HC Deb 10 March 1965 vol 708 cc399-401
27. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Transport how many toll bridges there are in the United Kingdom which were created before 1900.

mileage terms of these highways is minimal to a degree? Has he further considered the implications to be drawn from the statement of road development to 1984 as shown in map 21, page 94, of the February report of British Rail? Will he agree that construction of these roads in South Wales will help exports flow more speedily from South Wales ports? Is he aware—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—

Mr. Speaker

I think the Minister had better answer as far as we have got.

Mr. Fraser

I have already made clear at the Box that I am not very favourably disposed to three-lane highways myself, and very little three-lane mileage is under construction at present. As for highways in Wales to and from the ports, running up to 1984, my hon. Friend will be aware that the programming of the roads in Wales, beyond the programme which we now have in front of us, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Bessell

In considering construction of two-lane highways and planning for the period to 1970, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very urgent needs of the South-West, particularly in view of the latest report of Dr. Beeching?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, I will do so, but may I just remind the hon. Gentleman that the only roads not referred to in this Question are two-lane roads?

Following is the Answer:

Mr. Tom Fraser

I understand there are 24 such bridges in England and Wales.

Mr. Marten

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that one of these is in my constituency, that it has been there since the year 1766 and that Governments of all three parties have done nothing about it at all? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Would he now please consider this question rather more seriously than other Governments have done in the past, and, realising that one of the problems is that compensation has to be paid to the owners, will he, perhaps, consider fixing a term of years by when all these toll bridges should be ended?

Mr. Fraser

I find it a bit difficult to do what the hon. Gentleman requests. Of these 24 toll bridges three are on trunk roads, and what to do with them is clearly my responsibility, but the toll bridge in his constituency, to which he refers, is, I understand, on a Class I road, and I think the initiative as to what should be done with that one really must come from the highway authority.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only is the toll bridge in the hon. Gentleman's constituency 200 years old but that for 200 years the income from it has been completely tax-free, and that the same applies to the other five toll bridges in the country—that the income has been tax-free for 200 years? Can he say what discussions he has had within the Government to see how they can tackle this problem?

Mr. Fraser

My hon. Friend will not expect me to say what discussions I have had with my right hon. Friends within the Government about this matter, but whether or not the income from these tolls should continue to be exempt from tax is, of course, a matter principally for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. Marten

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that even if the Chancellor in his forthcoming Budget should accede to the pressure being put on him to tax these tolls, that will not help the persons who use the toll bridges, and they are the people I am concerned about?

Mr. Fraser

I entirely accept that.