HC Deb 10 March 1965 vol 708 cc390-2
9. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that the present road programme will be maintained, despite any increase which may take place in the cost of road building due to the fall in the value of money and the imposition of new taxation.

44. Mr. Clive Bossom

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that the present road programme, as previously announced, will not be cut.

52. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give an assurance that the road programme laid down by the previous administration will be maintained.

59. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that economic considerations will not cause delay in the implementation of the road programme initiated by his predecessor in office.

Mr. Tom Fraser

The Government are proceeding with the road programme as planned. As in the past, the trend of road construction prices will be taken into account in annual reviews of the programme.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

As we now know that the value of the £ has fallen to 19s. 8d. since October and, at that rate, will be 7 per cent. less in value by the autumn, may I ask whether in the forthcoming White Paper on public expenditure the right hon. Gentleman will press for an addition of 7 per cent. as well as the rolling programme which was outlined in the past?

Mr. Fraser

My concern when the White Paper is being prepared is to ensure that the road programme is not diminished.

Mr. Bossom

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the road programme will not be cut in real terms? Is this why the right hon. Gentleman for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) was left out of the Government, because when he was shadow Minister of Transport he always strongly advocated that the road programme should be greatly increased by the present Government?

Mr. Fraser

I am not sure about this. I have been looking at the records and I think that a great deal of nonsense has been talked about rash promises of greatly increasing the road programme. Since the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) twice asserted during Question Time last Wednesday that we had made rash promises about the road programme, which I resisted at the time, I have consulted our election manifesto and discovered that we did not say anything about an increase in the programme.

Mr. Powell

Now that we have it clear that the Labour Party did not think that it could envisage any improvement in the road programme and road building record of the Conservative Party, may I invite the right hon. Gentleman to confirm that his pledge to me last week that he would maintain his predecessor's programme was in real terms?

Mr. Fraser

The programme was worked out in real terms, taking account of changes in road construction costs from time to time. I have maintained all along that we will adhere to the programme which we inherited, and that will mean doing far better than the previous Administration did.

Mr. Bossom

May I revert to the previous question and say that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said at a Press conference with me when we came back from Vienna that the programme would be increased?

Mr. Fraser

The programme which we are carrying through envisages an increase of 14 per cent. year after year. Therefore, my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall was right.

Mr. Wilson

Is the Minister aware that I am informed that in the County of Cornwall there are 240 approved schemes in the pipeline which will take at least four years to carry out? Can the right hon. Gentleman do anything to increase the road programme so that the backlog can be overtaken?

Mr. Fraser

That raises another question. The Questions which I have answered are concerned with the existing programme.

Mr. Shinwell

Can my right hon. Friend explain why there is so much yet to do if the previous Government did so much in developing a vast road programme?

Mr. Fraser

I am afraid that my right hon. Friend will have to ask the Opposition that.