HC Deb 28 July 1965 vol 717 cc448-50
16. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make provision for an increase greater than the national average in the amount of funds to be made available for road development in the West Country.

Mr. Swingler

Not unless the studies of the longer term needs of the country as a whole show this to be justified.

Mr. Thorpe

But the hon. Gentleman has referred to the needs of the country as a whole. Is he not aware of the plans of the First Secretary to stimulate the growth of the neglected regions of this country, which is rather different from that Answer? Would he not agree that the main obstacle to attracting industrial investment and extending the tourist trade in the West Country is our appallingly bad road communications? Will he accept that those in the West Country will not be satisfied if all that this Government do is catch up with the backlog of the Tory Administration which preceded them?

Mr. Swingler

I appreciate the needs and difficulties of the West Country, which we hear about weekend after weekend in the holiday season. We have in hand at the moment £12 million-worth of trunk road schemes in the West Country and are making grants of £5 million on classified roads. We have just published a line for the extension of the M.5 into the West Country. I think that this shows a fairly good record of progress at the moment.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, in view of what has been said this afternoon, there is apparently a complete lack of co-ordination between his Ministry and the Chancellor, and that the figures which are being given are quite worthless? When can the House expect a White Paper or some such document telling us what is to be done, with the leave of the Government, before the Recess?

Mr. Swingler

I find it extraordinary that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not acquainted with the facts. The facts which I have just stated are about money which is actually being spent now, and construction work which is going on in one part of the country. We are in constant consultation with other Departments in the Government about how to improve these communications.

23. Mr. Bessell

asked the Minister of Transport in view of the importance of tourism to the economy of the West Country, if he will initiate a study of the economic effect of road conditions on the tourist industry, with a view to improving the system of roads in the West Country.

Mr. Swingler

The effects of road conditions on the tourist industry will be taken into account by the Economic Planning Council for the South West when formulating proposals for future economic development in the region.

Mr. Bessell

Will the hon. Gentleman use his best offices to urge his right hon. Friend the First Secretary to speed up the review so that we can get the roads which are so necessary for the general development of the South-West, particularly bearing in mind the undertakings given by the Government to develop this area as a matter of priority?

Mr. Swingler

I am well aware of the importance of the area and of tourism especially, which I myself have indulged in in the South-West. We have now—which we had not before—a highly intelligent planning council in the South-West, and I am sure that it is coming to grips with the priorities. We shall be governed by its advice and the scale of priorities that it draws up.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

In considering the South-West, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, apart from the tourist trade, there is very substantial long-distance carriage covering both the china clay and the horticulture industries? Therefore, we have an industrial user of the roads, not merely a tourism user.