HC Deb 25 May 1960 vol 624 cc438-40
24. Mr. Holt

asked the Minister of Transport if he will put sufficient new road schemes through all their preparatory stages, so that advantage may be immediately taken to begin construction as soon as Treasury consent is given to raise the level of annual expenditure on the building of new roads.

Mr. Marples

The size of the road programme is a matter for decision by Her Majesty's Government. I am satisfied that there is an adequate number of schemes in—if I may be permitted to use the phrase—the pipe-line.

Mr. Holt

In view of the evidence that has now come to light, that one million new cars may be on the road this year, does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that there is an increased urgency for stepping up the road programme?

Mr. Marples

Yes, Sir. That is one of the many considerations to be borne in mind. It is certainly a factor on the side of an increased road programme.

35. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that forty of the largest civil engineering companies in this country have calculated that they could undertake road work totalling£73 million a year more than they are doing at present; and when he intends to make use of this surplus capacity by negotiating a new and substantially larger programme of new road works

Mr. Marples

I would refer to the reply my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) on 26th April. I have nothing to add.

Mr. Janner

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is a deplorable situation that all the accessories are available so that £73 million worth of extra work could be done quickly whereas he is at present only doing £70 million worth a year? We are losing about £500 million a year owing to avoidable delays experienced on the roads. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to do anything at all to speed this up?

Mr. Marples

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's figures. Expenditure on new roads has increased a great deal. In 1958–59 the figure was £46 million: in 1959–60, it was £55 million; and in 1960–61, it is £65 million. Any increase in the programme must be considered in relation to all the other demands on our resources.

Mr. Benn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that half the heavy road building equipment in the country is lying idle, that there has been no statement on long-term building plans by the Government, and that the situation is getting steadily worse? In these circumstances, when can we expect him to announce plans for increased road construction in the future?

Mr. Marples

They have been announced in more comprehensive detail than ever in the past. They were never announced in this comprehensive detail by the party opposite. The programme is rising—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not fast enough."] Of course it is not rising as quickly as people would like it to, but neither is the number of schools, houses, shops and so on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Mr. Speaker

Let us have a little less noise. Then perhaps another Question may be asked.

Mr. Marples

It never will be fast enough because the one thing that the party opposite did increase was inflation of the £.

Mr. Janner

In view of the deplorably unsatisfactory reply, I beg to give notice that I shall arise this matter at the first opportunity on the Adjournment.

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