HC Deb 01 May 1963 vol 676 cc1050-2
8. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress of the Forth Road Bridge; and on what date he expects the work to be completed.

Mr. Noble

The exceptionally bad weather of the last eighteen months has set the programme of work back considerably, and it now looks as if work may not be completed until about mid-1964. Technical discussions are taking place regularly to see what can be done to recover lost time, and the contractor still hopes that, given reasonable weather, traffic may be able to use the bridge by April next year.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Secretary of State aware that there are now many hours of daylight during which, apparently, no work is being undertaken on the road bridge? In view of the dreadful unemployment position in Fife, will he give an assurance that the earliest possible steps will be taken by the contractors to utilise every hour of daylight to try to speed up completion of the project? Further, will not he give some encouragement in the district by announcing that he does not propose to charge toils to the users of the bridge?

Mr. Noble

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the bridge is being built by the Forth Road Joint Board. I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said will come to the notice of the Joint Board, and that it will consider the point with the contractors. With regard to tolls, the Government were under considerable attack the whole of yesterday and the day before for failing the railways by trying to help road transport. In this matter, at least, I seem to be somewhat changing the pattern.

Mr. Woodburn

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the approach roads will be finished in time? In the meantime, could the right hon. Gentleman arrange for these approach roads to be linked more easily with the Bo'ness road so that people using the Kincardine bridge may have the benefit of a new road as soon as possible?

Mr. Noble

I am not able to give the exact position with regard to the approach roads, but if this can be done it certainly will be done.

9. Mr. W. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what evidence he has received from the Scottish Council concerning the effects on the future industrial development of Fife as a result of the imposition of tolls on the Forth Road Bridge; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Noble

The hon. Member will recall what was said by the Council's representative at my meeting with the local authorities concerned, at which he was present. The Council has, however, not addressed any formal representations to me.

Mr. Hamilton

Since the right hon. Gentleman studiously ignored the evidence of the Scottish Council when it presented firm evidence that industrialists had refused to consider coming to Fife because of the likely imposition of tolls, may I ask whether he will now give a considered answer to that evidence? Has the right hon. Gentleman not considered the desirability of getting a panel of economists to examine the social implications of the imposition of tolls on this bridge? Does be not recognise that Fife is almost wholly a development district and that the imposition of tolls on this bridge will do nothing to help the county out of that difficulty?

Mr. Noble

As the hon. Member knows, the problem as presented to me by the Scottish Council is that one or two firms said that they disliked tolls and one or two said that they would not come if tolls were imposed. On the other hand, six or seven firms have decided to come to the county regardless of tolls. There have been others since that meeting.