes are now being worked out, and I shall announce the starting dates of the new schemes as they come forward.

All this will mean a further rapid increase in expenditure on roads, directed at those points where it is most urgently needed. The plans to which I have referred will involve an increase in Government expenditure from this years figure of £65 million, to £76 million next year and to £88 million in the following year. We are well aware of the importance of roads, and the severity of the traffic problems, so this programme now announced will be kept under continuing review. I will have more to say about that later.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Will the Minister explain how that ties up with the recent speech made in this House by the Chancellor, when he assured us that public expenditure would not be increased, but would remain at the past level?

Mr. Marples

So far as I am concerned, this has been authorised and this is going to be done.

The local authority associations and individual highway authorities have asked to be given as much advance information as possible about the road projects which we are prepared to consider for grant. I think they ought to be given as much information as we can give them. In putting the larger programme into effect we have got to be careful about the burden that we place on local authorities. In putting it into effect, we intend to give all county councils and all county boroughs what is called—I have tried to find a better word but I cannot—a rolling programme—a programme for three successive years beginning with the year 1961–62.

Before the end of this year we hope to send these highway authorities lists of the schemes for the next three years. They will be invited to apply to us for grants for all those schemes which they wish to carry out. In the course of 1961 we shall tell them in good time of the programme for the fourth year, and in 1962 the programme for the fifth year, and always keep them three years ahead. It is utter folly to expect a local authority to plan annually. We asked them to send us lists of all the schemes that they would like to start during the four years from 1962 to 1965. We have got these proposals and they will be of great help to us in drawing up our programme.

Naturally, there has got to be flexibility because, as I say, in certain areas of the country it is much easier to do this than in other areas. In Birmingham and London it is more difficult than in Scotland—in a pace such as Glasgow—because of the shortage of labour.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe) rose

Mr. Marples

I cannot give way; I am very sorry, but I have got to be courteous to the House as a whole. We have got only four and a half hours instead of six hours in which to debate this subject.

Therefore, some schemes will be done sooner than was intended, and others a little later. We shall tell the highway authorities how much they can expect to receive in grant in each of the three years and we shall give them considerable discretion in selecting the schemes to be carried out. I think that is evidence of some improvement—indeed, great improvement—in the way in which we intend to tackle urban congestion in this country.

Now I come to the other point, namely, where we can help to solve urban congestion by means other than building new roads. We had a debate on 10th December, which was the occasion of the last vote of censure on the subject of roads. I think we have made considerable progress since then, and I think also that we have been helped by the Opposition. I should like to pay my tribute to the "terrible twins" opposite, the hon. Members for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Bann) and Bermondsey, for their help on The Road Traffic Bill. They were very constructive, helpful and statesmanlike. It surprised me. We have got the wardens, the ticket system, and the parking meters—

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Where are the parking meters?

Mr. Marples

They are not at Battersea yet, but they will be shortly. We have three schemes in operation covering Mayfair and the south-western part of St. Marylebone on the other side of Oxford Street. I have recently made an order for an area of Holborn, north of New Oxford Street, which will come into effect in October, and I shall soon make an order for the Woolwich shopping centre. I cannot see either of the hon. Members for Woolwich present, but I am sure that they will be very surprised. Parking meters help to ameliorate road congestion a great deal. [Interruption.] These sedentary interruptions from somebody who has not studied the question are agreeable but not very enterprising.

In the last two weeks, accepting the advice of the Traffic Advisory Committee, I have informed St. Marylebone and Westminster Councils that I am ready to make two further orders to cover an area north of Oxford Street to the St. Marylebone-St. Pancras boundary; and the St. James's, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square area. All this will make for a through-traffic flow in the centre of our congested city, and I hope that these councils will get these schemes into operation before Christmas. I am asking the advice of the Traffic Advisory Committee on a scheme for St. Pancras which will fill in the gap between St. Marylebone and Holborn, and I hope we shall receive many other applications.

I have before me the report of Sir William Mabane for the scheme in the centre of Bristol. This is a most important area. I must help Bristol as much as I can, for obvious reasons, and I hope to announce the decision shortly. Manchester can apply for parking meters. In all, 25 councils outside London can apply for them, and I hope this will soon happen.

I want to talk about the Bill which has gone through the House and to mention one Clause which has caused anxiety. That is the default Clause. During our debates the hon. Member for Bermondsey raised the point that this default Clause has caused alarm, not to all but to certain local authorities. I gave specific assurances in the House and in Committee that I hope the default Clause will never be used. It is purely to prevent a stalemate. I met representatives of the Metropolitan boroughs recently and I gave them that assurance myself.

In London also, on the question of urban congestion—I have a special responsibility for that—we have started the London Traffic Management Unit, and on the establishment, which has just over 100 people including engineers, we have already recruited over 50 who are working now on schemes for one-way streets and the co-ordination of traffic lights on a proper pattern.

I recently announced—and it was misunderstood, which is quite often the case with some of my statements—an origin and destination survey of the traffic in London. Nobody can plan urban high- ways unless they have sufficient scientific data on which to plan. Manchester will shortly finish its origin and destination survey, but London has been deprived of that because it has not had a central authority planning its traffic. Therefore, for London my Ministry is now discussing with the L.C.C. an origin and destination survey of where the traffic starts, where it wants to go to and how we shall plan the urban roads which will come along after my time as Minister.

This will not mean that any existing scheme will be slowed down or halted. It will not mean any delay, because there are plenty of schemes in the pipeline to keep us busy. But it will mean that when we ultimately plan an urban motorway in London—and we must have it—we shall put it in the right place. We shall help the traffic and the city. I hope that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, who is to speak in reply, will at any rate support me in this scientific approach to roads which are to be built many years hence.

On the subject of off-street car parking, we have had in the House many arguments about this, whether it could be achieved or not, and I am astonished now that we have passed the Road Traffic Bill how much interest is being displayed in off-street car parking. We have got an enormous number of off-street car parks. I will not read them to the House, but I can assure hon. Members that it is fantastic what is being provided in London, Birmingham, and such places for off-street car parking. I am literally astonished at the speedy activity of both private enterprise and the local authorities, and I am grateful to both for helping me.

I should like to make one more point. We have talked so far about making roads for traffic. But on 10th December I announced that I thought—of course, I may be wrong—that to rely upon roads as such is not enough because I have seen cities completely destroyed in America. In the centre of Los Angeles two-thirds of the area is given over to roads and garages and one-third to buildings. There is a four-level fly-over in 80 acres of ground in the centre of Los Angeles. Would hon. Members like that in Leeds, Manchester, Greenock or London?

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Keep out of Scotland.

Mr. Marples

I hope I shall be welcome in Scotland as a tourist in order to help their balance of payments.

It is clear that transport is going to dominate town planning. We have had some pretty bad examples of lack of provision for the increase in motor cars. The first new town, planned when I was on the benches opposite, allowed for eight cars to every 100 houses. That was not looking very far ahead.

On 10th December I said that we ought to have a long-term study group, and I would like to quote from what the Guardian calls the best book on roads written by an Englishman and published in England. It says: …it may be questioned whether the fundamental nature of the transport revolution has yet been grasped, whether it is appreciated that the advert of a means of personal mechanical locomotion adaptable for a host of everyday journeys has, by turning the streets into rivers of jostling, lethal vehicles, rendered out of date at a stroke the conventional arrangement of streets and buildings that has served us for so long. If the motor habit has its heyday yet before it, which is the way the indications lie, then for civilised life in city centres means will have to be found to keep the pedestrian circulations entirely separate from the dangerous vehicle flow.…The danger is that we may set our sights too low, that seeing the problem as no more than keeping traffic on the move we may take a middle course of piecemeal street widening with ever larger roundabouts, gradually tearing the hearts out of our towns. It is not traffic movement but civilized town life that is at stake. For this long-term planning group the man who wrote that book, Mr. C. D. Buchanan, has joined my Ministry, and will form part of the permanent Civil Service in my Ministry to study that problem. Therefore we have a man who has written what the Guardian calls the finest book on traffic. I have made great efforts to get him into the Ministry and I am sure that all serious Members who study this problem will agree that that is a good thing for the years ahead.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

This is primary school stuff.

Mr. Marples

I am sure that the hon. Member knows primary schools better than most of us.

Next, we must get road safety into its proper perspective. In the News of the World last weekend I read that in 1938 we had 3 million vehicles and we killed 6,648 people. This year, with 8½ million vehicles—nearly three times as many—we killed 128 fewer people. I do not think that it is good enough, but it is certainly better than 1938. I only say this to keep the matter in perspective.

As a Government we have recently begun action on three major fronts. First, there is vehicle testing, which comes into force on 12th September, and from that date tests of any vehicle in the eligible classes may be undertaken at any of the 12,000 testing stations to be authorised. Test certificates will be issued. Initially, the test will not be compulsory. A reasonable interval must be allowed to enable owners of vehicles to obtain their certificates, but an order bringing into effect Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, will shortly be made. This will make it compulsory for vehicles registered for more than ten years to he in possession of a valid test certificate.

Another proposal that we have recently made is for abnormal indivisible loads. The loads which now require individual orders are those over 20 feet wide and over 150 tons weight. The new proposals envisage additional control over loads which are between 14 feet and 20 feet wide and over 40 feet long, which are at present subject only to the powers of the police in the areas through which they pass. There will be a closer control on these heavy vehicles and under the new controls we hope that it will be possible to secure that at least some of these loads are moved by rail or sea. We hope to make other conditions as to time and route of movement to ensure that these loads do not create difficulties at periods when the roads are subject to heavy traffic.

Thirdly, there is the device which, if put into every car would save—so it is estimated—700 lives and 5,000 serious injuries a year. That is the safety harness. It is not only necessary to stop cars from hitting each other, but it is also necessary to prevent damage being done to drivers and passengers when they do so. We now have a British Standards Institution standard for safety belts. I was not prepared to back this campaign until I was certain that the necessary technical tests had been carried out, because a poor safety belt is worse than no safety belt at all. I have them installed in my official car. I find the harness a little difficult to put on.

I hope that all hon. Members, as public men, will try to encourage the Institute of Advanced Motorists. Four Members of Parliament are on the governing body, two from the Opposition and two from this side. They are the hon. Members for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) and Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) from the benches opposite and my hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris). I think they will agree that the greatest single factor is the quality of our driving, and if everybody would drive at the standard laid down by the Institute we should have many fewer accidents on the roads. I appealed to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and the hon. Member for Bermondsey to take the test. I do not know whether they have done so yet.

Mr. Mellish

I do not think that this is a terribly serious debate, as it is being conducted now. I have not taken the test. I do not think that it is important.

Mr. Marples

I am sorry that the hon. Member does not think it important. I can assure him that I do, and I am sure that every serious-minded motorist does. My Parliamentary Secretary and my P.P.S. have both passed it since the last debate. At any rate, we have tried to set an example, instead of merely talking about road safety. I must treat the remarks of the hon. Member with some apprehension. This is a serious debate.

Mr. Mellish

I have been driving a car for the last twenty years, and have not yet had an accident. That being so, I do not regard the Institute test as important. I did not think that this would be the sort of thing that we should hear from a Minister.

Mr. Marples

That is the most astonishing statement I have heard from the hon. Member. He is a judge in his own cause. What driver thinks that he is a bad driver? I have never met one. They all think that the other drivers are the bad ones. When the hon. Member thinks the matter over, I am sure that he will change his mind.

It is astonishing that the Opposition should condemn our road programme. I cannot treat their condemnation seriously. They have an annual conference. This year they have 435 motions on the agenda. No less than. 161 are concerned with disarmament; 41 are related to the unity of their party, and there are 11 on transport.

We have an increased road programme. In the next five years we shall spend, on average, twice as much each year in the congested towns as we have done this year. On traffic management, we have had our Road Traffic Bill, which received the Opposition's blessing. There is the long-term study group and the London Traffic Management Unit. We have tried a number of safety measures. I am not without hope that we may have a Road Safety Bill next Session, but I cannot anticipate anything at the moment. We shall have a national network of motorways by the next election. It will be rather inconvenient for some people, but not for others.

This Motion of censure will have the effect of depreciating Motions of censure generally. It has not been taken seriously. Although I express my gratitude to hon. Members opposite for their help on the Road Traffic Bill, on the record of the Government in the last seven months I would ask the House to reject the Motion of censure.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Each time the Minister makes a speech at the Dispatch Box he amazes me more and more, if that is possible. He is reputed to be a man of energy and drive, and such like. Today, he has had to defend his position as Minister of Transport. What has he done? During the first part of his speech, he rehashed certain old fundamental truths and dressed them up as though they were nice juicy meat, whereas the points which he enumerated were nearly as old as the road problem itself. He spoke as though what he was saying was an entirely new and original line of thought. This House is entitled to something better than we have had from the right hon. Gentleman. The rest of his speech was made up of a few pleasantries which go down very well as debating points but carry no conviction when it comes to the serious problem on the roads with which we are faced.

Because our time has been curtailed, I do not want to speak too long, but I should like to deal with some of the points which the Minister raised. First, he said that the development of our road programme must be geared to what the nation can afford. That is not new. This problem has been facing us for a long time. Traffic on our roads is growing at an alarming rate. It has doubled during the last ten years, and there is every prospect that within the next ten years it will double again. Heaven knows what it will be like travelling on the roads unless some real energy and drive is put into our road-building programme.

The right hon. Gentleman says that the road programme must be geared to a certain level. He suggests that he will ignore entirely his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others who are clamouring for a reduction in public expenditure, but many hon. Members opposite are pressing for a reduction in public expenditure—we shall see what happens. The right hon. Gentleman said that the schemes which he is in favour of must go through. Is this individual or collective responsibility? In view of the old faces in new places and the reshuffling which is taking place at present, one can well imagine what it will he like. He went on to say that the test of whether more work could be carried out is in the number of tenders received for work put out to contract. This sort of thing is as old as Adam. The Minister has dressed up his points like an elderly dowager dressing in juvenile clothes and saying, "This is something fundamental, attractive and new".

Let us have a look at the problems which the Minister has evaded. First, he cannot only accept responsibility for what has taken place over the last seven months while he has been at the Ministry. His closing words indicated his shallowness of thought when he attempted to cloak himself with that safeguard. I thought that that was a shocking observation to make.

Today we are supposed to be working on a programme which was laid down in July, 1957. What has happened to that programme? It was said that there would be an expenditure of £280 million by the end of the financial year 1961–62. So far schemes totalling £250 million of that £280 million have been authorised, leaving only £30 million for schemes for the next twelve months. This seems very nice on paper and suits the right hon. Gentleman's argument on paper. But what are the facts? Schemes totalling £250 million may have been authorised, but work amounting to only £182 million has been put into operation. There is, therefore, a difference of £68 million. This indicates the complete hollowness of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. There has been a complete failure to the extent of an average of over £20 million over the last three years in fulfilling the projected schemes on which the Ministry is supposed to be working.

This was the third scheme put forward. The first scheme was put forward by the former right hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire. He has now left this House, and we wish him Godspeed as a new viscount. But we were not impressed with his work here, and it is, perhaps, a relief that we have got rid of him in that direction. He put forward his first scheme amounting to £29 million in 1954. He was succeeded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). He put forward three schemes. His term of office came to an end in 1957. There was a short-fall in authorisation and work performed of £113 million and there was this additional short-fall of £68 million.

This is the record of the Government. No wonder the Minister is ashamed of it and has tried to cover up by saying he has only been seven months in office. It is the Government who are responsible, and they must accept that.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

It is a disaster.

Mr. Popplewell

The Government's Amendment notes with satisfaction the determination of Her Majesty's Government to increase and intensify their measures to deal with the road problem. Because the work has not been completed, in schemes authorised, these words do not mean anything, but in 1958–59 £96 million a year was authorised, in 1959–60, £80 million and in 1960–61, £73 million were authorised. The amount outstanding is only £30 million for 1961–62. Yet the Government in their Amendment note with satisfaction the determination of Her Majesty's Government to increase and intensify their measures… All the evidence before us shows that, instead of there being an increase in the authorised work in these years, there has been a decrease. The Ministry and the Government as a whole have failed completely during the last ten years to appreciate the phenomenal growth of traffic on our roads. The net result of the failure of the Minister to face up to this problem is the bad planning which Ministers collectively have allowed.

We have seen a diversion of freight traffic from rail to road. Twenty-four million ton miles of goods traffic is running on our roads compared with 17 million to 18 million tons by rail. This indicates that the Minister is prepared to allow this cumbersome and heavy traffic to continue to pour on to the roads. We are not here concerned with the C licence traffic of the small businessman using a van for his own deliveries. That is not the problem. The real congestion on our roads is caused by the many heavy vehicles which restrict movement. Those of us who are motorists know the congestion which is caused when we get behind these heavy vehicles. The Minister fails to appreciate this view. In his speech today, he has not indicated any thought in this direction but is allowing a complete free for all.

The Government collectively have allowed another phase of bad planning. New factories are built well away from railway sidings, forcing all the traffic and the heavy machinery more and more on to the roads. Because of the Government's failure to appreciate matters as they should, we have now reached the ridiculous position that in our urban areas road flow is down to 20 m.p.h. or even less. In London, it is down to 10 m.p.h. In some places, it as low as 6 m.p.h. The Glasgow figure is 8 m.p.h. That is the result of the Government's examination of our transport problems. They are creating a situation which even at the present stage, brings traffic from time to time to a complete standstill.

We are now at the commencement of one of the peak holiday periods of the year, the August Bank Holiday. I dread to think of what will happen on many of our roads. Representing a Northern constituency and living in Yorkshire, I can speak from experience. Last Saturday, there were queues four miles long waiting to go through Doncaster. There were tremendous queues at Tadcaster, on the Leeds-York-Scarborough route. We know that at Malton there were three-mile queues. At Bramham Crossroads, there has been colossal expenditure on roundabouts and traffic lights, simply because the Ministry has not been sufficiently up to date to install an underpass or a bypass. The result is more traffic congestion. And so the story can be continued.

On every outlet road to the coast from Newcastle, one of whose constituencies I am privileged to represent, traffic congestion is developing. The congestion in the West has shown itself in the number of Questions that were put down, for example, to the Minister yesterday, when there were something like 120 or 130 Questions, many of them from his own supporters, who were complaining of the congestion. This is the measure of the failure of the Government, because they are not taking effective steps to deal with the problem.

Within the next few years, the number of vehicles will grow to 16 million as compared with the existing 9 million. What will happen then? Instead of passing the buck or evading things in the way he has tried to do by his pleasantries today, the Minister should get down to the problem. We simply cannot afford not to develop our road system. We know already of the effect traffic congestion has on industry. We have been told that something like £200 million is lost in administrative expenditure because of traffic congestion. I have heard the figure estimated as being nearer £500 million, and it will continue to grow. Can we afford to allow such a state of affairs to develop? If we want to develop our export trade and our industrial potential, we certainly cannot allow the Government's policy of drift to continue.

Successive Tory Ministers have failed to institute carefully-planned road development schemes. Let me refer to what is done in a small country like Sweden. First, the National Roads Council views the country as a whole. It plans the road network with the main arterial roads, corresponding to our trunk roads. Next comes the regional planning, with the feeder services to the trunk roads, and then follow the arrangements for town and city development. Thus the three aspects can be dovetailed together.

The Government have failed to do that. Instead, we have had the great hullabaloo about the London-Yorkshire motorway. The Minister now takes pride in saying that by the middle of the 1960s it will be completed. That was not quite the story we were given when the London-Yorkshire motorway was announced with such clamour from the Government benches. This motorway was supposed to be about 160 miles in length. Only 73 miles of the M.1 have been completed. After all the hullabaloo when the venture was launched some years ago, the Minister now tells us that by the mid-1960s we might get somewhere. The difficulty is that some 87 miles of the motorway are still nothing more than a scheme on paper. Only twenty miles of the M.6 has been completed. The remaining 120 miles exists only on paper. And so one could go on.

The Birmingham-South Wales motorway was launched with many trumpets, but only thirty miles of work is under construction. I do not want to weary the House with too much detail, but that is typical of the constant story of the complete failure of the Government. The Minister now attempts to dress things up in a new look and says, "Ah, but it was not all under my administration. I am only a seven months' baby. Probably, by the time I reach maturity, I might get somewhere." Probably, by the time the right hon. Gentleman reaches maturity, he might be on his way out to another place.

What an inept line the Ministry has taken in its planning of trunk roads. Instead of underpasses, overpasses and attempting to keep pedestrians away from traffic streams, we see nonsensical roundabouts still being persisted with. Where are the big clover-leaf junctions which are so necessary on our arterial roads? Where do we see any real approach being made to the problem of road junctions and intersections? The Minister is still approving schemes as a result of which traffic which wants to turn off a main road must cross the oncoming traffic, creating more and more congestion and accident and death traps. When will the Minister use his initiative and put an end to this type of construction, so that traffic which turns off a main road does not have to cross the oncoming traffic and so that instead of traffic streams crossing each other at road junctions, there will be underpasses and overpasses, thus making our roads more accident-free?

Time is short and I do not intend to speak much longer. I must, however, point out that the Minister is attempting to divert his responsibilities from road construction to his efforts to alleviate road accidents. What complete nonsense and what a failure there is in that direction. His puny Measure he has just claimed so much credit for, the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill, is simply an effort to penalise the motorist, whereas if he and his Ministry were alive they would eradicate many of the traps there are which lead the motorists to disregard the law.

Instead of that, he thinks, "If I bring in a new type of thing it will have a detrimental effect." He knows perfectly well, if he is taking any interest at all, that the Road Research Laboratory, the writings and observations and experiments of the late Colonel Bennett twenty years ago, and of Mr. Leeming, County Surveyor of Dorset, the information obtained from inquiries and investigations into the causes of accidents where they have taken place, investigations into such questions as Whether the road alignment was right, whether the banking at the junction was right, show that it is not only the motorist himself who is to blame. Very often it is road conditions which make the most serious contribution towards accidents.

We know that we shall never eliminate the really bad driver, and one wants to see the really bad driver who thinks only of himself, who is risking his own neck although also affecting the innocent person who sustains injury, very severely dealt with, to say the least.

However, I would make this suggestion to the Minister. Whenever there is an accident on the railway involving a casualty his inspectors hold a full inquiry into the possible causes of that accident. It is automatic; it is laid down. Arising from such investigations a wealth of knowledge has been obtained, with a view to eradicating the causes of accidents apart from the human failure. I would suggest to the Minister that in just exactly the same way as those inquiries are held he should have an inquiry whenever there is an accident on the roads involving either a death or a serious casualty. When such an accident takes place, apart from the police taking proceedings, for they are concerned only with whether someone has broken the law or not, I suggest that there is a case for the Minister with his Department to have a full investigation into all the causes which might have been contributory factors towards the accident. Is the road alignment right? Is the banking at the corner right? Has there been proper surface dressing at the corner? There is a whole wide variety of questions.

The Road Research Laboratory, and those experiments to which I have drawn the Minister's attention, indicate that when such an inquiry has taken place and remedial measures adopted there has been very great improvement in the accident rate at the place where the accident was. It has been phenomenal in some cases. At some black spots the accident rate has been reduced by one-third, and by as much as two-thirds in some places.

So I would hope that the Minister, instead of being the fly boy he is when he goes to that Dispatch Box and tries to score debating points, will address himself to this kind of thing. If he does he will be performing a really useful service to the nation. The nation must have increased expenditure on our roads. It is essential. The nation cannot afford not to have it. I appeal to the Minister to take a more realistic approach and to adopt some of these suggestions that I have made for long-term, continuous planning. If he does, then when eventually he leaves office he may go out with a crown of glory instead of the thorns we are at present heaping on his head.

5.24 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

Just as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport decided that he would be wise to stay south of the Border, I shall remain mainly north of it. I say "mainly" because I should not like to start without a word about the speech we have just listened to by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). I hope that he will read what my right hon. Friend said in his speech, because it seemed to me that the hon. Member completely failed to hear anything of what my right hon. Friend said. He certainly missed things of great importance. However, I hope that he and his hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) will see that we have not failed to provide for them if, as I hope, they will come to Scotland as tourists.

I propose to deal only with two matters because at this stage of the Session, and in this very short debate, I think that it is essential, above all, to point out where we have got in our present road programme and what are our plans for the future.

The Scottish Roads Report for 1959–60 reports progress with the five principal items in our programme which, as hon. Members from Scotland know, are the Clyde tunnels, the Forth Bridge, the Highland Programme, and the reconstruction of the Glasgow-Stirling and the Glasgow-Carlisle trunk roads.

The latest position of these main projects is as follows. Both Clyde tunnels are now well under way. The first is scheduled to be completed about the end of next year and the second in 1963. The contractor's work is progressing satisfactorily and we recently authorised Glasgow to put in hand certain modifications to the short-term approaches to the tunnel which will enable them to be extended in the future north and south under Dumbarton and Govan Roads without interference with the traffic using the tunnel.

The Forth Bridge continues to make excellent progress, and the erection of the main towers will start very soon. The contractor for the southern approach roads is already at work and we expect that tenders will be invited fairly soon for the approach viaducts and for the northern approach roads.

Under the Highland programme, the expansion of the crofter counties' programme envisaged in my announcement last summer has started, and, in all, works to the value of about £4½ million are already in progress in the Highland counties. This figure includes many works outside the crofter counties' programme, including, for example, the Inverness river bridge and the North Ford Causeway in Benbecula, which will be completed in September.

On the trunk road side, we have had difficulties with the line to be followed past Cumbernauld and Denny on the reconstruction of the Glasgow-Stirling Road. These have now been resolved and the two schemes required to complete the reconstruction of this road will now go to tender as soon as the engineering plans can be completed. On the Glasgow-Carlisle Road work is in progress on schemes covering about 25 miles, and as the first of them are finished later this year, other schemes will take their place.

I recognise that work on one or two of these sections where traffic has continued to use the old road in the middle of the works has meant that conditions have been very difficult for traffic during the last nine months or so. This is, I fear, one of the difficulties of reconstructing a road more or less on its existing lines while it is in use by heavy traffic. This is the main reason why we do not wish to allow the length of the road under reconstruction at any one time to exceed about 25 or 30 miles. That is the answer to anyone who, when driving on those sections of the road has wondered if it was not patchy work. There is a good reason for it, as I have explained.

Apart from these principal items there has been a widespread programme of work throughout the country, and we have been giving special attention to weak bridges, many of which seriously hamper the movement of heavy industrial loads. Hon. Members who look through the list of schemes in progress in the Roads Report will notice how many of the smaller schemes fall into this category.

Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Cumbetrnauld by-pass. Can he tell me when a start with jobs like that will be made?

Mr. Maclay

I should have to write to the hon. Member about that point. I should not like to go into it now in this speech.

The importance given in our programme to the Forth Bridge and the Clyde tunnels, both of which are classified roads, and to the Highland programme has meant that a greater proportion of our funds has been concentrated on classified roads than has been the case in England and Wales. The result is that during the three years 1958–61 we shall have authorised Government expenditure of £23½ million on classified roads and £10½ million on trunk roads.

We have decided, therefore, that the rate of reconstruction of the main trunk routes in Scotland should now be accelerated. Under the present programme, I will authorise in 1959–60 and 1960–61 schemes amounting, in all, to about £7 million in the two years. The acceleration which we propose will nearly double this figure in the following two years, that is, next year and the year after. During this period plans will also be made to enable the programme to continue thereafter at no less than this level.

Under the accelerated programme we should be able substantially to complete a modern highway from Stirling to the Border by the middle 1960s, and during the same period plan and put in hand the reconstruction of much of the Edinburgh-Glasgow and Inverkeithing-Perth Roads and of the trunk road approaches to Kincardine Bridge. We shall also continue with the widening of the remaining single-track Highland trunk roads and give special attention to the problem of weak bridges.

The Government plan to spend during the next five years about £31 million on the classified road programme, including the crofter counties' programme. This sum will provide for the completion of the Forth Bridge and the Clyde tunnels and for the higher level of expenditure forecast in my announcement in June, 1959, about the Highland programme. It will also enable me to increase the funds available to local highway authorities for improvement works on classified roads, including those within urban areas. Excluding the bridge and the tunnel, expenditure on the general classified road programme will rise from the present level of £2 million per annum to over £5 million at the end of five years. [An hon. Member: "Five years?"] The figure builds up over the years, as is always the case in these programmes. It is impossible to do anything else.

Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)

The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing about the highway, A.8, the busiest road in Scotland, which the Automobile Association described this morning as the most dangerous road in Britain. Can we have any information about progress on the A.8 Edinburgh to Glasgow road?

Mr. Maclay

I have said that we hope to be fully at work on that during the next few years.

Mr. Willis


Mr. Maclay

This is not the occasion, when I am dealing with the general programme, to go into extreme detail about different parts of it, but I have said what we hope to do by the middle 1960s and that includes the A.8.

I am sure that hon. Members who have used our roads in Scotland in the last year or two will have appreciated, whatever their comments may have been, that our highway authorities are now carrying out a great number of improvement schemes all over the country. Hon. Members should realise that many people who have been in Scotland lately—Scots and others from outside Scotland—have commented repeatedly on the remarkable amount of work that is going on. If any hon. Member drives in Scotland during the Recess he will see that for himself.

This new programme will increase the number of these schemes but, most important, it will enable me to concentrate more on main trunk routes which have so far had to yield first priority to the Forth Bridge and Clyde tunnels. This is not a very convenient day to discuss the whole subject of roads in Scotland but I thought that it was essential that I should set out the current state of the exising programme. I have given hon. Members a large number of figures in a short time, but I am sure that they will see from them that we are moving into a stage of very effective work on the roads of Scotland.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Since the A.A. has said that the A.8 is the most dangerous road in the whole of Britain, cannot the right hon. Gentleman announce now that extra money is to be spent on that road?

Mr. Maclay

I ask the hon. Lady to read my speech. It was exactly the same with the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West. He made a speech without having listened to a word that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport had said on the key things that mattered. I hope very much that the Scottish people will take note of the statement that I have just made.

Miss Herbison

And the A.A. statement, too.

5.35 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

Very oddly, I intend to start by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Ross


Mr. Steele

It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman was so busy attending to his new road programme that he has had no opportunity of reading the books that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has been reading. I am tempted to say something about the speech of the Minister of Transport, but I know that many of my hon. Friends also want to speak and I will not follow that path. I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Minister of Transport, because they have made some attempt to give us a new expanded road programme when there does not happen to be an election in the offing, because, usually, that is when we hear about these programmes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), in a good speech, showed how inadequate the programme is in England, and I am, unfortunately, in the position of having to say how we envy the people in the South in what is happening. I agree that the programme for England and Wales is inadequate, but how much more inadequate it is in Scotland.

Both Ministers have given us today this expanded road programme in terms of money, but this is a rather meaningless way of doing it, as hon. Members will find if they sit down and take all the Minister's statements together and try to work out what all this money means in terms of work. We are told that a certain amount of money will be spent over the next three or five years, but, unfortunately, we find that not all the money is being spent. What matters is not the promise of expanded road programmes, but the performance of work. An examination of the work reveals a very sad story of dithering and dallying. On Scotland, it is not the rake's progess that we see, but the snail's progress.

I want to consider one road in Scotland which, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has said, is the most important. It is the A.74 from Glasgow to Carlisle. Some may say that it is a road out of Scotland to England, but I do not see it in that way. I took the view in 1956, and stated it in debate, that we ought to have a motorway in Scotland and that it should come down from the centre of Scotland with links to it from the west, east and the north. I put this view to the Minister at the time and my proposals were considered. I received a letter from the Secretary of State's office about it, which said how fortunate we were that this road was running through areas that were not heavily built up and that it would make an ideal dual carriageway.

The letter added: We propose to proceed in a series of schemes each costing about £½ million. Four such schemes were announced by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation on 2nd February, 1955, and the plan is to complete the conversion in about 10 years. When this work is completed there will be a dual carriageway leading from the Border to Uddingston with no built-up areas along its length. The letter is dated 2nd August, 1956. It meant, in effect, that we should have a dual carriageway from Carlisle to Uddingston in ten years' time.

Let us take the four schemes announced by the Minister of Transport in the House in February, 1955—prior to the General Election—and see what happened. The first one is that relating to Aulton Heights, to the south of Mill-bank, a distance of five miles, and the esitmated cost was £712,000. On 2nd July, 1958, in answer to a Question, I was informed that work had started in October, 1957, and that the scheme would be finished by the spring of 1960. However, progress has been very slow, and we shall be lucky if the road is finished by the end of 1961. That means that it will have taken four years to complete a five-mile length of dual carriageway.

Mr. Willis

It is absolutely shocking.

Mr. Steele

Let us compare this with what has happened in England. The Wetherby by-pass was estimated to cost £725,000. It was started at exactly the same time, in October, 1957, and it was completed in November, 1959—in two years, half the time to be taken for the other scheme. Yet the Minister of Transport had the impudence to tell us today that we in Scotland do not have the problems that England does, that England has difficulties about skilled men and that we in Scotland have unemployment. There is in Scotland no lack of management, men and machinery, yet the Scottish Office is taking exactly four years to do a job which had been done in England in two years.

I now take the next scheme announced in 1955, the Beattock-Johnstone Bridge road, a distance of five miles, at an estimated cost of £417,000. The scheme was authorised to start in the early summer of 1957 and to be completed in mid-1959. On 25th June, 1957, I was told that the start had been delayed to late 1957, but that the scheme would still be completed in 1959. On 2nd July, 1958, I was told that the scheme was started in March, 1958, a year later than was originally planned, and that it was to be completed in early 1960. It is now mid-1960, and the scheme will not be finished this year.

Miss Herbison


Mr. Steele

Indeed, I shall be very much surprised if the job is completed by the end of next year.

Mr. Willis

It is absolutely disgraceful.

Mr. Steele

Let us compare that with another job in England—the Meriden by-pass, which was estimated to cost £749,000, nearly double the cost of the Scottish scheme. It was started in June, 1957, and completed in September, 1958. It took only fifteen months to do a job of that kind.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

Let the Government answer that.

Mr. Steele

Is it any wonder that we complain?

The right hon. Gentleman invited Englishmen to come to Scotland and spend their holidays there. I will read the right hon. Gentleman a letter by an Englishman who spent his holiday in Scotland. His name is Scott, and his letter appeared in the Scotsman on 10th July, 1960: I am sure that, like myself, many regular visitors to Scotland will be wondering how much longer the comic opera in road construction being created between Beattock and Lockerbie is to continue. It must be over two years since work started and we find still fifteen miles of diversions, traffic lights, single-lane traffic and spring-breaking potholes, and not one yard of completed work. Whan an encouragement to come to Scotland!

Another of the schemes announced in 1955 was the Dalmakether-Lockerbie scheme. It was started in the summer of 1958, and it was supposed to be completed in 1960. Very little progress has been made, and I shall be very much surprised if the scheme is completed by the end of next year.

Then there are the Abington and Crawford diversions, the last of the four schemes announced in 1955. The scheme was supposed to start early in 1959. It has only now started, and it will not be completed, as far as I can see—

Mr. McInnes

Perhaps my hon. Friend will accept my word for it—I am quite serious about this—that it will not be finished in 1965.

Mr. Steele

I was trying to be a little conservative about it.

Mr. Manuel

In view of the damning indictment by my hon. Friend of the supposed road programme in Scotland. I wonder whether there will be an opportunity for the Secretary of State to reply to it, or is this all to be left in the air so that we have to carry on, as we have done in the past, with Scotland being treated in this comic, ludicrous way in respect of her roads?

Mr. Steele

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not pursue that matter. I realise that other hon. Members wish to make a contribution to the debate.

Four schemes were announced in the House in 1955, none of them has yet been completed and we shall be lucky if they are completed by the end of 1962.

Mr. Maclay

There is one point which I want to be perfectly clear. There are a number of matters about which I shall write to the hon. Member and give him the full, detailed facts, but the point that I want to make dead clear now is that the announcement by the Minister of Transport, in 1955, was that four schemes would be authorised during that period.

Miss Herbison

And finished.

Mr. Maclay

Not "completed" but "authorised" I want that point to be realised.

Mr. Steele

I accept that, but surely the right hon. Gentleman will know that every year since 1956 I have been putting Questions to the Secretary of State asking when a road scheme was authorised, when it was started and when it was likely to be completed, and the figures that I have been quoting are those of his own Ministry.

Not a single scheme has yet been completed. I have the right hon. Gentleman's letter written to me in 1956 telling me that the length of highway from Uddingston to Carlisle would become a dual carriageway in the course of ten years. Let us look at what has happened. How near have we got to the promise made to me in 1956 that we should have a dual carriageway from Uddingston to Carlisle in ten years? The total distance is 84 miles. In 1956, before anything was started, we already had there 4½ miles of dual carriageway built before the war. What is the position today five years after the scheme was announced? There are still 4½ miles of dual carriageway. Not a single extra mile of dual carriageway has been built.

Taking the best estimate, and being as generous as I can to the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will know that I am not guilty of exaggeration in these matters—there will not be more than 15 or perhaps 20 miles of dual carriageway completed by the end of 1962. Therefore, we shall have 24½ miles of dual carriageway by the end of 1962, and 60 more miles to be finished in the next five years to complete this promise of a dual carriageway.

We have no reason to believe that other projects in Scotland are progressing any faster or any better. This major scheme was announced by the Government in 1955. If this is an example of a major scheme of the Government's what is happening to the others? My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey has criticised the road programme as being totally inadequate, and that I accept, but it is not only that. The spending and the organisation of the work so far agreed to has been totally unsatisfactory. It is no use the Secretary of State telling the House about the money he intends to spend during the next few years when there is complete lack of drive and initiative in the spending of money he already has.

There have been recent changes in the Government, but no alteration at the Scottish Office. The Prime Minister may be satisfied with what he has there, but the people of Scotland are not. Those motorists who are unlucky enough to go humping over the potholes of the A.74 will realise where the responsibility is for this comic opera of road construction in Scotland at the present time.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

It is simple for hon. Members opposite to criticise the road programme. We have heard before that nothing has been done between Glasgow and Carlisle, but the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) ignores the fact that £11 million are being spent on that road and that 25 miles of it are being rebuilt.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) told us about the very big queues at Doncaster last weekend, but he did not say that £6 million is being spent on a by-pass around Doncaster. The work on it has been going on for more than a year. He also criticised the London-Newcastle road, the Great North Road. Anyone can do that, but he failed to say that no less than £55 million is being spent on modernising that road, and that half that sum has already been spent.

It is simple for anybody to tell us that the roads are inadequate for the traffic which they have to bear. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport would be the first to agree with that, and that many of the roads are unsafe. I am sure that we all agree that we are not spending as much money per head or per vehicle as most other countries are doing, and that, therefore, we must have an expanding road programme if only just to keep up with the Joneses. The questions which we as Members of Parliament must answer is how much we can afford to spend on these roads and how much we ought to spend on them.

We can congratulate the Minister today in saying, as I understood it, that he is to double the road programme in the next five years. The Minister may have expressed a little surprise, but he well deserved his second place in the popularity poll in the Daily Mail today. [Interruption.] I point out to Members opposite that both first and second places were taken by Tories, of course.

Much as I admire the cheerful pugnacity of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), and his great enthusiasm, I must say that I was aghast when he said that we should be spending £300 million a year on the road programme. I cannot imagine anything more inflationary than that. What are we to cut in order to get this money? The National Health Service? Or education? Or are we to finance it by Treasury bills which proved such an inflationary method a few years ago? We cannot do it by National Savings. The only place from which we could take the money is out of the Budget surplus, and we cannot do that.

Mr. Mellish

The figure of £300 million which I mentioned was based on the Road Research Laboratory figure. The Laboratory said it must be spent in view of coming traffic. If we can cut out Blue Streaks and cut down on defence we can get the money from that source.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

So we are to cut the defence programme?

Mr. Manuel

We can cut the mistakes out.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

It is easy for the Road Research Laboratory and for road enthusiasts—I am one—to adumbrate these vast sums, but responsible Members of Parliament who are concerned with the Budget have to find this money somewhere, and considering our Budget at the present time, I cannot see how we could find it from that source. However, I wish for a moment to get away from the harrowed ground of the road programme and turn to road safety and what is to happen over the next twenty years if we leave things as they are. The number of vehicles will double, and if the rate of accidents of the last few years continues the number of people killed in 1980 will not be 6,000, but 14,000, and the number of seriously injured, now about 80,000, will rise to about 180,000 a year.

Some hon. Members now present will still be in Parliament in 1980 and they will look back over twenty years to see a field of dead of 200,000 people and of 2½ million seriously injured in that time. Is that sort of situation worthy of us in facing this problem? It is obvious to most of us that we cannot leave this problem of road safety alone. Even if we incur a good deal of unpopularity we must interfere with our motoring habits.

Who are involved in these accidents? Eighteen per cent. of those killed are over 70 years of age, and no less than 33 per cent. of the deaths are among people under 25. That is a serious thought. To study these accidents, one needs only look in local newspapers every week, for there one gets the full picture. On average, each local newspaper reports about three deaths every week. One sees that the people who are involved in these accidents are very often the young drivers up to the age of 25 or 30, ordinary family motorists.

This brings me to the thought that we really must improve out standard of driving in the next few years, while our roads are being improved, for it will obviously take a very long time to improve our roads sufficiently to make them really safe. We must recognise that driving is an art, a matter of skill and also of temperament. For this reason, I was very pleased that my right hon. Friend was good enough to mention the advanced driving test. Over 20,000 people have now taken and passed this test, and another 20,000 have been in for it and have failed.

Those of us who are connected with the advanced driving test have learned that the average motorist—I put myself in that category—has many common faults in his driving of which he is not conscious. Driving too close to the vehicle in front is one such fault. The other day, I had the pleasure of being driven by the son of a colleague of mine in the House of Commons. He was a very skilful driver, but I thought it right to say to him at the end of the drive, "If you do not mind my mentioning it, you drive too close to the car in front". He took my advice with good grace. Ten days later, his father was good enough to say to me, "What you said to my son turned out to be perfectly correct. He skidded into a lorry in front of him and did £300 worth of damage in the accident". This sort of thing is happening all the time because people are not conscious of the small mistakes that they make when driving.

A member of the public wrote to me yesterday to say that he had failed the advanced driving test. He was very angry about it and thought that it was very unfair. I had the record of his test looked up to see what had really happened and what had been explained to him as the reason for his failure. I found that, quite unknown to himself, when he was changing gear and giving a signal at the same time, he had both hands off the steering wheel at the same moment. That was someone who considered himself to be good enough to take the advanced driving test.

Mr. Manuel

He should be the Minister.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I am glad to say that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have passed. I invite the hon. Member for Bermondsey and the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) to submit themselves to the test. They may pass or they may not pass, but, at least, they will find out whether they have any faults.

Mr. Mellish

I think that we should have this right. No one wishes to deprecate the good work done by the organisation to which the hon. Member is referring, but I think that the Minister's intervention in making so much of it to myself and to my hon. Friend was really irrelevant to our debate. In all seriousness, that is What I thought. I do not know whether Mr. Speaker has passed. I wonder why the Minister did not ask him if he had passed. I do not know whether the Prime Minister, or every member of the Government Front Bench has passed. Should we inquire whether everyone in the Press Gallery has passed? Let us put it on the right basis.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I think it fair to comment that, since the Minister mentioned the matter in Parliament two or three months ago, and invited hon. Members to submit themselves to the test, nine hon. Members have done so, all of them from this side of the House.

Mr. Manuel

The hon. Member and his hon. Friends have all the cars.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I notice that whenever I get bogged down in New Palace Yard it is nearly always the cars of Socialist Members which are responsible for it.

To continue my speech, on a serious note, if I may, I was glad to elicit from the Minister the other day that he is having discussions with the insurance companies. One of the things we must find out is whether there is an accident-prone group of drivers. I have been making some researches into this matter and I have read articles by medical men, psychiatrists and others, on the subject. It appears that there is a small group of ill-adjusted drivers who are responsible for many accidents. I hope that the insurance companies will be able to tell my right hon. Friend whether this is, in fact, the truth. I was sorry to note from a Written Answer which the Minister gave yesterday that he does not expect to have any quick results from this inquiry. In my view, it is an important matter.

If there is a group of people, young people, perhaps, who are badly adjusted, then we shall have to think of setting up driver clinics or something like that so that they may be taught again how to comport themselves properly on the roads. In this connection, I was interested in the "points" scheme which has been put into effect in Ontario by the Minister of Transport there. A driver's offences are recorded on his licence whenever he is convicted of a motoring offence. When any driver has had a total of 12 adverse points recorded on his driving licence, his licence is automatically taken from him for three months. Examples of the scoring are, for instance, for dangerous driving, the loss of 12 points, for careless driving, five points, for ignoring a halt sign, three points, and so forth. If a driver has three offences in a year or two proved against him, he automatically loses his driving licence for a short time.

We must not be afraid of suspending a person's driving licence even if it involves his livelihood. There are all sorts of people, commercial travellers, and so forth, who commit driving offences, and we must not be afraid of taking their licences away from them. The Minister of Transport in Ontario has said that, while the scheme has been in operation. 474 drivers have had their licences taken away, and it has had a beneficial psychological effect on the standard of driving in Ontario.

My right hon. Friend does not agree with me in favouring such a scheme, because, I believe, he is nervous of automatic suspension of the licence. In fact, we have what is virtually automatic suspension of licence in this country already for two offences, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and dangerous driving. On conviction of either of those offences, a driver's licence is automatically taken away unless he can show special reasons why it should not be, and I am informed by lawyers that it is extremely difficult to prove to a court that there are special reasons why a convicted person should keep his licence.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that under that heading, which involved 3,200 cases last year, half the drivers involved had their licences restored to them on application for restoration? Is that not something that we should look at? I am with the hon. Gentleman on the general principle that it is not heavier penalties we want, but observance of existing penalties. No compunction should be shown in the application of the sentence.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I quite agree that it is the enforcement of the law that we want. I have not myself referred to the figure which the hon. Gentleman quotes. I imagine that those applications for restoration of licence were made after the people concerned had lost their licences for a few months and wanted them back before the end of the period originally laid down. Anyhow, there were those 3,000 cases in which licences were taken away. In the autumn, if we are to have a Road Safety Bill, we must address our minds seriously to some of these points. I shall try to put forward an Amendment along those lines which, I hope, hon. Members on both sides will support.

In this short debate, I have not time to develop the various points I had in mind about traffic congestion and other things. I should like to tell my right hon. Friend of our experience in Stockholm and of the excellent work done there by the 100 efficient women traffic wardens in keeping parking down to reasonable proportions. It is quite obvious to me that road traffic is a matter of the very greatest importance. The problems stemming from it will be with us, as far as I can see, for the next twenty years, and Parliament will have to give serious attention to them every year.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

In following what the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has said about the accident toll on the roads, I wish to refer particularly to a section which be did not mention, certainly not in any detail, namely, the large and growing number of serious accidents caused by people who drive under the influence of drink.

As you are no doubt aware, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the British Medical Association has recently published a very valuable pamphlet, "The Relation of Alcohol to Road Accidents". I hope that every hon. Member has read that important pamphlet and digested its contents.

One thing which troubles me, and which arises out of my professional experience, is the failure of juries to convict those who are charged before them of these serious offences. It is not that they find them not guilty. They and that they cannot agree. They are out for many hours. Let us face what is happening. There is one motorist on the jury who says, "But for the grace of God I would be in the dock. I will not convict." Although eleven members of the jury are prepared to convict the man, one juror stands out against conviction.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

It may be the other way about.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

Not in my experience, or in the experience of my hon. Friend. What happens is that the man is retried by another jury. There is a great waste of professional and judicial time and money, involving expense for the man concerned and the prosecution, and the same verdict is returned. The jury is again unable to agree, and on the third occasion, by tradition of our law, quite rightly, the prosecution offers no evidence and he goes scot-free.

Juries are reluctant to convict because they do not like to find a person guilty of a criminal offence which may, and probably will, mean that he will go to prison when, in all other respects, he is a decent and admirable citizen. Not only are juries reluctant to convict, but we are coming to the point—and I hope that the Minister will note this—where members of the medical profession are becoming reluctant to come forward either to support the prosecution or give evidence for the defence. In many cases where a man is being charged with being under the influence of alcohol he says, "I would like a doctor on my side. Ring up my doctor and ask him to come." Often the doctor will not come. The police ring up half a dozen other doctors, but are still unable to get one.

There are medical tests, there are blood tests and there are urine tests. I know that the Minister is examining the evidence from Scandinavia and other countries, but he must be prepared to deal with these offences on a scientific basis, in the way it is done in Scandinavian countries and in America.

These accidents will continue because people hope that they will get away with it because juries will not convict and because it is difficult to get medical evidence. It is quite simple to test the amount of alcohol in the blood and urine. This test ought to be made compulsory. Any person who drinks alcohol and then drives a car knows perfectly well that it does not require very much alcohol to make a difference in that nicety of judgment which is necessary when one has a death-dealing vehicle in one's hands.

A great deal can be said; there is a great deal of evidence on this matter, but I do not want to go into detail tonight. I urge the Minister to look into the available evidence and to look into what is happening in our courts, especially courts of quarter session, because these people will not be tried by magistrates, because magistrates are more likely to convict. They choose to go to quarter sessions where they hope that the jury will have on it a motorist who will say, "Let him go", or,"I refuse to agree to a verdict of guilty".

In conclusion, I condemn without reservation the expression or invitation "One for the road". To invite a person who is just about to take the wheel of a car to have an additional drink is an extremely dangerous habit. It is antisocial and should be regarded as such by every responsible man and woman in the country.

6.15 p.m.

Sir Gerald Wills (Bridgwater)

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) moved the Motion of censure in words that were not quite as censorious as the words of the Motion itself. He made a number of far-reaching suggestions involving the expenditure of a vast amount of money and considerable alteration in the Ministry of Transport as well. No doubt my right hon. Friend will consider all those suggestions, but when I was listening to the hon. Gentleman it occurred to me that in our debates on our financial affairs I have not heard many of his hon. Friends advocate the vast expenditure on roads which the hon. Gentleman advocated this afternoon.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), I wonder where the money would come from. I do not think that the vast amount suggested by the hon. Gentleman would come even from cutting our defence expenditure quite as harshly as we should have to.

Mr. Mellish

That is a fair criticsm, but the figures I gave were those given by the Road Research Laboratory. We have to find considerably more money than we are spending now on our roads. As far as I can judge, the figures given are the only realistic ones which would enable us to deal with this problem.

Sir G. Wills

I agree that we have to find more money, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will bring his influence to bear to enable us to do that, but we must face the fact that we have moved from the £3 million a year we spent on new roads in the last year of the Labour Government, to the £75 million a year we are spending now on new roads. That is moving quite fast, but I hope that we shall move very much faster. I travel long distances by road and the better the roads are the more pleased I am.

We ought not underrate what has been done already. One cannot travel more than a few miles without seeing some evidence of road improvement. One finds evidence of roads being widened, and other improvements. People walking in the street, and those who travel in motor cars, can see what is happening. Although they appreciate the improvements that are being made, it does not mean that they do not want more improvements to be carried out at a greater speed.

I know that my right hon. Friend has at least 9 million advisers on how to improve our roads. I say that because I believe that there are 9 million licensed holders, all of whom are willing to advise my right hon. Friend. I was glad to hear him say that he was considering, I thought he said doubling, the amount of money spent on urban road development. I did not take it that he was going to double the money spent on rural or inter-urban road development, although I hope he is. It is no good having great trunk roads between one big town and another and then getting the traffic bottled up at each end. There must be some method of going through or circumnavigating the towns in which the main roads end.

The Motion refers to congestion and accidents. I think that we have far too much of both. I want to make a couple of points about matters which have occurred to me. First, the Minister plans to make considerable lengths of four-way trunk roads. These plans are in being. Could he not, as he has done on the A.30 in several places, put these plans into execution over distances of two or three miles at intervals of 10 to 20 miles to allow the traffic on the now inadequate road to sought itself out? This has been done near Basingstoke and has had a good effect. I know that because I use that road often.

If the four-lane road were introduced at intervals of 10 to 20 miles where the road is to be a four-lane one later over its entire length, that would be cheaper than doing it all at once, and would be easier to carry out. If that is done, the road should have signs to say that a mile or two miles ahead there is a passing place or a "sorting-out place", whatever phrase is used, because many accidents are caused by the sheer exasperation of drivers.

It may be said that they should not get exasperated, but none of us is an angel and no driver seems to be an angel, although some, by their very driving, seem to wish to attain that state a little earlier than they would otherwise do. I think that such a plan would reduce, the sense of frustration and exasperation, and that would help to decrease accidents.

Can we also have a few more motor cycle patrols on the roads to sort out traffic queues which are being held up by a little car which is under-powered, or by an ultra-large load on an underpowered lorry? Sometimes these queues are a mile long and it would be an advantage if the patrols could advise the lorry or the little motor car driver to go into a lay-by and allow the traffic to sort itself out. That would not be unworkable and would do something to avoid frustration.

I will not refer to the accident figures, as they have already been mentioned, but it is worth noting that the M.1 is reducing the accident percentage. That brings the hope that many of the other trunk roads will have the same effect. As Members of Parliament we ought to make it public, whenever we can, that so much depends on the driver and his behaviour. The old saying, "Do as you would be done by" applies on the roads as much as it applies anywhere.

I should like now to deal with a somewhat parochial matter—I have this parochial axe to grind—about the roads in the West Country. As my right hon. Friend knows, many of us who live in the West Country feel that our roads are not adequate for their job. Last Sunday, the newspapers contained a number of comments about the frustration felt about a 125-mile road jam, about the jam being worse than it had ever been, and about the driving behaviour being worse, too. I know that the wide trunk roads between the big manufacturing towns have to have first priority, but the West Country is an area where people spend their holidays—that is our industry in the West Country—and the more my right hon. Friend can do to improve the roads which lead to the holiday towns which give people so much pleasure, the better we shall be pleased.

Far from censuring my right hon. Friend, I congratulate him on what he has already done and ask him not to weary in well doing. I know that he has a Herculean task, but we will help him to get on with it and to get the money to get on with it.

6.24 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I intend to speak quite briefly, partly because the debate itself has been curtailed, and partly because my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has already covered most of the ground extremely adequately. The one subject on which he touched lightly, if at all, was that part of the Motion dealing with the toll of accidents on the road, but the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) dealt ably with that aspect of the problem.

I was bitterly disappointed with the Minister's speech. I know that he felt that he was labouring under the sense of having to get through a lot in a short time, but he devoted the first part of his speech to what he described as an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey but what was, in fact, an answer to the Bow Group, who are very intellectual members of his own party. Like other hon. Members, the Bow Group has sometimes been very critical about what has been happening at the Ministry of Transport and the lack of action, as it seems to many of us, to be found there.

Apart from a digression about parking meters, which hardly dovetailed into a debate of this kind, the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to an almost hysterical boost not of what the Department had done, but of what it was to do in the next few years. With a flourish, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of £150 million spread over five years. He thought that that was a wonderful gesture towards relieving traffic congestion. In one year, West Germany recently spent £165 million on roads. I do not know what West Germany spent last year, but I believe that it must have been far in excess of what we are planning to spend during the next few years.

The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Sir G. Wills) asked where the money was to come from when my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey said that we should be spending about £300 million a year to keep pace with the terrific congestion which is now piling up. One answer, if hon. Members opposite consider it such and I think that it is a good answer, is that the community is already spending about £500 million a year—a cost borne by industry and others—because of the astonishing delays which are now caused by congestion. Traffic is slowed down, there are long delays and the congestion on main roads sometimes becomes chaotic.

All that has to be paid for in lorry-men's time and in other directions. It was computed by the experts who spoke at the 1957 conference which the Minister mentioned that the loss in that direction alone was about £500 million a year, and they estimated that, with increasing traffic, the figure would soon rise to about £2,000 million. Those are formidable figures and if they are near the truth, we could spend more of the national income on roads and still save money in the long run.

That is not the whole cost. There is the frighteningly high figure, growing year by year, we are told on the same authority, of about £110 million in loss due to accidents—workmen's lost output, medical attention, and so on. We should remember that when we are considering what the country must afford for putting our roads in decent order.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

Does that figure include legal costs and costs to the courts?

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I think that those are included and are miscellaneous items added to the £40 million which is the estimated loss of output of individuals incapacitated by accidents.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimates that the figure is £219 million a year.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That only shows how conservative I am in some directions.

I was sorry that the Minister made no reference to the promise he made when, in April, we debated this subject when discussing the Road Safety Bill of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). During that debate, more than one speaker drew attention to the fact that during four days at Christmas no fewer than 161 people had lost their lives in road accidents. The Minister undertook to have the figures analysed to discover if he could to what extent, if any, drink was responsible for those deaths. He has now done that, I am glad to say, and the Report has been published. It is very informative.

We are proposing tomorrow to start a Recess of three months and I should have thought that the Minister would have been only too anxious to have taken this opportunity to inform the House about what he proposes to do. I do not wish to waste time discussing all that the Minister actually said, but during that debate in April he said: I will be quite frank…When I went to America I thought, at first, there was not very much in the problem of drink and driving. I had not made up my mind by any means, but just had a feeling that it had been exaggerated. When I went to Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles, and met some of the very tough policemen there, who were not by any means teetotallers, I am bound to say that I was impressed. I will not requote the figures, because the right hon. Gentleman gave them in his speech, but Detroit reduced the number of deaths by 90 per cent. which is a tremendous figure. Later, the Minister indicated that he was to have a thorough investigation and that when he had had it he would follow up its findings, and he added: I shall not be afraid of unpopularity…"—{OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1960; Vol 622, c. 636–7.] By that, I take it that he meant that if he had to take action which many people, and perhaps the brewing industry, would think drastic, he would.

Surely the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will have something to tell the House about that inquiry. It showed beyond doubt that over 56 per cent. of the accidents during Christmastime were due to the fact that one or other of those involved in the accidents had had drink. There can be no doubt, it seems to me, and to many of us—none of us "cranks" about it—that this is something which has to be tackled. A motor car on the road is a dangerous weapon unless it is properly controlled. The driver needs all his wits about him. The Minister owes it to the nation, and certainly to this House, to let us know as soon as possible which way his mind is working and what he proposes to do about the inquiry which has been held and about its findings.

I have here a newspaper cutting, only a few days old, which reports Sir Gerald Dodson, the Commissioner, as saying, during the hearing of a court case involving a man who had killed a woman, and admitted that he was drunk, "Drink is perhaps the greatest menace to society which exists so far as traffic on the road is concerned. It spells disaster for all and sundry." I say that the Minister should realise this menace and take the action which only he can take in this matter before a great many more people lose their lives.

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I will not follow in detail the speech of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) except to comment that anyone who looks at the medical evidence produced before the British Medical Association and its report is bound to accept that there is a connection between drinking and deaths on the road. I agree that our present laws are unsatisfactory to deal with drink and driving. There is all the trouble, which has been referred to, in getting a conviction in the courts. I feel sure that everybody, including the police, would welcome some form of test which did not involve calling out a doctor in the middle of the night, to make a series of tests at the police station, or hard swearing between rows of witnesses, which is the present method used to decide these cases.

Mr. Scholefield Allen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in a recent case evidence for the prosecution was given by a chief inspector and a police superin- tendent, a police station sergeant and three other constables and a doctor, all of whom told the court that the accused man was incapable of driving because he was under the influence of drink? The man himself called no evidence, but the jury acquitted him.

Mr. Wilson

Those sort of cases occur. If we could find some kind of mechanical appliance which would be acceptable as being reasonably accurate it would be an improvement which we should all like to see.

Mr. Hannan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for almost sixteen years now such tests have been carried out in Glasgow? Admittedly, it is a voluntary test, but the acceptance figures are remarkably high. It is a urine test and the figures are available.

Mr. Schofield Allen

May I say to my hon. Friend that in the case to which I referred a urine test was carried out? But juries ignore them.

Mr. Wilson

We had better not pursue that subject too far.

I have been rather surprised at the course which the debate has taken. It is intended to be a debate on a Motion of censure on the Government for failing to deal with the congestion on the roads and road accidents. So far, the information coming from hon. Members opposite has been scanty. We have had proposals that money should be spent amounting, it may be, to £300 million. No explanation was forthcoming about where such money could be raised. It would be a substantial amount to include in the Budget. I heard the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) say on one occasion that if there was an increase in the expenditure on the roads less money would have to be spent elsewhere. That is quite obvious, but sums like £300 million represent a large amount. As was pointed out by my right hon. Friend, it is no good voting more money unless the men and materials are available so that proper use may be made of it.

Another proposal has occasionally been made by hon. Members opposite, although it has not been mentioned today. It is that by means of taxation, or by altering the licensing laws relating to C licence vehicles, and so on, we could divert a certain amount of traffic from the roads to the railways, and in that way relieve the congestion on the roads. That is a dangerous argument. To begin with, the congestion is almost completely due to the presence of private vehicles on the roads. It is a testimony to the fact that Tory freedom works, that we have greater prosperity in the country, that the increase in the number of private cars on the road has been extraordinarily large in the last few years.

During the ten years from 1948 to 1958, the increase in A and B licence vehicles was very small. It amounted to about 16,000, which means that the removal of the 25-mile limit of radius of delivery imposed on private road hauliers by the Transport Act of 1947 or the denationalisation of part of the B.R.S. did not have the effect of switching large quantities of traffic from the railways to the roads. On the other hand, the number of C licences increased by 500,000 and the number of private cars by 2½ million. That figure has since increased, so that the congestion on the roads is not caused by public service vehicles but by private motorists, the "do-it-yourself" men, whether with their private cars or private lorries.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) was wrong in saying that the congestion was caused by heavy lorries. These lorries may cause momentary congestion on certain occasions, but most of the congestion is cause by private cars, and we have to face the fact that if people want private cars we must provide as many roads for them as we can afford.

A number of other hon. Members wish to speak and I will not prolong my speech by mentioning a number of other things to which I should have liked to refer. I should, however, like to say one thing about road safety. I have hesitated to say this, because it is a personal statement, but partly by the accident of circumstance and partly by deliberate design, I do not own a private car, I have never had one and I have never learnt to drive. Before the war, when I worked for a railway company. I lived in Paddington, close to the station, and as I had a free first-class pass on the railways I had no need for a car. Since then, not now being quite sure of my eyesight and having a stiff leg as a result of a road accident in which I was involved as a passenger, as a deliberate choice I do not attempt to drive a car.

I am quite sure there are very many people who are driving cars when they have no business to drive them, either through physical defects, their temperament, or lack of skill. A large number of people ought voluntarily to withdraw from driving. That would be some inconvenience, but it is much less inconvenient than one might think. I have had personal experience of that. I believe that that would be a contribution to Toad safety which many people could make. I am driven about a great deal and I see some shocking cases of driving by people who, clearly, are not skilled drivers. I think that very often physical defects are responsible for their not being good drivers.

6.41 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton. Itchen)

Those of us who watched the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) struggling about the House in the very early days after his accident arc delighted now to see him walking about so obviously full of good health and good spirits. I wish I could say the same about his arguments. I do not propose to deal with them tonight, however, for we are all under a self-imposed ordinance to be brief.

The Minister proposed himself a very hearty vote of thanks with deep sincerity and utter enthusiasm. I am quite certain that it will be carried tonight, but my object in intervening is to say that it might not be carried among the representatives of his own party on the County Councils Association and certainly not on Hampshire County Council. I speak as a local government man. At the meeting of the County Councils Association across the water on Wednesday, the Association was unanimous in condemning the Government for failing to accept this year's road proposals made by its constituent members, proposals which are minimum, not maximum programmes, proposals which have been investigated by competent road committees, advised by competent road engineers and pruned and pruned down to the bare essentials.

On behalf of county roads committees the committee representing them on the Association expressed real anger at the way in which the Minister has slashed programmes bath this year and last year and also for maintaining an artificial ceiling on maintenance and improvement of classified roads. I hope that in the statement he makes on the expansion programme he is contemplating that that ceiling will go up. That the national problem is grave is due to enforced neglect of the roads during the war, more and heavier goods being taken on the roads, millions more cars and the ever-increasing toll of road accidents.

I was glad to hear an hon. Member opposite earlier point out that these factors are inter-urban as well as urban area problems. I was a little uneasy lest the Minister in the expansion he proposed in his speech was putting most of his eggs into one basket and concentrating too much on the heavily built-up urban areas. What local authorities want is long-term forward planning. They want an end to this niggling piecemeal allocation of grants year by year, a piecemeal allocation which even cuts into jobs started and programmes they are endeavouring to carry out.

I wish to urge the special claims of the County of Hampshire. In doing so I speak for nearly every Hampshire Member of Parliament in this House, for the county council, the whole of the trades union movement in Hampshire and the commercial and industrial interests of my county. Hampshire County Council is an overwhelmingly Conservative body. I can say that about 90 per cent. of the members are Conservatives, yet at our meeting last Monday the county council unanimously adopted a resolution, which will have reached the Minister in time for this debate, condemning the Government for slashing Hampshire's roads programme this year.

About eighteen months ago a group of Members of Parliament from Hampshire, led by the hon. Member of Winchester (Mr. Smithers), saw the former Minister at the request of the county council. They pointed out to him that Hampshire is no longer only an agricultural county, nor is the coastline of Hampshire merely a branch of the holiday and tourist industry, although the holiday and tourist industry is of no little importance to the country. Hampshire is now considerably industrialised.

Since the war the population of Hampshire has probably increased more than that of any other county in the country. There have been great industrial developments. I would remind the House of the great Fawley refinery and subsidiary industrial development on one side of Southampton Water and, on the other side, great developments in the Havant - Waterloo - Fareham - Gosport-Portsmouth section. Expansion and industrial development are taking place at Basingstoke. This will continue for years ahead as the new plans of the London County Council and Hampshire for the absorption of some of London's overspill proceed. In the other corner, in the north of Hampshire, there is atomic industry development.

Those hon. Members who know the Hampshire roads and knew them before the war will, I am sure, grant that Hampshire had quite a good record in the years which preceded the war, but the bulk of Hampshire roads are inadequate to cope with modern conditions of heavy traffic proceeding for industrial reasons. We have a feeling that an illusion remains at the Ministry that we are still a rural county and that the only motor cars which proceed along the roads of Hampshire are light private motor cars, while the Minister ignores the heavy industrial use that is made of our roads. Eighteen months ago we thought we had impressed the Minister's predecessor. We had a letter from him in May, 1959, in which he informed us: I am convinced that Hampshire should figure prominently in the programme that is now being drawn up for the next ten years. We expect our main efforts in the county to be concentrated on the south coast road and the road from London to Southampton. This further phase of the programme will thus include many more of the schemes which Hampshire would like to see carried out. The simple fact is that the new Minister has slashed the Hampshire county programme. This year we submitted schemes totalling £302,000, all essential and all after pruning. That programme has been cut back to a mere £95,000. While the former Minister chastised us with whips, the present Minister is indeed chastising us with scorpions. It may be that his predecessor was no Solomon, but this one certainly is behaving as a Rehoboam.

There are terrible danger spots in Hampshire, as any hon. Member who has motored there will know, and there are terrible bottle-necks. The Totton by-pass to Bournemouth is one of the country's bad bottlenecks and danger spots. At its last meeting, the New Forest Trades Council, representing all the trade unionists of Hampshire, passed a resolution protesting against the Minister's failure to include—

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I am a little mystified. I have been downstairs to check on this because I was at the County Councils Association meeting on Wednesday and I did not detect the anger which the hon. Member has told us was displayed at that meeting. I think anyone connected with local authorities realises that the transport department of a council budgets for more than it is likely to get.

Dr. King

I can only ask the hon. Member who, like myself, is a member of the County Councils Association, to read the minutes of his own committees and to recollect the speech on Wednesday of the chairman of the roads committee. I assure him that I do not ever misinterpret statements made at meetings.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

I am following the argument of the hon. Member very carefully. I think the trouble is that he is advocating improvements for Hampshire and we are all sitting with our own road programmes. I could repeat his argument in the case of Norfolk. We badly want a by-pass round King's Lynn. That is as urgent as anything he is advocating.

Dr. King

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for confirming the Motion of censure which we are moving. The case I am endeavouring to put as unanimously the view of the county council and Members of Parliament for Hampshire, is that inside the national programme Hampshire is being neglected. The fact $$$that the hon. Member and every hon. Member in the House wants to put exactly the same kind of case on behalf of his own area is just evidence of the inadequacy of the whole national programme and the need for much greater action by the Minister.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the claims of Hampshire. I am a Scotsman from Somerset and I might get confused if T took Q similar line.

Much of the Opposition's case today—I have never heard such a timid Motion of censure in the whole of my short experience in this House—seems to be centred on the shortness of money. That is not the only problem that we have to face today. I am the first to acknowledge that a great amount of money is required to be spent on the roads and that without the money we shall get no progress at all. But there are other things which we have to consider. The money can be badly and very wastefully spent if proper research and investigation is not carried out before this programme begins.

Mr. Manuel

That is always the Tory argument.

Mr. Webster

The Socialist argument is to spend a few more millions. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

We have a lot to get through and simultaneous shouting makes no progress at all.

Mr. Webster

I apologise for my Scottish compatriot.

Mr. Manuel

If the hon. Member is going to be so stupid and make assertions that are quite unworthy, he must expect to be interrupted. If he puts a responsible case he certainly will not be interrupted.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that we can make some progress.

Mr. Webster

One of the problems that I think essential and which was brought out in the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates that investigated the trunk road programme is that there should be a closer tie-up on the legal aspects before a trunk road is produced. One of the recommendations is that the Ministry and Treasury solicitors should get together and accelerate the necessary conveyancing. Another aspect of the legal problem is the necessity for getting hold of the land when the lines of the trunk road are produced. It is essential that the law should be amended in order that land can be obtained faster so that these programmes can proceed. At the same time, it is equally essential that justice should be done to the person who owns the land, and I beg my right hon. Friend to observe a balance in this very essential matter.

I am concerned with some of the remarks that have been made and to which great publicity has been given. My right hon. Friend—and I commend him for raising this—said, as it is reported, in reference to the Ross Spur that he was concerned with the inadequacy of that road. He expressed concern about the width of the lanes and also about the hard shoulder on the side of the road. I think that he said that it is not hard. This is a point which has to be considered very carefully.

I shall not be dogmatic and say that any roads which go to Wales and to the West Country should be three-lane dual-carriage motorways, because there is a prominent case to be made the other way—that if there is not proper lane discipline and Aunt Mary is in the slow-driving lane and another car overtakes on the extreme right, someone can cut in between and cause great danger. But it has been pointed out frequently that the hard shoulder on the side of the M.I is neither broad enough nor strong enough. As a result, many lorries are ceasing to use that road, because if they have a breakdown and jack up the vehicle, the jack may go through the hard shoulder. Moreover, the driver may be in physical danger when trying to effect the repair. We must make certain when the Birmingham-Bristol and Birmingham-Exeter motorway is designed that this point is met adequately.

There is another aspect to be considered before we spend all the money which the Opposition want to be spent. Incidentally, I think that we are spending 2,000 per cent. more than the Labour Party spent in its last year in office. That is a substantial improvement, even on its figures. We must, first, study much more, and benefit from, what the foreigners, who have pioneered on this subject, have done. We must study much more closely the traffic engineering. I have had the privilege of speaking on this subject before. I think that if this money is to be spent, it must be spent knowledgeably and with know-how. Wherever possible we have to avoid the right-hand turn and the cross-roads that go both ways, if the House understands what I mean. At such a cross-road there are sixteen points of collision. If one of these roads is turned into a one-way street, the number is reduced to seven points of collision; and if they are both one-way streets, it is reduced to four. These are matters which should be studied in great detail.

The Committee and my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) have also brought out frequently in the House the necessity for destination and origin study. It is essential on a road such as that from Bath to Bristol. Everyone knows that most of the traffic is going from Bath to Bristol. There is also the road coming down into my constituency; quite a lot of people use it. But we do not know how many people going from Bath to Bristol want to go on to Weston-superMare or Bridgwater. If that type of destination and origin study could he undertaken, we could then see the necessity for the type of road which would go round Bristol.

Mr. Benn

This study of destination and origin costs money. One of the reasons why it was not done in the past is the lack of money. This is one of the proposals on which we think there should be a greatly increased expenditure. Is the hon. Member in favour of spending that money?

Mr. Webster

I am certainly in favour of spending money in that way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. He has so far, in a very limited time, improved on the efforts of his hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), because he has given us one way in which that money could be spent. I entirely agree with that.

The destination and origin study will also bring out the fact that all our traffic is being directed into the centre of these cities. Usually, it does not wish to go there. At Mannheim, where they have a wonderful new bridge taking traffic right into the centre of the city, the Germans are determined to have two other bridges to take the traffic north and south of that city. The same thing is happening in Cologne and Dusseldorf. It is true to say that for the first time we are changing the design of our cities. In the days of the Romans, roads converged into the Carfax, the centre of the city. Today that is not necessarily desirable. Cities are bigger, and factories and docks are on the outside of the city. Imports and exports need to be taken not to the centre of the city but to the factories and docks. I think that this destination and origin study will find out how our urban problem—which in my opinion is probably the greatest we have today—can be dealt with. While I support increased expenditure in this way, it is essential that we should study how the money should be spent, if it is to be spent wisely and not wastefully.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. E. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

The hon. Member for Westonsuper-Mare (Mr. Webster) seemed to think that there had not been sufficient condemnation of the Government. Perhaps I should therefore make my own position quite plain. I condemn the Government for their complacency towards the appalling slaughter which is taking place on the roads. I condemn the Government because I do not think that they have taken sufficient action to deal with the congestion on the roads. I condemn the Government because they are ignoring the huge cost which all this is imposing not only in human misery but also in £.s.d. Perhaps the hon. Member will agree that at any rate I am in favour of the Motion and not in favour of the Amendment.

I hope that the figures which the Minister quoted were not his own calculations. He told us that the debate should have lasted for six hours and has been reduced to three-and-a-half, and that this is a loss of 25 per cent., and I can only say that if he has been responsible for the other calculations then they, too, may be somewhat out of line.

The Minister spent a considerable time, he said, answering my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) about the unused machinery for road construction. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) pointed out, he was in fact answering the Bow Group rather than my hon. Friend. We on this side of the House found the words of the Bow Group much more convincing than the Minister's reply.

The Minister next talked about capital expenditure. He said that we must get our priorities right and that there are certain other priorities. But the point is not whether we are spending enough money but whether we can afford not to spend more money than we are spending at present. It has been calculated by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents that the appalling slaughter on the roads is costing this country £219 million a year, that the congestion on the roads is costing about £240 million a year and, against that, that we have been given a four-year road programme of £280 million. Our complaint is that othe programme which the Government are putting forward under present circumstances does not meet the seriousness of the case.

Let me come briefly to the slaughter on the roads. Last year on the roads 6,250 people were killed and nearly 327,000 were injured. That works out at over 900 killed or injured per day. If a small fraction of that number were killed or injured in one national catastrophe, there would be a Private Notice Question in the House, a special committee would be set up and all the newspapers in the country would have huge headlines about this great calamity. Yet day by day we calmly accept a figure of over 900 casualties on the roads.

We have to admit that the human element enters into this no matter how much money is spent upon new roads, new bridges, new tunnels and fly-overs, the human element must enter into it. Until everybody remembers that the other chap on the road also has a right, we shall continue to have these accidents. When I was teaching my sons to drive a car I told them that the very first lesson was that it is not enough to be a good driver and not enough to do the right thing every time. One must also be prepared for the other man to do the wrong thing. Unless we all begin driving with that in mind, we shall not reduce these accidents.

The South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Joint Road Safety Organisation, which covers part of my constituency, publishes a yearly report. In its introduction it makes a very strong point about the need for education. If every road safety organisation were taking the same steps, such as trying to improve the Standard of driving in the area and training and testing young cyclists, that would be a great help.

It has been said during the debate that the penalties are not sufficient. I think the time has come when not only should we have a maximum penalty which can be imposed for certain offences but we should have a minimum penalty. Are we sure that we are disqualifying enough people and that the disqualifications are for long enough periods? Much blame for inadequate penalties has been placed of the magistrates, but anyone who has read the B.M.A.'s Report will realise that it is not so much the magistrates who are at fault in not condemning and not disqualifying as the juries.

There are certain points on which I cannot understand the Ministry of Transport. First, can someone tell me why most pedestrian crossings are placed near a road junction? I presume that it is to give an extra hazard to the pedestrian so that he has to see not only the traffic coming in two directions but that which is coming round the corner, too. Why are nearly all pedestrian crossings placed so near to road junctions?

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

As I am becoming something of a connoisseur of pedestrian crossings, perhaps I can explain. One usually finds that pedestrian traffic is greatest at junctions. This is usually because there are two rows of houses at an intersection. We try to remove the crossings from the junction as much as possible.

Mr. Blackburn

There is more pedestrian traffic because of the pedestrian traffic coming round the corner, too. Surely it would do no harm for people to walk another ten yards.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett

Does the hon. Member think they would walk the other ten yards?

Mr. Blackburn

Perhaps we shall have to be a little tougher with the pedestrians, too. I shall say one or two things about being tougher with motorists. At the same time, I do not want anyone to think that I am anti-motorist. I am a motorist. We shall have to insist more strongly that pedestrians use pedestrian crossings. But it is also important that the Minister should see that there are more light-controlled pedestrian crossings and that where a road is of more than a certain width, there is by law a central island, because that would help considerably.

Secondly, I cannot understand the Ministry's stubbornness about "Halt" signs. In my opinion, the use of the sign "Slow, Major Road Ahead" is entirely wrong. If there is a major road ahead, the only sensible sign to use is the "Halt" sign. I have tried to get the Ministry to use the "Halt" sign where there is a major road ahead, but they insist on the "Slow" sign.

Nor can I understand why the right to decide which street shall be a one-way street cannot be left to the district council, to the people on the spot, who are there every day and who know the difficulties. They know the traffic movement much better than does any road engineer or any one else from the county council, and it would be an advantage if they had that right.

The next question with which I want to deal is congestion, and I will deal first with urban congestion. I wish to repeat a statement which I made in the House several years ago we shall not solve the urban congestion until somebody has enough courage to ban private motoring from certain areas in our great cities and to have slightly wider areas where no parking is permitted. To provide additional car parks in the centre of our cities is no solution. It is only inviting a much bigger problem. It is inviting more people to come into the centre. I am certain that it would not be any loss to shops in the centre. When people found that they could wander about without so much worry from traffic in the centres of large cities, the shops would do even better than they do at present.

According to the Road Research Laboratory, congestion costs us £240 million a year. We cannot afford that. Unless we can make greater use of public transport and less use of private motor cars in the centres of our great cities, we shall not solve the problem. I want to quote from the Newton Mill Journal, which is the house magazine of an important firm in my constituency which has offices in London. Its offices are in New Bond Street. To make, it a little more difficult, the entrance to the offices is in Conduit Street. The advice given to people who want to visit the offices is: Ask my of our present callers how long it takes to find a suitable space to fit one's car into, and in spite of local knowledge they will tell you that it takes quite often five or six circuits of the most likely places before you strike lucky. Even then one stands a good chance upon return of finding the car gone, having been towed away by the ever-alert police. This is the important passage. So although we are glad to see you, please leave your cars on the outskirts and then use public transport. This will probably be the ultimate solution enforced on all but the most necessary travellers. The big question is. Who is to decide who these are? ' I wish more firms advised their callers to leave their cars on the outskirts and travel in to the centre of London by public transport. The best solution to the problem in our great cities is to have more and more car parks on the outskirts and develop public transport into the centre. Until we have a Government with enough courage to ban private cars entirely from certain areas, we shall not solve the problem.

As for the rest of the country, we can build more and more motorways, but we shall not be much better off unless we also widen some roads, get rid of the bottlenecks and build more ring roads. Some years ago when it was approaching dusk I lost the A.5. I took what 1 thought was a better road, but I soon realised that I should have taken the one which looked like a country road. Some of our A roads are not up to it. Before we build too many motorways, we should improve some of the present roads.

In spite of what the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) said about heavy traffic, everybody agrees that there is at present far too much heavy traffic on the roads. It is not a case of an occasional heavy lorry, perhaps travelling through Truro, though the last time I was in Truro there was plenty of heavy traffic passing through it. The difficulty arises when one finds heavy traffic driving in convoys.

Everyone will agree that a good deal of this traffic ought to be diverted to the railways. I have in my hands a quotation from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he made his first raid upon the Road Fund in 1926. He said that he was doing it partly in order to help the railways. In those days the railways were privately owned and, therefore, it was all right for a Conservative Government to help them. Because of the time I will not read the quotation.

A great problem is getting more and more traffic from the roads on to the railways. Road traffic has developed to its present extent because of the importance of door-to-door delivery. We could still have door-to-door delivery if we had a new bogie on the railways. It would have to be a low bogie so that lorries could come from factories on to the bogie and be carried to their destination with the drivers. When the lorries reached their destination, they could be taken off and then make door-to-door deliveries. Far more could be done in this way to solve the problems on the roads.

The Government Amendment asks their supporters to vote for something which the Government know that they cannot and will not carry out. The Amendment says: and pledges its support for all necessary action to eliminate traffic congestion and to improve road safety. I stress the words "all necessary action" Those words are written by a Government who intend to solve these problems in this Parliament, I take it. I do not doubt that the House will support action. It may support action to help to eliminate traffic congestion, but it taxes our credulity a little too much to say that the House should support all necessary action to eliminate traffic congestion I do not doubt that the Government have good intentions, but unless they are prepared to take more drastic action and adopt more realistic planning we can look to the future only in a mood of extreme pessimism.

7.16 p.m.

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

I have listened to some excellent speeches by experts tonight. I am not an expert. I am simply a pedestrian who uses a car, or a car driver who occasionally walks, or rather more often walks than not. When I do that I am not even a politician. I am an ordinary pedestrian and an ordinary motorist.

I want to speak for about four minutes about my own reactions when 1 am driving a car. It has appeared from the speeches that very naturally the motorist always appears to be the villain of the piece. It is natural that he should be hit very hard when he is wrong, but we should be very careful that we do not regard all motorists as potential criminals.

How many accidents are caused through real exasperation on the part of motorists? We must not forget that British motorists have an extremely good record compared with the rest of Europe, but we must not be complacent about it. Compared with Germany, France and many other countries, taking account of the mileage of roads, the number of cars on them and the number of accidents, our accident rate compares very favourably with other countries. We should be proud of that, but certainly not complacent, because there must be great improvement.

I will tell the House something about what I mean by the exasperation which motorists experience. First, generally speaking, there is an over-statement on signposts. One comes across a signpost indicating great danger. One is told to go slow, perhaps to reduce to 25 or even 15 miles an hour. Then one finds that the cause of this was a cart which the council had there but was removed two or three days before and the notice has been left up. There is not a motorist in the Chamber who has not experienced that.

Secondly, when there is a cause for slowing down which is rightly notified there is seldom a notice to say when the motorist can resume his normal speed. In this connection we might learn a little from what happens on the Continent, particularly in France, where they are much more exact with their notices. If one is told that something is dangerous and one has to go slow, one jolly well has to go slow, otherwise one is for the high jump, because it is dangerous not to.

In this country, how many notices warning motorists to slow down to 15 or even 5 miles an hour are necessary? Only a tiny percentage of them are obeyed. Perhaps 1 in 1,000 motorists reduce speed to 5 m.p.h. when a notice warns them to do so. It is a great mistake for notices to be put up which no one will obey.

My final moan about notices concerns the most irritating notice of them all, namely, the one which says when one reaches the obstruction, "You have been warned." This is irritating, because what good can that notice do to anyone? The motorist has either seen the notice or he has not. If he ends up in the ditch, it does no good to anyone if he wakes up out of this swoon and reads that he has been warned. It does not even save a pedestrian. I know this is not a Ministry responsibility but perhaps a local authority responsibility or even a constructor's responsibility, but I do ask the Government and the Ministry to try to exercise their powers, and they have very considerable powers, to try to clean up these very stupid notices on the roads and make them more effective.

My last point is simply to say that the new double lines which we have now are extremely good, but they ought to be watched and studied again, because they have only recently been put down and many of them are in the wrong places. The double line in the wrong place or a crossing line in the wrong place is far more dangerous than no line at all.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

In the last few minutes of this curtailed debate, I wish to take only two minutes. The Minister, quite clearly, when he opened the debate, in the words of the bard, said that he spoke for England and also for Wales, but not one word after that did we hear about his proposals regarding the road programme for Wales.

In the Queen's Speech, we read of the Government's intentions to press forward with their policy of building new highways and improving existing roads. Only last week, I was driving through Newport. I had not been through that town for quite a long time, and I was appalled at the deterioration in the traffic situation there during the last year. I should like to know from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary about any plans which he has for Newport in the near future.

The other problem is that of the bottleneck in my constituency at Port Talbot, and, indeed, the prosperity of South Wales, and of south-west Wales in particular, is dependent on the present road link existing between the West and East of Wales. I mentioned this bottleneck on the 3rd November last year, but the points I raised in that speech have not yet been answered. As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows, there are two schemes proposed to deal with this bottleneck. It is not a constituency point, but one which affects the prosperity of South Wales generally, and industry in that part of Wales.

On the other scheme, the Minister informed me the other day, work has now been started, and it is a pointer to the slowness of the Government's action that approval was given for this scheme as far hack as 1957. Since that time, there have been interminable delays, and I agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) that something should be done to deal with the legal difficulties in acquiring land, and the speeding up of these procedures. I should like a specific answer from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary indicating when the outer part of the scheme for Port Talbot, which has now been started, will be completed.

My second point is about local industries. Traffic increases at a rate of 10 per cent. every year, and by 1965 there will be in Port Talbot, on the completion of the outer scheme, an even worse bottleneck in the town than there is today. Indeed, the local authorities as far back as May of last year asked the Minister's predecessor to give his support to the inner scheme, and his reply was that the inner scheme for the town must remain in abeyance until after the election because the Minister did not think he should take a decision which would commit a future Administration. I should like to know now from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary what are the Government's plans regarding the inner scheme for Port Talbot. My third and last point is about the Severn Bridge. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) asked a Question of the Minister regarding the Forth Bridge and the Severn Bridge, and the answer was that the Forth Bridge was first to be completed. We were originally informed that there was to be a phased programme between the Forth Bridge and the Severn Bridge. Will the Severn Bridge be started before the Forth Bridge is complete? At the end of his answer yesterday, the Minister said that work on the Severn Bridge cannot start until the necessary funds are available. The Minister has talked about money. Are we to expect that there will be difficulty about starting the Severn Bridge for lack of funds? 1 should like to have specific answers to the questions I have raised.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Wilfred Proudfoot (Cleveland)

I am delighted to be called so soon after the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn), who came out with the idea, which is absolutely fantastic and one which I could not support in any event, of banning the private motorist from the centres of towns. This is an absolutely ridiculous idea, and 1 want to try to tell the hon. Member and the House what I think will happen within the next ten or fifteen years. In fact, I am one of the people who want to try to make it happen.

Politicians suddenly realise at one point in a country's development that they have traffic congestion. I want to make it clear that the Government will not cure traffic congestion and neither will the party opposite, until we have saturation of car ownership. I know that the party opposite might try to nationalise the motor car industry, and that would help to alleviate congestion for a while, but let me say Why I believe that the Minister could try to carry out this task single handed. I believe that private enterprise will do far more to relieve traffic congestion than any Government can. I do not understand the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde when he says that we should ban oars from the towns.

Mr. Blackburn

No. I did not say that we should ban cars from the towns. I said we should ban them from certain selected areas in town centres.

Mr. Proudfoot

That is precisely the point that I want to deal with, because I would not want to see this happen. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the shopkeepers. I will tell him what will happen, in spite of the efforts of any Government of either complexion. Shopping centres will be built on the outskirts of towns, and these are the reasons why that will happen. We see our towns congested with traffic which goes to the centre, but we cannot imagine that the private enterprise shopkeeper will continue to sit in the middle of the town, where his customers cannot Teach him while the traffic gets worse all the time. They will do precisely what the Americans have done—move their shops on to the outskirts of the towns. The largest shopping centre which I saw in America had car parking space for 18,000 cars provided by private enterprise, and I am completely convinced that this will be the pattern of the future.

Congestion is created by people who park their cars near the shops in the centres of towns because there are not enough car parks. But the amount of money needed to create car parks in the centres of towns would be staggering.

I wish to put to my right hon. Friend one idea which I think could be carried out within the next few days, or, at any rate, very soon, and that is that he should make it possible for shops to stay open longer in the centres of towns. This is a simple thing to do, without spending a penny.

Mr. Manuel

Who pays the overtime?

Mr. Proudfoot

I could take up that argument for a long time, and give the hon. Gentleman every answer there is on that subject.

It amazes me to see great blocks of offices and new shops being built in towns, and being advertised with a great deal of "hoo-ha "about having car parking for 20 cars. In one case, a building is to be erected over a tube station in this town which will have car parking for 450 cars, but I can visualise the day when the cleaners will come in 450 cars to clean the building. This is absolutely ineffective. We must take the car parks and the shopping centres to the periphery of the towns.

I plead with my right hon. Friend to enlist the aid of town planning, because I fear that when people try to establish shopping centres on the periphery of towns the town planners will try to stop them. That would be extremely shortsighted. I feel that the local authorities will immediately try to stop such a scheme, because they will try to defend their rateable value in the centre of their towns, since the rateable values on the outskirts are much lower.

If I may take one town as a perfect example of this congestion, it would be the city which you, Mr. Speaker, formerly represented, where the shopkeepers in the centre of the town have found that their turnover has dropped because of traffic congestion. This has nothing to do with politics, but it is something that will happen irrespective of the actions of politicians of either side. The idea that we, as politicians, can spend our way out of this congestion is, I believe, completely erroneous. Let private enterprise retailers be given planning permission when they seek to go to the periphery of the towns. We must never think of stopping people going in their private cars to the centres of our towns.

Finally, I should like to quote to the House a slogan that I read a few months ago. It is quite a simple one, and every motorist should know of it. It is, "Don't die defending your right of way."

7.30 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Proudfoot) will appreciate that I do not intend to follow him in whatever it was that he was trying to say because, frankly, I could not follow him. My only comment is that Sir John Elliot, a former president of the N.U.R., who has probably forgotten a good deal more about transport than any of us will ever know, suggested many years ago that cars should be kept outside of the cities. I think that that will come.

This debate has once again thrown the spotlight on our traffic problems, and three factors should govern the Minister's thinking. There is the physical limitation of the country, and the size of its population. There is the fact that 25 per cent. of all traffic is carried by only 1 per cent. of the roads, and that 60 per cent. of all traffic is carried by 10 per cent. of the roads. And there are the seven great conurbations. It is in those factors that he will find the key to solving the traffic problem.

In our cities it is not so much a question of the amount of money required for the work, but of the money that the country is losing in congestion of industrial transport, in transport, in lost tempers, and in petrol. When one thinks of the cost of the resultant wastage—over £200 million—even the proposed increased expenditure announced by the Minister will be seen not to measure up to the size of the problem.

I was one of the unfortunate victims when travelling through Doncaster on Saturday last. On what is a somewhat rare occasion, I had my wife and family here for a week, and I took them back North by road. Never in all my experience as a motorist on the Continent have I ever had to suffer anything like that; three hours to get north of Doncaster, overheated engines, policemen running up and down asking motorists to close up.

These are the effects of the inaction of the Government over a period—and let this be noted—of over nine years in office. No longer can they hold this side of the House responsible for many of the present shortcomings. It is not now a question of comparing what was done by this Government with the actions of previous Governments—or with the Government of two or three years ago. The fair comparison lies in the question: what are we spending on roads? What materials and manpower are we devoting to the road programme in comparison with other countries? I do not want to enter into details, although the Observer has quoted figures to show that Germany is spending 3.15 per cent. of her national income on roads, and that the percentage in America is 2.08—while Britain spends 0.66 per cent. and has no plans for a significant increase.

I have been desperately anxious that the Minister should look at a pedestrian-crossings experiment carried out in Glasgow with four-light controlled junctions. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to note that that was done in 1947—thirteen years ago—and I understand that the experiment has also been carried out in Birmingham, Liverpool and London. The experiment consisted simply of eliminating the amber light following the red light, and retaining the amber light following the green light. Its purpose, of course, was to stop the fellow who drives to shoot through—as he is enitled to do—before the green light appears on the other side, although this experiment was successful. I understand that the Minister has refused to give it any permanency, and I must ask him to look at it and to let us know whether he will do something about it.

There is also the problem of drunken drivers, to which the Minister really must pay attention. Hon. Members have already spoken of the difficulties facing the sober driver. The sober driver certainly needs all his faculties, but the person who deliberately soaks himself in alcohol, and then thinks that he is capable—or is encouraged by the taking of the alcohol to think that he is more capable—of driving his car, is a potential murderer.

There is no point in replying that we have greater numbers of cars. In Scotland, the number of cases of drunken driving or of being drunk in charge increased by 18 per cent. in 1959, but the increase in the number of licensed vehicles was only 8 per cent. There are some remarkable figures. There were 800 such cases in 1939, 1,600 in 1955 and 3,000 in 1959—a shocking state of affairs. The Glasgow police have instituted a urine test for these cases, and I hope that the Minister will see whether the procedure followed there cannot be adopted south of the Border.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South East)

This is a very important subject, and I think that we can agree on both sides of the House that it has been well worth having this debate today. It is also a very timely debate because, as the House rises for the Summer Recess, many millions of people will set off on our roads. Some will be in their own cars, some on bicycles and motor cycles, some in buses, but all will be greatly affected by the shortage of roads.

This is, in fact, the first debate we have had on the road programme, as, such, since the right hon. Gentleman became Minister of Transport. I think I can say that no hon. Member in this House is content or could be content with the road situation. We have had many speeches from that side—more friendly, perhaps, than those from this side of the Chamber—but from Scotland, Wales, London, Southampton—from every part of the country we have had complaint of what we know to be perfectly true, which is that the country suffers from an inadequate road system.

I believe that the facts justify this Motion of censure, and if we ale gentle in it, it is partly because we share with the Minister the feeling that the country faces an enormous problem. Frankly, we put down the Motion, in part, one might say, to help the right hon. Gentleman in his fight with the Cabinet which he knows is necessary. It is a stern fight. In fact, if this debate were to end in a secret ballot I would not be surprised to find the Minister voting with us.

Our case is very simple. It is that there is no absolute way of measuring the success of the roads programme. It can be measured only against the problem of road congestion, and that is why comparative figures as between now and the past really get us nowhere, because the number of cars has increased. We all know that the massive irritations of the ordinary worker waiting for the bus in the rain to get to and from his work, coupled with the real threat of break down at Christmas time, Bank holidays, and so on, constitute nothing short of a transport crisis. I do not want to over dramatise things, hut it would be hard to put it more mildly.

It is important to remember that this is not just a problem of the motor car. It is a problem of a technological revolution that has outdated our existing transport system. It is not just that motor cars have come in, but that all means of communication have undergone revolutionary technical changes. In the long sweep of history, when the economic historians come to write about the work of this Government and, indeed, of this generation, we shall be judged not purely by our approach to the motor car but by whether we in Britain modernised our transport system in time to take advantage of the benefits that flow from modernisation.

We are, therefore, discussing today—and I hope the House as a whole and the Minister in particular will remember it—the modernisation of the British Transport system. It is not enough to build more roads alone. We must see that we make the best use of all the transport facilities that are available to the Government. We believe on this side of the House that a target like that, namely, the modernisation of British transport in all its aspects calls for a very substantial increase in investment. From the other side we have had the argument of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster)—I do not blame him; it is a familiar Government back bench argument—who attacked us on the ground that we wanted to spend money and that the public would not stomach it. He misunderstands the temper of the public.

Mr. Webster


Mr. Benn

If I am doing him an injustice, I will give way.

Mr. Webster

I did not say that the public would not stomach it and I did not say that we should not spend money. I said that first of all we had to find out how the money should be spent, and I thought that £300 million was too much to spend immediately.

Mr. Benn

Finding out how the money should be spent costs money, and this has not been done, which is why we do not know how to spend it, which is one of the reasons why we have tabled this Motion of censure.

One of the biggest factors that help us in our Motion of censure is that the public's attitude to transport is altering. The public enjoys a rising living standard, and, as living standards rise, people travel more. They travel more to and from work. Indeed, they look upon travel not just as a means of getting to and from work but as a means of enjoying their leisure time and their holidays. People want better transport, and they are prepared to pay for it.

There is ample evidence of this to be found if we look at the figures. People who used to go on foot now go on a moped. People who used to go by bus now go in their own bubble cars. People who used to go by train have switched over to the air. There are eight B.E.A. Viscount aircraft flying from London to Manchester every day in each direction because people are switching from train to air travel. People switch from public to private forms of transport, and in every case they are paying more for their transport in pursuit of greater comfort and convenience. The first lesson that the Government should learn is that the public want a better service in all respects and they are prepared to pay for it.

Just as the public's attitude to transport has altered, as individual passengers, so the industrial use of transport has altered in recent years. Years ago industry regarded transport as a way of getting its raw materials to the factory and moving its finished products to the market. But now transport is integrated into the process of production far more intimately than ever it was before. A firm which is building some complicated piece of machinery will be relying upon its transport to move in the spare parts at the right moment and to take its products for packaging at the right moment. The whole of the factory manager's operations depend upon a reliable transport service.

Similarly, with a transport system integrated into the production line of modern factories, we can explain not only the greater use of transport by industry but the switch from rail to road and also the increase in the number of C licences. In both cases—the increase in C licences and the switch from rail to road—there is an indication that industry wants a better service than it has got, and is prepared to pay for it. The lesson to be drawn from this we shall come to in a moment. But it is more than that.

This technological revolution is altering the whole structure of our urban life, and it would be a mistake to think that the only problem which faces the right hon. Gentleman is when Mr. Jones buys a car. When Mr. Jones decides to move out of London because he can afford to pay a higher fare, he is creating a transport problem by his decision to move: or when the big corporation puts up an office block it is creating a transport problem because it is acting as a magnet attracting working people in the morning and expelling them at night. When the shopkeeper moves his shop he is creating a demand for transport, which is the real problem that confronts this country.

The fact is that although we welcome Mr. Buchanan's appointment to the Ministry of Transport, the Minister knows that he is not consulted when an office block is put up. He is not consulted when housing development takes place or when the basic decisions which are taken in the community and affect his office are taken.

Mr. Proudfoot

The hon. Member has referred to the customer creating a need for transport. I would like him to consider this point. If a person is living in the suburbs and goes to the centre of a town to do his shopping he does so on a congested road. When he gets there he may have to spend ten minutes or half an hour looking for a car park. Consider the matter from the other angle. A person living on the outskirts of a town can go to the shops in five minutes. Look at the difference in road usage between the five minutes required to get to the shops on the outskirts of the town and the time taken to find car parking space in the town.

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the whole point. If a shop moves out, it does not only take the customers with it. It means that the delivery of goods has to go out. The goods may come from the other side of the town. It means that the products going into the shop and the people working in the shop have to undergo some rearrangement. The decision to move a shop affects the transport policy of the Government, and the Ministry of Transport is not consulted.

Now we come to the question of road accidents. With an annual figure of 6,500 dead and a quarter of a million injured on the roads, we now face another Bank Holiday horror weekend which will lead to the most appalling suffering on the roads. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that he has not caught up with this problem. If 80 people travel in an aircraft, the Government take a tremendous interest in the safety side. They decide whether that type of aircraft should be built at all. Then they give it an airworthiness certificate. The pilot's health is checked; the safety of the airfield is checked, and the lives of those 80 people are guarded by legislation, regulation and by Parliament. But when those 80 people who have travelled together land at an airfield and then leave in 80 cars, nobody cares whether they can see properly. There is no medical test although, moving from the aircraft where they were all together, to the road where they are separate, the likelihood of accidents is multiplied 80 times. But Parliament has not thought it proper to legislate in as great detail for the 80 motorists as they have for the one pilot who takes 80 people in an aircraft.

This is the big challenge which was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) and others. Parliament must show that travel is a social act and not an individual act, and the nation has the right to see that the vehicles, the health of the drivers, the character of the roads and the style of driving are a matter of public policy.

I now turn to the Motion. It is our main charge against the Government—there are many charges in this Motion—that the Government have no coordinated transport policy. I give one simple example. The Ministry of Civil Aviation subsidises our airfields to the extent of £10 million a year and thus enables B.E.A. to compete favourably with British Railways in transporting people to Scotland. What possible sense does that make in terms of transport policy? To give another example, the Victoria Tube, which would relieve congestion in London and would be a form of expenditure which could be undertaken at once, is postponed again and again by the Minister, from committee to committee, and there is no likelihood of an immediate decision on that project. We only say, looking around at the problems of transport today, that many of the faults lie not with the Transport Commission or the local authorities or any other scapegoat which the Minister has found. The responsibility for important decisions lies with the Minister, and he is not taking them.

Our main point in this debate is to argue that the road programme is too small. Britain has the highest density of cars on the roads in the world, and there is a new vehicle going on to the roads every 10 seconds of the working day. This is not merely a case of acceleration of the rate of traffic; the rate of acceleration itself is accelerating. The Government encourage this. There have been many speeches—the Prime Minister at the Motor Show and the Parliamentary Secretary at the Road Haulage Association. They associate themselves with this increase in motor traffic. The simple fact is that, although they have encouraged the growth in the number of vehicles, they have not kept up with the needs of the community.

I do not want to go over all the figures of construction again, but there is that figure which interests me most, the figure which takes into account the rise in the number of vehicles and the rise in the national income, so that we may measure whether we are doing as much as we should. It is the figure which I call the road index, which reveals the road expenditure per million vehicles as a percentage of the national income, thus bringing into account the amount of money, the national income and the number of cars.

If one takes this figure, one finds that in 1946 the percentage was 0.22. In 1958, it was 0.1 per cent. Thus, we see that road expenditure per million vehicles as a percentage of the gross national income is half today what it was in the years immediately after the war. This is so, despite the increased expenditure which the Minister has indicated. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman is walking slowly up a down escalator that is moving fast. He is not succeeding in making any progress at all.

We do not want to make the debate a personal one, but I am a little disappointed by the right hon. Gentleman. He was the rising hope of the new Government of October, 1959. First, we have the Tory manifesto which said: Over the next five years, it"— that is to say, the road programme— will be twice as big as over the last five". Then after the election there was issued by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who looks after Government propaganda, a biography of the new Minister of Transport. On the back page of it—I got it from the Library—I read: Mr. Marples is among the most energetic and athletic Members of the House of Commons. His day begins at 6 a.m. This is official, issued by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I do not wish to exaggerate. There are other people who get up at 6 o'clock. Anyway, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman does, too.

As I say, I do not wish to exaggerate, but I think that there was a little flurry of excitement when the right hon. Gentleman first came to the House on 4th November last year, making his first appearance as Minister of Transport. Appropriately enough, the first Question about the road programme came from the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). He is the best person to know, one would think, because, since he has three cars, he can be in three separate traffic jams at the same time. It was he who wanted to know whether the road programme would be increased. The Minister said that he was looking into it.

We let the right hon. Gentleman off until 3rd February. Then, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) asked him again about the road programme, to which the reply came that the whole programme was undergoing review. On 4th May, my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) asked him about the programme, and all the Minister said was that he was completing the programme which his predecessor bad announced. On 18th May, I asked him whether he would make it a five-year programme, and, to my astonishment, he replied: No. I think it would be undesirable to announce detailed plans a long way ahead.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1960; Vol. 623, c. 114.] On 25th May, a Member of the Liberal Party asked the Minister whether he thought he was authorising enough. The Minister's reply was: I am satisfied that there is an adequate number of schemes in—if I may be permitted to use the phrase—in the pipe line".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th May, 1960; Vol. 624, c. 438.] On 23rd June, we had the announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that investment was to be kept at the same level as in the previous year. Worst of all, we now have the return of the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), that bird of ill omen, or, as the Prime Minister called him, that "little local difficulty", who now joins the Government Front Bench. That is the background against which we are considering the Minister's speech today.

First, where does the money come from? Shall we have an assurance tonight that it is not to come from the railway modernisation programme? If it is to come from that, this will be no increase in transport investment at all. Is it authorisation or is it spending? Is it a new programme or just putting a date on the old programme that never had a date in it before? Does it mean that the new roads which are built will have six lanes, or shall we build roads which the Minister himself said are really not quite wide enough? Even if all these things are right, the local authorities, with their 6 per cent. Bank Rate, will have some ground to be made up for them as a result of other aspects of Government policy. We do not believe that a £12 million increase next year—even if it meets all these arguments we are raising now—which amounts to only 24s. worth of road extra per vehicle next year, will really solve the problem of traffic congestion.

As a boy at school, listening to the stories of Tudor England, I often wondered to myself what would have happened if Sir Francis Drake had missed the Armada as a result of his game of bowls. Now I see the right hon. Gentleman I know. The right hon. Gentleman with his bicycling, his safety belts, his hovercraft and so forth, will be judged according to whether or not he meets the armada of oncoming motor cars. If he does not do what is required, then, of course, no amount of victories in the House of Commons will save him from the rage of the British public.

In this Motion tonight, we do not confine ourselves entirely to critical comment. We have introduced a positive plan. We say that what is required is a twenty-year programme based on scientific study, with the expenditure necessary for it, to tackle, first of all, the problems of urban congestion. We say that that is what is required, and we call for a long-term, comprehensive plan, and I am now filling in the details for the right hon. Gentleman. We argue that we should and could benefit greatly by foreign experience in this matter.

We have had today many examples of problems of actual construction with which I wanted to deal but for which there is no time now. In any case, it was dealt with very adequately by my hon. Friends from Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) and others, who pointed out that it is a long way from announcing a programme to carry it out. The low authorisation figures there have been in recent months indicate that it is not at all certain that the money announced today will be sufficient.

We argue, therefore, that money for research, for land and for public transport is an essential part of a long-term comprehensive programme. Although we have not a Civil Service to help us, we have been asked to indicate how much we think should be invested in order to carry through this technological revolution in transport. The answer is that one has to relate it to needs; one cannot be absolutely certain. The Road Research Board has indicated that it should be three times the level now being spent. The Germans are spending more than three times that amount, and there is very strong evidence, sufficient to convince the House, I believe, that the Government's programme should be stopped up to a comparable extent.

The real problem of the Minister, of course, is that he agrees with me. He would like this sort of programme. He knows it is necessary. But, of course, he has to get it through the Cabinet, and it is very difficult to convince a Prime Minister with Victorian tastes that it is necessary to introduce a twentieth century programme. I have done a little research on an argument which, I hope, will help the right hon. Gentleman in the Cabinet in getting his programme through. The Prime Minister, we know, is a Victorian. He likes Trollope. He likes his Foreign Secretary to be in another place. He has those habits which endear him to the Conservative Party Women's Conference. He must be won round by a Victorian example.

Between 1846 and 1850, years which will be familiar to the Prime Minister, this country spent three times as much on its railway development programme as we are spending on our road programme now. Under Peel and Lord John Russell, investment in modernisation was at a far greater rate than what we have now. This, of course, is one of the reasons why the British industrial revolution enabled us to lead the world and take advantage of the export markets of the world.

I invite the House to consider the question of transport at the highest level, as the modernisation of one of our basic industries in this country. I see, and I think my right hon. and hon. Friends likewise see, in the Government's policy towards transport a perfect illustration of the defects which are present also in the Government's economic policy generally. First of all, there is their studied refusal to plan. In 1945, the pioneers of planning were the Labour Government, and the country did not really agree with them. The situation is quite different now. Everyone wants planning, except the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends. Conservative local authorities want planning. The Royal Institute of British Architects wants planning. Everyone wants planning, but the Government refuse to plan.

Second, we see in the Government's approach an extraordinary distortion between public expenditure and private expenditure. The fact of the matter is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley said, we all pay the congestion tax. We all pay because of accidents. But the Government are not prepared to invest the money necessary to give us a road system free from congestion. There is today chronic under-investment in this country.

We believe that, if the matter is put fairly to the British people and they are asked whether they are prepared to pay for a modernised transport system, there will be no doubt whatever about their answer. The motor car is useless without the roads. The C licence lorry is useless if it is held up. Everybody wants a transport system in accordance with the needs of the time. Only the Government can give this leadership. No one else can build the roads. We cannot go out and do it ourselves.

We believe that the Motion only anticipates public demand, and, whether the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends win the division or not, this is the case which before the bar of British public opinion they will one day have to answer.

8.0 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

We are now concluding one of the customarily agreeable debates which we have in the House on transport matters. The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has made one of his customarily agreeable speeches. I am glad that he has emphasised the long-term nature of the problem on our roads which we have to face. It is because we in the Government appreciate that this is a long-term problem that we have been in a position to announce today a substantial expansion of the road programme, details of which I will come to shortly. Before I do so, I should like to say something about some of the other matters which have been discussed.

There has been a good deal of discussion on road safety. The Motion is drawn widely enough to have enabled a debate on road safety matters. Several hon. Members have emphasised the necessity of speedy action to deal with the growing social menace of the drunken driver. Other hon. Members have emphasised the necessity for an improvement in driving standards. As my right hon. Friend said, he and I and several people associated with us have tried in our own way by taking the advanced motorists' test to set an example. I hope that other hon. Members will do the same. It has been suggested that it is time we had a look at the penalties for various kinds of driving offences and that these should be stiffened and, in the some cases, made much more severe and sharper.

All these matters are under the closest consideration at this moment. I do not use that expression in the way it is sometimes used in this House as being a subject which the Government have under general consideration but about which they do not propose to do very much. When I say that it is "under the closest consideration", I mean just that. My right hon. Friend said, although he could not be bound to it, that he hoped to introduce legislation on road safety in the next Session of Parliament. In our consideration of this matter we will certainly pay the closest attention to the suggestions made by hon. Members today.

Another theme which has run through the debate has been the necessity for taking account of all the diverse forms of transport. There has been a good deal of talk about the undesirability of clogging the roads with traffic while our railways are not paying their way. This raises the acute issue which we are trying to face, namely, whether we should artificially divert traffic from road to rail. As I understand it, it is the belief of many hon. Members opposite that, somehow, this should be done. That is not our view at all. We are I think fortified in our belief that an artificial diversion of this kind would be wrong by the realisation of what is happening. If it is cheaper for a manufacturer or trader to send his goods by rail, then he will certainly do so. The fact that goods are sent by road instead of by rail is an indication that traders and manufacturers think that it is more efficient and more economical to use the roads rather than the railways.

I believe that it would be quite wrong for us to try artificially to introduce some kind of diversion to persuade or to direct people to use the railways rather than the roads. After all, this is a free country. This is a country which runs on a money economy. We do not intend to interfere with the normal working of economic processes. What we want to see is a highly modernised road system and a highly modernised railway system. Let a person take his choice of the two in transporting his goods.

I now come to the road programme itself. I think that I have said already that this is the sixth major debate which we have had on roads and traffic since this Session began. I do not think that anyone can deny that the general interest, both in this House and outside, has been largely turned towards roads and traffic matters. The road programme, which, basically, we are debating, is, I think, something of which the Government have every reason to be proud.

A number of comparisons have been made in the debate about the amount of money we are spending on the road programme compared with what is being spent in countries abroad. Comparisons of this kind are not only odious, but are also misleading. In making a comparison between what two countries spend on a particular thing, everything depends upon what the base is from which the comparison is made.

For example, if one were to make a comparison between a country like our own, which is highly developed, and a country which is completely undeveloped, like Afghanistan or somewhere like that, one would make the whole thing completely meaningless. The same thing applies when one makes a comparison between this country and other industrialised countries. The fact is that this is a small island which is highly developed, has a large population for its area and has had for many years a very close network of roads such as does not exist in any other country in Europe.

Although we may complain, and I think that many people are right in complaining, that our roads are by no means perfect and need a great deal of improvement—this is something on which I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East—the fact is that our road system is not as bad as all that. It is true that many of our roads are narrow and winding, but the surfacing and general condition of them are better than those in any other country in Europe and, I understand, better than many of those in the United States. We do not start from a situation in which our road network is both inadequate and useless. We start with a highly developed road network which we are seeking to improve.

I now want to say something about the Government's road building record. First, let me deal with the old programme which is being overtaken by the new one announced by my right hon. Friend. Even without the prospects of an expenditure of £76 million in 1961–62, and of £88 million in 1962–63 which my right hon. Friend announced this afternoon, the growth of Government expenditure on the road programme over the past half decade has been impressive. Whereas, up to 1954, expenditure for the whole of Great Britain seldom went above £4 million a year on new construction and major improvements, and even on occasion fell below that, by 1955–56 expenditure was £9 million.

Since then expenditure has gone up year by year. In 1956–57, it was £15 million; in 1957–58, £26½ million; in 1958–59, £50½ million; in 1959–60, £63½ million; and in the current year it is estimated at £75½ million. These are figures for Great Britain as a whole. I therefore do not think that the Motion is altogether justified in criticising and condemning the Government for their failure to tackle this problem adequately.

What about the future? Let me turn to what is being done now and what we are planning to do in the months and years which lie ahead. My right hon. Friend has been responsible for transport matters since the end of October. The House might like to know that, in the ten months during which my right hon. Friend has been Minister, 12 new roads have been opened, 25 road and bridge schemes have been started and 18 new schemes have been approved for grant. These schemes are all over the £100,000 mark.

That is a very good record. My right hon. Friend would be the first to say that he does not wish to take the credit for work done by his predecessors, but this has all been done by the same Government. This is not only what has been done by my right hon. Friend, but is what has been done by the Government who are attacked in the Motion. We are not doing too badly at the moment, but we want to do better.

Let me turn to the future. I do not think that in the hurly-burly of debate hon. Members fully understood exactly what we were proposing. In financial terms, my right hon. Friend's announcement of an expanded programme involves an increase in Government expenditure on the road programme in England and Wales from £65 million this year to £76 million in 1961–62 and £88 million in 1962–63. This is the road programme proper, the major works and major improvements.

Government expenditure on classified roads for planning purposes—these expenditures take the form of grants to local highway authorities—is now set at £150 million over the five-year period which will begin in 1961–62. Government expenditure on classified roads in the current year will be £16 million. By the end of the five-year period, annual expenditure by the Government on classified roads will have risen to almost three times that figure.

My right hon. Friend announced a five-year expenditure programme for classified roads. He said that it is planned substantially to complete the five major projects and at least to start the London-Yorkshire motorway during the next five or six years. We have had regard in all this to the necessity for forward planning. Planning, at one time, became almost a dirty word and we are now getting away from that. [Interruption.] Perhaps it was what the party opposite did that made it so and not what we had to say about it. In the implementation of this new programme, we intend to ensure that people, and particularly local highway authorities in their schemes, can plan ahead. They now know, and will know in the years to come, exactly where they stand.

It is quite wrong to regard what we are doing on the roads as being measured by the road programme alone. I was quickly instructed by the Ministry of Transport officials, when I first became responsible for these matters, that there was a vast amount of other expenditure than the road programme proper. There is, for example, the big category of what we call maintenance and minor improvements—M. and M.I., to use the jargon. This year and, probably, for a number of years ahead, this is running at a rate of £30 to £35 million and this is on top of the road programme proper.

Over and above that, there is the amount of money spent by the local authorities. On classified roads, they match what we are spending with contributions of their own. In 1958ߝ59, they spent £50 million on new construction and major improvements and on maintenance and minor improvements. On the new programme announced this afternoon, it is expected that local authority expenditure will rise to £56 million in 1961–62 and to £58 million in 1962–63.

Therefore, to sum up on the road programme itself, on this new basis Her Majesty's Government next year will be providing £76 million for the road programme. They will be providing about £34 million for maintenance and minor improvements. The local authorities will be spending £56 million, making a total for next year of £166 million. In 1962–63, the following year, the money provided by the Government will be £88 million, M. and M.I. provided by the Government will be £34 million and local authority expenditure will rise to £58 million, making a total in 1962–63 of £180 million. We are thus getting a little closer to the figure of £300 million a year which has been put to us by the Opposition Front Bench, a figure with which I hope to deal if I have time before I sit down.

We are entitled to say that we are now well on the way to fulfilling the pledge that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East flung in our teeth just now, the pledge that we made in the Conservative Party manifesto at the last General Election, when we said. Our road programme is already the biggest we have ever had in this country. Over the next five years, it will be twice as big as over the past five years. That is what we said and that is what we are doing.

It is said by the party opposite that that is quite inadequate. This debate is about two sorts of priorities, national priorities and the priority inside the road programme itself. Looking at the national priorities, it is quite easy to say that we should spend far more on the roads. A figure of £300 million has been mentioned. It might just as easily have been a figure of £400 million or£500 million.

The amount of money that we are spending on roads must be viewed against the other claims by other spending Departments. For example, in the current year, as can be seen from the Civil Estimates, we are spending £612 million on the health services, £586 million on pensions and National Insurance, £877 million on various grants to local services like education, police, housing, the general grant, and so on, and £1,618 million on defence. All these are demands made by other Departments of State and are demands which, perhaps not all, but certainly many, hon. Members opposite and many hon. Members on this side would be anxious about if any cuts were made.

The question therefore arises of how to fit all this in. We believe that we have got the figure about right. It is not only the money that counts. It is all very well to talk of money, but even if we were to turn on a tap and a limitless flow of money came out and we could provide as much money as we wished for our roads, that alone does not build the roads. Many other factors have to be taken into account—for example, the availability of materials, road-making machinery and—this is an appalling problem to our road programme at the moment—the availability of labour of all kinds.

Mr. Willis

That does not apply in Scotland.

Mr. Hay

The hon. Member will find, I believe, that the figures are much the same in Scotland for this type of construction.

Finally, we have to take into account the problems of acquiring the land. I have said that this is a small island. We live in a crowded community. When we want to build a road it takes a long time to go through the processes before the first piece of earth can be turned. There are all sorts of statutory impediments that Parliament has placed in our way. Unless and until Parliament says legislatively that we shall have power to ride roughshod over individuals, and acquire property without regard to hardship or to compensation, we shall still be unable to get on with the road programme as quickly as we would like.

Very often, when hon. Members complain about delay and slowness in road schemes being completed, it is not due to the fact that money has not been available. It is the fact that we have not been able to get access to the land in time and have not been able to get

the line properly drawn because of the volume of objections from people who do not like their land being taken or affected in matters of this kind.

I believe that the House wishes to divide, but I should like, in conclusion, to say this. I hope that on further consideration not only of what we have done, but what we are planning now to do, both in the spending of money and in showing a great deal of vigour in the months and years ahead in the whole baffling complexity of our road and traffic problems, we deserve the support of the House. Our Amendment draws attention to the fact that we are living in an expanding economy and that we are needing, as quickly as we can get them, fast and safe road communications. We draw attention to the fact that we have done well in the past, and we ask the House, with confidence, to join us in the great work which lies ahead.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 296.

Division No. 150.] AYES [8.21 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dempsey, James Houghton, Douglas
Alnsley, William Diamond, John Howell, Charles A.
Albu, Austen Dodds, Norman Hoy, James H.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Donnelly, Desmond Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Driberg, Tom Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Awbery, Stan Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter Hunter, A. E.
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Edelman, Maurice Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Beaney, Alan Edwards, Rt.Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Janner, Barnett
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas
Benn, Hn. A.Wedgwood(Brist'l,S.E.) Evans, Albert Jeger, George
Benson, Sir George Fernyhough, E Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Blackburn, F. Finch, Harold Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Blyton, William Fitch, Alan Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)
Boardman, H. Fletcher, Eric Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics. S.W.) Forman, J. C. Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)
Boyden, James Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Brockway, A. Fenner Galpern, Sir Myer Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Broughton, Dr, A. D. D. George, Lady Megan Lloyd Kelley, Richard
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Ginsburg, David Kenyon, Clifford
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Gooch, E. G. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. King, Dr. Horace
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Gourlay, Harry Lawson, George
Chapman, Donald Greenwood, Anthony Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Chetwynd, George Grey, Charles Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Cliffe, Michael Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Lipton, Marcus
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Gunter, Ray Loughlin, Charles
Crosland, Anthony Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Darling, George Hannan, William McCann, John
Davies, Rt.Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hart, Mrs. Judith MacColl, James
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hayman, F. H. McInnes, James
Davies, Harold (Leek) Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis) McKay, John (Walisend)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Herbison, Miss Margaret Mackie, John
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hill, J. (Midlothian) McLeavy, Frank
Deer, George Hilton, A. V. Mahon, Simon
de Freitas, Geoffrey Holman, Percy Mailalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Delargy, Hugh Holt, Arthur Manuel, A. C.
Mapp, Charles Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Swingler, Stephen
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H, A. Rankin, John Sylvester, George
Marsh, Richard Readhead, E. C. Symonds, J. B.
Mason, Roy Reid, William Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Mayhew, Christopher Reynolds, G. W. Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Mellish, R. J. Rhodes, H. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Mendelson J. J. Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Millan, Bruce Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Mltchison, G. R. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Thornton, Ernest
Monslow, Walter Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Tomney, Frank
Moody, A. S. Ross, William Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Morris, John Royle, Charles (Salford, West) Wainwright, Edwin
Mort, D. L. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Warbey, William
Moyte, Arthur Silverman, Julius (Aston) Weitzman, David
Mulley, Frederick Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip (Derby,S.) Skeffington, Arthur Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Oliver, G. H. Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) White, Mrs. Eirene
Oram, A. E. Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield) Whitlock, William
Oswald, Thomas Small, William Wigg, George
Owen, Will Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Willey, Frederick
Paget, R. T, Snow, Julian Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Sorensen, R. W. Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Pargiter, G. A. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Parker, John (Dagenham) Spriggs, Leslie Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Parkin, B. T. (Paddlngton, N.) Steele, Thomas Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Pavitt, Laurence Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Winterbottom, R. E.
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Stonehouse, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Peart, Frederick Stones, William Woof, Robert
Plummer, Sir Leslie Strachey, Rt. Hon, John Wyatt, Woodrow
Popplewell, Ernest Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) Zilliacus, K.
Prentice, R. E. Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith
Proctor, W. T. Swain, Thomas TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. J. Taylor and Mr. Cronin
Agnew, Sir Peter Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Crosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Aitken, W. T. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Gurden, Harold
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Cordle, John Hall, John (Wycombe)
Allason, James Corfield, F. V. Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Alport, Rt. Hon. C. J. M. Costain, A. P. Harris, Reader (Heston)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Coulson, J. M. Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Arbuthnot, John Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Harvey, Sir Arthur vere (Macclesf'd)
Ashton, Sir Hubert Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Atkins, Humphrey Critchley, Julian Harvie Anderson, Miss
Balniel, Lord Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hay, John
Barber, Anthony Crowder, F. P. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Barlow, Sir John Cunningham, Knox Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward
Batsford, Brian Curran, Charles Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Currie, G. B. H. Hendry, Forbes
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Dalkeith, Earl of Hicks Beach, MaJ. W.
Berkeley, Humphry Dance, James Hiley, Joseph
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Bidgood, John C. Deedes, W. F. Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)
Bingham, R. M. de Ferranti, Basil Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Bishop, F. P Digby, Simon Wingfiekl Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Black, Sir Cyril Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Hirst, Geoffrey
Bossom, Cllve Doughty, Charles Hobson, John
Bourne-Arton, A. Drayson, G. B. Hocking, Philip N.
Box, Donald du Cann, Edward Holland, Philip
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Duncan, Sir James Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John
Boyle, Sir Edward Duthie, Sir William Hopkins, Alan
Braine, Bernard Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hornby, R. P.
Brewis, John Elliott, R. W. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.H. Emery, Peter Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Emmett, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)
Brooman-White, R. Errington, Sir Erio Howard, John (Southampton, Test)
Browne, Peroy (Torrington) Farey-Jones, F. W. Hughes Hallett, Vlce-Admlral John
Bryan, Paul Fell, Anthony Hughes-Young, Michael
Bullard, Denys Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Hurd, Sir Anthony
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Hutchison, Michael Clark
Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Freeth, Denzil Iremonger, T. L.
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Galbralth, Hon. T. G. D. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn) Gammans, Lady Jackson, John
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Gardner, Edward James, David
Carr, Robert (Mitoham) George, J. C. (Pollok) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Cary, Sir Robert Gibson-Watt, David Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Channon, H. P. G. Glover, Sir Douglas Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Chataway, Christopher Clyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Joseph, Sir Keith
Chichester-Clark, R. Coodhart, Philip Kaberry, Sir Donald
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Goodhew, Victor Kerans, Cdr. J. S.
Cleaver, Leonard Gower, Raymond Kerby, Capt. Henry
Cole, Norman Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside) Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Coliard, Richard Green, Alan Kershaw, Anthony
Cooke, Robert Gresham Cooke, R. Kimball, Marcus
Cooper. A. E. Grimston, Sir Robert Lambton, Viscount
Leavey, J. A. Osborne, Cyril (Louth) Studholme, Sir Henry
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Page, A. J. (Harrow, West) Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Page, Graham Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Lilley, F. J. P. Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) Talbot, John E.
Lindsay, Martin Partridge, E. Tapsell, Peter
Linstead, Sir Hugh Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Litchfield, Capt. John Peel, John Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Percival, Ian Teeling, William
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Peyton, John Temple, John M.
Longbottom, Charles Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Longden, Gilbert Pike, Miss Mervyn Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Pilkington, Capt. Richard Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Pitman, I. J. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Pott, Percival Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
McAdden, Stephen Powell, J. Enoch Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
MacArthur, Ian Price, David (Eastleigh) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
McLaren, Martin Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Prior, J. M. L. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Proudfoot, Wilfred Turner, Colin
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Ramsden, James Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
McMaster, Stanley R. Rawlinson, Peter Tweedsmulr, Lady
Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Renton, David Vane, W. M. F.
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
Maginnis, John E. Ridsdale, Julian Vickers, Miss Joan
Maitland, Cdr. Sir John Rippon, Geoffrey Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Markham, Major Sir Frank Robson Brown, Sir William Wall, Patrick
Marlowe, Anthony Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)
Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Roots, William Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Marshall, Douglas Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Watts, James
Marten, Neil Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey) Webster, David
Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Russell, Ronald Wells, John (Maidstone)
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan Whitelaw, William
Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Scott-Hopkins, James Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Mawby, Ray Sharples, Richard Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Shaw, M. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Mills, Stratton Shepherd, William Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Montgomery, Fergus Simon, Sir Jocelyn Wise, A. R.
Morgan, William Skeet, T. H. H. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Morrison, John Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chlswick) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Smithers, Peter Woodhouse, C. M.
Nabarro, Gerald Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Woodnutt, Mark
Neave, Airey Spearman, Sir Alexander Woollam, John
Nicholls, Harmar Speir, Rupert Worsley, Marcus
Noble, Michael Stevens, Geoffrey Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Nugent, Sir Richard Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Stodart, J. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Mr. E. Wakefield and
Osborn, John (Hallam) Storey, Sir Samuel Colonel J. H. Harrison.

Proposed words there added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, conscious of the importance of fast and safe road communications in an expanding economy welcomes the substantial improvements already made to the British road network, notes with satisfaction the determination of Her Majesty's Government to increase and intensify their measures to deal with the problem and pledges its support for all necessary action to eliminate traffic congestion and to improve road safety.