HC Deb 03 March 1965 vol 707 cc1309-11
13. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has to speed up motorway construction and to link it in particular with port reorganisation, having regard to the fact that with a motorway system there would be little to choose either in time or distance from the Midlands to such ports as Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London or Southampton.

63. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Transport what measures he proposes to take to speed up the acquisition of land for motorway construction from industrial centres to the ports.

65. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Transport if he will co-ordinate his plans for motorways with plans for port re-organisation and, in particular, in relation to the Midlands, with the further development of the port of Bristol.

Mr. Tom Fraser

The construction of motorways is proceeding as fast as possible within the limitations imposed by finance and the statutory procedures. It is my practice to seek, at the earliest possible moment, compulsory powers to acquire land required for all motorway construction. With the completion of the first 1,000 miles of motorway in the early 1970s road access to almost all major ports, including Bristol, from the Midlands and elsewhere, will be greatly improved. Plans for the inter-urban road programme in the 1970s will take full account of the needs of ports for good road access.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that motorway links to ports would give the greatest possible opportunity for decentralisation and relief of the congestion at the London docks with all goods and freight coming into London? Is it not important to look at the whole scheme again to see whether ports like Hull and Liverpool will be linked to the Midlands in a comprehensive way?

Mr. Fraser

This is exactly what I am doing. I want to ensure that all these ports can play a major part in the export drive and that they are adequately linked to the industrial centres where manufacturing is concentrated.

Mr. Bence

Would my right hon. Friend see whether he can avoid the frightful delays and frustrations of the last ten years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Thirteen years."]—of the last 13 years, caused by difficulties in acquiring land because of the efforts of big landowners to hold up disposal of their land so as to get a higher price? Will he see if he can stop this delay in land acquisition for high profit and high prices, so that we can get on with the motorways?

Mr. Fraser

I have been pressed from many directions to speed up the land acquisition procedures, and I am bound to say that I would like to do so. This is a matter to which I am giving urgent consideration, but I would not like the House to think that any speed-up in the procedure introduced now would be likely to increase the road programme in the short term.

Mr. Palmer

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind, since the amount of money for motorway construction is bound to be limited, the special claims of the port of Bristol, which, in relation to the Midlands—particularly if the Port-bury scheme is allowed to go ahead—will turn out to be one of the finest export ports in Europe?

Mr. Fraser

I appreciate the part which has been played and will be played by Bristol. This is why I am anxious to ensure that road access to Bristol is as good as we can provide within the limits imposed.

Mr. Powell

Will the right hon. Gentleman now agree that it was extremely unwise of his party at the election to hold out the prospect of large increases in expenditure upon the roads over and above the existing programme? Secondly, will he bear in mind the view of the Rochdale Committee in its Report that road transport offers the means of active competition between docks in the consumers' interests?

Mr. Fraser

We are going to have many docks for a great many years to come. We have probably got too many ports at the present time, and there is a good deal of inefficiency arising from ships having to call at too many ports—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about the roads?"]. So far as roads are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that his hon. and right hon. Friends have been seeking to impress on me the inadequacy of the present road programme generally. The present road programme was to be financed by his right hon. Friend from a 4 per cent. growth in the economy. Unfortunately the party opposite left us with a programme but no 4 per cent. growth in the economy.

Mr. Powell

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to maintain the programme, cut it, or increase it? Will he tell the House that?

Mr. Fraser

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman, but despite the failure of his Government to provide the means to finance the programme which they left us, we are determined not to cut the programme, and as soon as resources can be made available to enlarge it we shall do so.