§ 37. Mr. F. Noel-Baker
asked the Minister of Transport when he will improve the procedure of his Department for advising county councils as to forthcoming grants for major road improvements on classified roads which, at present, makes it impossible for these councils to work to definite plans, and compels them to base their estimates of expenditure on guesswork; and if he will give special reconsideration to the difficulties of the Wiltshire County Council in this respect.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
Grants are authorised within the total amounts voted annually by Parliament. But I fully realise the importance of advance planning and my Department gives highway authorities the best indication possible of the likely scale of grant for some years ahead. In 1958 all highway authorities were given such an indication up to 1961. I am now considering those lists of schemes covering the next five years submitted by highway authorities at my request.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the personal interest which he has taken in this matter, and for the letter which he wrote to me yesterday on this subject, may I ask whether he is aware that in Wiltshire, in particular, very many county councillors—most of whom are his supporters rather than ours—are very unhappy indeed about this matter? The chairman of the committee concerned says that this has been a constant headache for a long time and that it is high time that the Minister got down to the question and revised his methods. Will he look at this sympathetically with a view to satisfying these people?
§ Mr. Marples
In view of their excellent political sagacity, I will do my best to satisfy them. But the basis of a highway programme must be what a local authority itself would like to do within its area. I will look at any case, if the hon. Member will send the details to me.