§ 1. Mr. A. J. Irvine
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement upon the progress of proposals for a new Mersey tunnel.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I understand that the Mersey-side local highway authorities are considering a report they have now received from the technical committee they set up to look into the need for and location of a second crossing of the River Mersey. I hope to receive proposals from the local authorities within the next few weeks.
§ Mr. Irvine
I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that there are conflicting views on this matter? It is not desired to lose the advantage of the Steering Committee having arrived at an agreed decision, but, at the same time, it is widely felt that a two-lane tunnel may be inadequate for the needs. In that situation, does the Minister acknowledge that this is something which the Government will have to sort out because it is a matter of national interest? If a decision is made that there should be a two-lane tunnel, does the right hon. Gentleman feel free to give an assurance that that would be only the first phase in a process of developing crossings under or over the Mersey?
§ Mr. Marples
Although, like the hon. and learned Member, I represent a constituency on Merseyside, I do not think that I can give the assurance for which he asks in the last part of his supplementary question. I hope that this agreement locally will be unanimous, but if it is not, and if agreement cannot be reached, I hope that those concerned will let me know within a few weeks what the majority agree and what the minority say and why they are against it. I assure the hon. and learned Member that I will consider how I can speed up a decision, because a decision will have to be made.
§ Sir H. Oakshott
I think that all of us on Merseyside hope that we will reach agreement in the Steering Committee. 1119 However, can my right hon. Friend say whether his Department has yet been able to make any assessment of the effect on transit traffic in the North travelling through Liverpool and the tunnel and what effect the opening of the M.6 has had on traffic going through Liverpool?
§ Mr. Marples
It is too early to say, because M.6 has been opened only recently over its full length. Therefore, we will have to wait some time to see what happens. But that will be taken into account when we make this decision.