HC Deb 24 February 1967 vol 741 cc2121-97

12.09 p.m.

Dr. John Dunwoody (Falmouth and Camborne)

I beg to move, That in the opinion of this House efficient communications form the basis on which the economic and social progress of Great Britain must be built and that an extended motorway plan should now be produced taking into special account the growth of road traffic, the changing industrial structure of Great Britain, the requirements of the development areas and the need for ready access to the ports. My continued good fortune in the Ballot for Private Members' Motions has enabled me to bring before the House the subject of a rather limited part of transport but one which is nevertheless of great importance.

When I selected the subject of my Motion I did not know that this week we should debate the Transport White Paper. Nevertheless, the fact that we have the opportunity today to consider the particular problems of our motorway system and its future, just two days after the full debate on the Transport White Paper, which embraced many other subjects besides motorways, is a good thing. It will enable us to focus attention on this part of our transport problems to a much greater extent than was possible on Wednesday, and I hope that it will enable the Ministry to tell us a little more about their plans and ideas for motorways than was possible with all the pressures of the other transport problems which were present on Wednesday. I am pleased to see with us the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), because I know of the very great interest which he has taken in this and allied problems of road transport.

May I initially draw attention to the words of the Motion which refer to the fact that efficient communications form the basis on which the economic and social progress of Great Britain must be built. This may seem a very obvious statement to make, but it is well worth while reiterating it time and time again. We sometimes forget how the whole of civilisation and of the sort of society in which we live depend to a considerable extent on communications, on our ability to achieve a free interchange of people and goods and on our ability to have a system by which people can travel around the country at will, and by which we can transport goods from one part of the country to another and, indeed, from one country to another. Yet I sometimes feel that we do not appreciate this obvious fact and do not realise, consciously enough, how important it is to have an efficient communications system.

The communications within Britain consist not only of road transport but also of rail transport, air communications and, to a certain extent, sea links. We are a relatively small island with a high density of population—a large population concentrated in a relatively small area. In communications, therefore, we have very special, peculiar, and I would say unique problems. These problems are mounting more and more as time goes on. The part of the country which I have the honour to represent in the House is particularly alive to the problems of communications. As my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows, we are perhaps more concerned about transport than are hon. Members from almost any other part of the United Kingdom.

I realise full well that there are very great problems to be faced in other aspects of transport, but I wish to direct my attention to the roads. I will underline the importance of our road system by pointing out that 90 per cent. of passenger traffic in this country is on the roads; 90 per cent. of the passenger movements in this country take place on the road system. In addition, three-quarters of our goods transport is placed on the roads. It is, therefore, on the roads that the great bulk of communications for both passengers and goods take place.

I wish particularly to devote my attention to the newest part of our road system, the motorway system, and I want to look at the future of the motor-system. I will not go over the past and the mistakes which have perhaps been made in the past, or the reasons for the delays and the inadequacies of our present system, except in so far as these can perhaps teach some lessons for the future. I am taking this subject, too, because I am personally interested in it. I have been compelled over the years—and still continue to do so, partly because I enjoy it—to drive a considerable mileage. I have driven 40,000 to 50,000 miles a year for 10 or 12 years. When driving along the A-class roads of Great Britain I sometimes think that I am driving along some of the most highly developed country lanes in the world.

We are all agreed, I think, that we must improve our road system. We are all, I think, agreed that progress, particularly in the provision of motorways, is essential. We may sometimes argue between the political parties on the narrow economic problems which are involved. Possibly we shall argue about how the money shall he raised and certainly we shall argue about the speed with which progress is made. But we are united in recognising the need for an expansion of our motorway system, and I hope that this debate will not only underline the unity which exists here but will also strengthen the hand of the Minister of Transport, who I think realises full well the urgency of the problem, in some of her dealings with other Government Departments whose readiness to expand our transport services may not be as great as hers.

There are just over 420 miles of motorway, in different parts of this country. I emphasise "in different parts" of the country because the longest single stretch of motorway in Britain is not much over 120 miles. In other words, the comparatively small amount of motorway that we have is fragmented into little bits and pieces all over the country. We have firm plans to expand the mileage of our motorways to a total of over 1,200 miles. The time of these plans is to some extent in doubt, but we have been assured in the recent transport White Paper that by 1970 there will be over 700 miles of motorways and that the total will have reached 1,000 miles by the early 1970s.

We must first face the fact that there is and will continue to be rapid and continuous growth of road traffic in this country. To illustrate this I cannot do better than quote from the 1966" Roads in England", issued by the Ministry of Transport, which stated that between now and 1970 it is estimated that traffic volumes will increase by as much as a third. It added: Even the present road programme cannot keep pace with this rising tide of traffic and the consequent spread and intensification of congestion. It is estimated that the mileage of seriously overloaded trunk roads in England will have increased from an estimated 1,450 miles now to 2,250 miles by 1970, and urban congestion, too, will continue to grow. It is the Ministry's estimate that there will be a doubling of traffic between now and 1980.

In this context we are bound to call for an acceleration of the plans already existing for new motorways and for an extension of plans in the future. In the Motion I call on the Ministry to plan now an extended plan for future years, and I am particularly concerned at what we shall be doing between 1970 and 1980, during those years when the rapid increase in road traffic in this country will continue at an ever-faster rate.

I have already pointed out that our existing motorway system consists to a very large extent of bits and pieces. The satisfaction of a motorist at getting on to a motorway and being able to drive freely for miles is all too often destroyed by the frustration which arises when the motorway peters out and he is back on an exceedingly congested A-class road. I recognise that the Ministry appreciate this problem and that a considerable degree of urgency is being shown in completing some of the links between existing sectors of motorway. This is urgent, because by building links between existing stretches of motorway we not only increase the length and value of the entire system but we increase the economic return which is being achieved from the motorways today.

For example, to join the M1 and the M6 across the Midlands—this black spot in the Black country which we have at the moment between the two motorways —will not only help those living in that area but will enhance the value of the existing parts of Ml and M6, because it will go a long way to end the situation in which we have a fragmentation of motorways, with little bits and pieces of motorway scattered all over the country.

The development of a greater degree of continuity in our motorway system is one of the most important things that we have to do. I shall make comparisons with other countries. When we look abroad, one of the most striking differences is that in countries which may be relatively under-developed in their road systems compared with the United Kingdom, their modern roads are continuous for longer stretches than are the roads in Britain.

We have other lessons to learn from our past mistakes, and one of them is the importance of building motorways that will be adequate for the needs of the area for the forseeable future. I am extremely unhappy at some of the plans for two-lane motorways, because I believe that they will rapidly start getting out of date. It would be economically worthwhile and would produce very much greater dividends to start from scratch with three-lane motorways. In Germany there are some areas where enormous bottlenecks now occur because of two-lane autobahnen. We should learn from that experience. Though we must accept that in some places it is almost physically impossible to have them, we should assume three-lane motorways to be normal.

We should also start thinking a good deal more than we have done up to now about the separation of different sorts of traffic. We have already accepted this principle, because certain forms of traffic are barred from the motorway system altogether, but we should now consider the separation of heavy goods and commercial traffic from the faster private traffic. We should think in terms of parallel motor systems in some of the most heavily used areas, so that we can separate these enormous commercial vehicles that are increasingly being used on our roads—and all over Europe—from the faster lighter vehicles that mainly carry passengers.

We should look at what other countries have done and, perhaps more important, at some of their plans for the future. This is important, not because I believe that the motorways in other countries are necessarily better than ours—I think that our own motorways, inadequate though they may be in mileage, compare very favouable with many other motorway systems—but because of the lessons that can be learned.

Lesson No. 1 is that the existence of an effective national motorway network of some kind is a very valuable and useful stimulus to the whole economy of a country. I have often felt that one of the reasons why Germany was so successful after the last war in regaining her industrial and economic strength was that she had a basically sound and effective system of road communications over much of the country.

Another important lesson to be learned from the German autobahn system is that it penetrates all parts of the country, and is not confined to the most populous areas or to the industrially developed areas alone. No part of Western Germany is more than 40 or 50 miles from a motorway. I look forward to seeing such a situation in this country, because there are large stretches of the United Kingdom that have been utterly neglected in motorway planning and development.

It is striking to compare our total planned mileage—about 1,200 miles by some time in the early 1970s—with what is being planned, say, in the Western European countries with which we shall be partners if we get into the Common Market. France plans to have 2,000 miles of motorway—about half of it to be completed by 1970. Western Germany plans to have over 3,000 miles by 1970, and Italy plans nearly 4,000 miles by 1970. Even in the comparatively small and not too highly populated area of Benelux—Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg—the plan is to have more miles of motorway by 1970 than we have planned for the years ahead.

Looking across the ocean to the United States of America, we find that America plans by the early 1970s to have no fewer than 41,000 miles of motorway of various kinds. It may be said that we cannot consider comparisons with America to be fair, and I would agree in regard to mileage because America is a very much larger country, but there is one comparison with America that I am rather frightened to make. The rate of car ownership in this country is running about 30 years behind the American rate. In other words, the proportion of people in this country who own cars is about the same as it was in America in the 1930s. That shows how far we have to go, how great the problem is, and how great the pressures will be.

Representing, as I do, a tourist area, another thing about plans in Western Europe that disturbs me is that in 10 years' time it will be possible for tourists to drive all the way from the French Channel ports to the far south of Italy or the south of France by motorway, but tourists will not be able to travel all the way by motorway to Devon and Cornwall unless we develop new plans and new ideas.

We also have the delays and frustrations in completing plans that have already been produced, and I believe that the Ministry is alive to this problem. One cause is the rather drawn-out procedure that has to be gone through once it is decided that a motorway should be built. Does not the Minister think that there should be some means of streamlining the enormously complex and involved procedures by which people, quite rightly, can object to motorway plans? It is right that they should be able to object and to protest, but I sometimes think that we go a little too far, and tend to bend over backwards in order to protect the various interests involved. If we could stream- line this procedure we could see such frustrating delays as those of recent years in relation to the M4 between London and Bristol cut down very considerably.

One has to be alive to the need to consider amenity problems and to protect the rights of individuals and localities, but it is a misconception to believe that a motorway will necessarily destroy amenity values. Some of our newer motorways, some of the newer autobahnen in Western Germany, and parts of the autostrada in Northern Italy almost enhance the amenity value. They certainly enable people to get to areas they could not otherwise reach. Modern road and bridge design can be aesthetically satisfying, and we must remember that.

Another factor to be taken into consideration to perhaps a greater extent than it has been up to now is our changing industrial structure. We are all alive to this in many other respects, but are we alive to it when we look at transport, and roads in particular—and motorways especially? In Britain, as the years go by, our industrial structure is changing. Some industries are declining, others are expanding. Some of the new science-based industries are perhaps more dependent on rapid light transport than are many of the older industries that they are replacing. We find not only a structural but a geographical change. In certain areas the amount of industry is declining, whereas more and more industry is being developed in regions that previously had little or none.

Also, when we are talking about industry let us not think of industry only in the orthodox sense, not only of factories and heavy industry, but realise that one of our biggest industries is agriculture and that that needs efficient communication. Another big industry is the tourist industry, which earns a considerable amount of foreign currency. Here again, we have to consider the development of motorways and other adequate road communications.

I have mentioned the development areas. I ought to say a few more words about the position in regard to them. I think that these ought to be borne in mind in our motorway plans for the future. One of the things that concern me when I look at the map of our bits of motorway, and even the plans for the future, is the realisation that there are virtually no motorways in any of the development areas. When we look at the existing plans for the 1,200 miles of motorway that we hope to be able to have in the not too distant future, we realise that only a very small proportion of the length falls within development areas.

There are some motorways planned for the Lowlands of Scotland, but the greater part of the development areas will remain without motorways. This is an important point to make. Many of the difficulties faced in development areas are due to inadequate transport. What is important is that the Government should attract new industries to them, but what should be realised is that these parts will be less well off if development of motorways proceeds only in the areas of true industrial development. This is because development of motorways in industrially developed areas constitutes an incentive to keep industry there.

In many areas in my part of the country there is anxiety about the state of communications and fear that because of the situation industrialists will not go there. This is another reason why when looking to the future of our motorway system we should ensure that it extends into the peripheral parts of the country. I leave my Scottish and Welsh colleagues to speak for their own areas. I confine myself to emphasising the need for improved communications in the South-West.

As an example of what we ought to be thinking about, I would refer to what was said about the South-West in the transport debate on Wednesday by the Minister, although then she was talking about the railways. It is interesting that she should have said that then, and that I am saying it today. It emphasises how important transport is in such parts of the country.

We have also been concerned in the South-West, not that we have been completely ignored—I will not say that—but that the further parts of the region lie outside the motorway plans at the moment. The M5 is to be extended further but the present plans take it only as far as Exeter.

Looking into the future, we should think of a motorway of adequate standard—by which I mean one comparable to the motorways that already exist and are planned for other parts—going into the far South-West. This is essential. It should go beyond Exeter. It may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody) will have an opportunity to speak about some of the problems of the by-pass around her constituency. I will not go into this, except to say—

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)

Does the hon. Gentleman go into the constituency of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dun-woody)?

Dr. Dunwoody

On occasions. However, I always find my position as the husband of an hon Member a little difficult, and so I do not go there as often as I might otherwise do.

There is a very serious problem here. Many families save up throughout the year in order to have a holiday for a fortnight or so in the family car in the South-West, spending the time there with their children. Thinking of my childhood, I would say that this is the sort of thing that one can remember for the rest of one's life. But when families on holiday suffer such frequent frustrations on their journeys for hours at the beginning and the end of the holidays, this spoils the holiday for both parents and children.

So I would ask the Minister seriously to consider the possibility of putting a true motorway into the South-West, to beyond Exeter, and if that is not possible —it may not be possible in the immediate future—to carry it far enough to ensure that both the A30 and the A38 are improved to at least dual carriageway standards throughout their length.

I want to say a brief word about the position of ports. I am concerned that our motorway plans do not seem to take as great account of the major ports as they should. A very high proportion of our exports have to go by road to the ports. One has only to go outside the Palace of Westminster to see a considerable proportion of our exports through the Port of London passing our very doors. This morning I saw an enormous Dutch lorry on its way to Bulgaria passing this building. This is the way that road transport is going. But the position of the ports has not been sufficiently considered. The present system leads to the seizing up of the centre of the City, and I feel that we must consider the advisability of having a motor ring or box around London in order to enable heavy traffic from other parts of the country to get to the Port of London.

The Channel ports will be increasingly important if we are to go into Europe, and adequate links between them and the remainder of the country are essential. The same can be said about Southampton. In regard to Bristol and Liverpool, we have motorways which run fairly near, but there are no very direct links with the port area. The East Coast ports seem to be completely divorced from the motorway system.

These are some of the reasons why 1 ask the House and the Minister to accept my Motion. It may be said that this would cost money. Of course, it will. But there are many more motorists nowadays and the revenue from them will be vastly greater in the years to come than it is now. I believe that the result of the expenditure of this enormous sum of money will also be enormous; the dividends will be very great.

There are those who suggest that we should have tolls to stimulate the development of motorways. I am sorry that there is not at the moment one hon. Member on the Liberal benches, because I know that this is something that the Liberals are very enthusiastic about, particularly in my own area. I find this quite illogical, because at the same time in the transport debate on Wednesday the Liberals objected to the Minister of Transport suggesting that local authorities should play an equal part in financing unremunerative branch lines. I have some doubts about that suggestion, but I have considerable doubts about tolls, for they might place the burden of providing the money on the poorer areas which need very much improved roads.

It is difficult to calculate what dividends the expenditure would give us. We should remind ourselves that if we manage to have a very much improved transport system this would cut the present terrible toll on the roads. Figures suggest that we can expect a very significant reduction, perhaps half, in the number of people killed and seriously injured. As someone who has in years gone by had unpleasant experiences in respect of road casualties, I can say that this is a very real reason why we should improve our road system.

These are some of the enormous benefits that we can derive from an improvement of our road system. It is, indeed, a matter of real urgency. Failure to do it could be disastrous and involve us in a very real risk that our economy would literally grind to a halt.

12.40 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)

I am sure the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) for the wide-ranging expression of views he has brought to bear on what by any standard is one of the really crucial problems which will face any Government who have to grapple with the transport problems of this country.

I found myself agreeing with almost everything he said, because it seemed that he at any rate recognised, as not all people always recognise, that however much one may wish to improve the viability of railways and other forms of transport, the fact is that road transport in this country will grow, and grow massively, if one is to retain any element —I hope it will always be a substantial element—of freedom of choice. It is inevitable that the amount of road traffic will increase very substantially indeed and provision will have to be made for it.

I take up one of the points on which the hon. Member closed, the financial question. It seems now clear from various studies which have been published that the return on capital invested in roads, in motorways in particular, far exceeds the return which can be earned in almost any other form of public expenditure, To argue, therefore, that spending on roads is in the same category as spending, say for example on desirable social amenities such as hospitals or what have you, seems to lead one into a danger of error. Of course, spending on roads, because the capital has to come from the public purse, inevitably has to compete with other forms of public expenditure. Re. sources are limited and it is a Government's duty to allocate them according to their order of priorities, but manifestly one of the factors which any Government must take into consideration when determining the allocation of finances where the return is a relevant factor—and I fully recognise that it is not relevant on major hospital expenditure because there one is engaged on social expenditure—is something which ought to be given due weight. It is capital investment which produces a return that in the long run makes this nation richer. We may call it by different names, increasing the standard of living or economic growth, or what have you, but this is what we are here for, to make people better off and able to do the things they want to do. Capital expenditure which produces a high return will do that more quickly than capital expenditure which produces a low return. This is a point of major importance which sometimes is lost sight of.

As must be evident, of course return must be properly calculated and new quantitative techniques of cost-benefit analysis must be used to find what the true return on the capital which is invested is. It may be that to use strictly financial accounts can be very misleading. I have always been critical of accountants. I see that none of my hon. Friends or hon. Members opposite present now are members of that profession. Accountants are terribly good at adding up the pennies and making both sides of a balance sheet agree, but they have a tendency when they have difficulty in getting an exact figure to leave out the figure altogether. This is where the economist has the edge over the accountant, because economists know that it is better to be nearly right than exactly wrong. Nowhere is this truer than in road programmes, and particularly in urban road programmes.

This brings me to a much narrower point. I hope the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne will forgive me if for the remainder of my remarks I address myself to what has become a very acute constituency question regarding a particular motorway proposal. It concerns the M11, which has recently been renamed the London—Cambridge motorway and used to be known as the London—Bishops Stortford motorway The hon. Member rightly called for a simplification of the many statutory stages which have to be gone through in the course of planning and building a motorway. In principle that is something with which we all agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) said in a debate earlier this week that there are 31 separate stages. By any standard that seems excessive, though one has to recognise that those stages have a purpose.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) always said—and how right he was—that if he could bulldoze men as easily as he could bulldoze earth it would be very much easier to build motorways. We take the view in this country that it is never right to bulldoze men. In passing, I think a great deal of the steam would be taken out of the resistance to motorway and other major road proposals if the compensation were not just barely adequate but were something over the odds and if people could end with a little more in their pockets through selling for a major programme of public works than if they had to wait and haggle in the ordinary market. Then the tasks of Government and local authorities in progressing these highly desirable schemes and avoiding tying up of capital for years would be prevented.

This is a policy which is followed to a much greater extent in the United States of America than here. The Americans recognise that, once one has embarked on a proposal and decided what one wants to do, the most important thing is to do it as rapidly and efficiently as possible. They have shown, and I have read studies which seem to prove it fairly clearly, that although one may pay more compensation—even giving money compensation to displaced tenants—and pay more than we tend to do under our compulsory acquisition procedures, yet in fact money is saved because interest is saved on unremunerative capital which is tied up in partially-completed schemes.

In my constituency the M11 motorway now threatens to go the full length of the constituency from Woodford Bridge in the north—we do not yet know the route—down through Wanstead in the south. It might be educative to look for a moment at the chronology with which this development has proceeded over the years. The original plan for what was called the Bishops Stortford motorway did not involve my constituency at all. The route as projected on the county development plan involved, not the Roding Valley but the Lea Valley, two or three miles further to the west. Of course, no firm route has even been designated, but I understand that it would go up the east side of the River Lea through Leyton, Walthamstow and Chingford and out into open country.

However, within a very few days of my making my first appearance in this House, I was confronted with a Press statement which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry was good enough to send to me with various supporting details indicating, as the Press statement put it, that the Minister—then the right hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Tom Fraser)—regarded the Roding Valley, which lies on the eastern edge of my constituency, as what he described as "the route now preferred."

I ask the House to note the words in the Press statement, from which I will read a couple of passages. The statement was made on 4th November, 1964 and it said: Instead of running up the Lea Valley and northwest of Harlow, as proposed in the Essex and Hertfordshire County Development Plans, the routes now preferred would run along the Roding Valley and by-pass Harlow and other towns to the east. Part of the former route up the Lea Valley, it is proposed should continue to be protected, since a further radial route from North-East London may be required. Later the statement said: The route which the Minister prefers starts in Woodford, Essex. Anybody who knows that part of north-east London knows that, wherever such a motorway may start, whatever else may be the terminations, it clearly could not terminate in Woodford. Indeed—I shall come to this in a few moments—the draft scheme published by the Minister stops in the middle of a field a few hundred yards to the north of my constituency. The indication on 4th November, 1964, was that this was the route preferred.

Three points were made and elucidated in subsequent correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary. First, this was purely a basis for consultation with local authorities. Indeed, the Parlia- mentary Secretary pointed out to me that it was, in a sense, an improvement on the previous procedures that the Press statement, with copies to Members of Parliament, and so forth, had been issued, that this had not hitherto been part of the procedure.

The second point was that the route which in fact they regarded as preferred came down only as far as the A406, which is a road that cuts from east to west straight through the middle of my constituency, which is a long, narrow, one, running north and south. So even at that stage the route did not go anything like as far as it has already been recognised that it must go to carry it into the heart of the East End of London and, eventually, to link up with the urban motorways.

The third point was that, although the Roding Valley route was described as the preferred route, no one has ever been given any indication, even to this day, of why it is said to be the preferred route. No reasons have been vouchsafed by the Ministry. The Lea Valley route, running through much the older part of east London—the development up the Lea Valley goes back through the centuries; much of the development there is extremely old—was preferred in the county development plan.

At some stage minds were changed. I entirely recognise that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and his former Minister arrived at the Ministry and found that this was so. They did not initiate it on 16th October, 1964, but the fact is that they found that this was now to be the preferred route; that at some stage minds had been changed and, as a result, the Roding Valley route was now regarded as preferable.

The attitude taken by myself and the local authority concerned, which was then Wanstead and Woodford—it is now the London Borough of Redbridge—related to the two points I have mentioned. All the most difficult problems, whichever route is chosen, will affect the area nearer the heart of London. The inner end of the motorway poses far greater problems than does the outer end, where for the most part either route can go through open country.

Therefore, to seek consultation on the outer route end of the road north of the A406 and at the same time to indicate that no views whatever had been formed as to the Inner roads which would be necessary to serve that outer one seems to be a relatively fruitless exercise. Both Wanstead and Woodford and the London Borough of Redbridge have indicated that they cannot comment in detail at all until they know what is to happen at the inner end.

The second question which was raised at that stage was one I have mentioned: why was this regarded as the preferred route? To that no answer has ever been given. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will recollect that I asked, perhaps in my innocence as a new Member of Parliament, that I might be allowed to visit the Ministry and inspect the more detailed plans and proposals which must at that stage have been within the Ministry in order to satisfy myself, at any rate, as to what was in the Ministry's mind. This request was refused. I was told that a Member of Parliament, in these circumstances, has no standing whatever, that the discussions had to be held with what were described as the statutory authorities, and that I had no more right to know about these than any other member of the public.

I regard this as a highly undesirable state of affairs and one which I cannot believe is in the best interests of the Ministry's programme. If Members of Parliament are kept in the dark about what is in the Minister's mind, when the Minister is already discussing the matter with other authorities, the Minister is laying up for himself troubles and difficulties which might well be avoided.

I have a whole file of correspondence here from constituents, from residents' associations and people living on the line which it seemed might be affected. They have written to me asking," What is to happen? Shall we find ourselves in a blighted area?" I had to write back saying, "Here is a copy of the Press statement. Here is a copy of a letter which the Parliamentary Secretary has written to me. I know no more than this". People's faith in public administration tends to be somewhat shaken. I will not weary the House by reading out some of the letters which were sent to me in reaction to that.

The consultations duly continued for some months—indeed, for a year or more. Views were expressed in various forms. The local authorities, initially Wanstead and Woodford, subsequently endorsed by Redbridge, said that they could not comment in detail until they knew what the line south of the A406 was to be The Greater London Council took objection, because it recognised—this is a source of very grave concern in my Division—that, if the route went up the Roding Valley, a very valuable slice of green land—undeveloped land —up the valley would be bound to be taken and sterilised as a result.

This part of the Roding Valley represents a very narrow wedge of green land running north and south between, on our side, Wanstead and Woodford, then Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell; and, on the other side, Ilford, Clayhall and points to the North of that up to Hainault, and so on. We were talking about Hainault Forest last night. It is a narrow wedge which is immensely regarded by people who live on that side of the borough east of the railway tracks. People fear the loss of this wedge of land.

In December, 1966, over two years after the suggestion of this preferred route was first mooted, the Minister—the right hon. Lady—published draft proposals for part of this route. They are now known as "The Chigwell—Stump Cross section of the London—Cambridge motorway". It stops a few hundred yards north of Woodford—in fact, some mile and a half or two miles north of the original line, which at any rate took it down as far as the A406. In these draft proposals again no reasons were given for proposing the Roding Valley as compared with the original suggestion of the Lea Valley.

We are now beginning to come to the apprehension that the Minister's mind on the choice of these routes is entirely made up, that there is now no question that anybody will be listened to seriously who argues that, although by the end of the century it may be necessary to have arterial routes going out from both the Lea Valley and the Roding Valley, it ought to be the Lea Valley first, on the ground that the original framers of the county development plan were right and that, having regard to the nature of the plan the route up the Lea Valley, should be the one which should be taken first.

I say with some force that this issue now looks like being prejudged, because in a letter to me of 9th February the Parliamentary Secretary said this in the relevant paragraph: The published route for the Chigwell-Stump Cross section of this motorway has been terminated at a point where we are free to adopt the most suitable line for the extension southwards and the making of this scheme should not prejudice any decisions we make about the remainder of the route after consultation with local councils. You will recall that outline proposals for the line down the Roding Valley were announced as long ago as November 1964 and we think it desirable, in the interests of those who may be affected by the 34 mile draft scheme line, that uncertainty about this section of the route should be ended as soon as possible. I am sure that by now the House appreciates the nature of the problem with which the London Borough of Redbridge and my constituents in particular are faced.

The Ministry having announced an outline suggestion more than two years ago and indicating that it was the Ministry's preferred route and having undertaken these consultations, the London Borough of Redbridge has found itself unable to express any view about the merits of the proposals because the inner end of the line was not considered. The Minister has now published a draft scheme, and, so far as I can ascertain, is now proceeding with the remainder of the statutory procedures on the Chigwell-Stump Cross part of the route. In other words, Wanstead and Woodford will be faced with a fait accompli. At no stage is it to be open to the Redbridge Borough Council, or any other objectors—and there are many that—to argue, as it is their right to argue, that the Minister's preferred route is the wrong one. Half that route will already have been chosen, the procedures gone through and the decisions made.

That seems to be the absolute negation of good planning. I entirely accept the view of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne that if possible we want to try to cut down the number of stages, but surely the first stage, at which local authorities, par excellence, and other interested parties are entitled to be heard, is when there is a genuine choice between two alternative routes. As has been said, we have seen from the example of the M4 how, if these arguments are allowed to rear their heads at a later stage when' lines have already been published and decisions apparently taken, the issue can be allowed to drag on for ever. That is even worse.

Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that we seem to be getting the worst of both worlds, that he is complaining from one point of view while my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne (Dr. John Dunwoody) complains from another point of view? Would the hon. Gentleman care to develop the argument to show how we are to get out of the present impasse when vital schemes are held up and yet a case can be made for saying that people's rights are being trampled upon?

Mr. Jenkin

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support because he has put the matter more clearly than I can. Rights are being trampled on and if local authorities are not enabled at the earliest stage to comment effectively and meaningfully on the alternatives which are open—and the Lea Valley was planned for years on the basis that it would be the route for this road—if they are not entitled to complain and comment and criticise and have the matter determined at that stage, then we get the worst of both worlds.

As the M4 history has shown, immense delays can subsequently be incurred when the argument arises at a much later stage. We fear that the delays will not come—speaking objectively, one hopes that there will not be delays, for motorways must be built—but the motorway will be built in circumstances in which the people of Wanstead and Woodford will feel that no proper attention has ever been given to the vital and basic decision of whether the Lea Valley or the Roding Valley is the right line.

The Parliamentary Secretary is shaking his head. If I have not made myself clear, I hope that he will intervene, because I do not want him to be under any misunderstanding about the nature of the case.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

I am following what the hon. Gentleman is saying with the utmost sympathy and I hope that he will believe me when 1 say that I have the utmost sympathy especially with the Parliamentary representatives of areas affected by big and ambitious road schemes. But I say most sincerely that when the Minister puts forward draft propsals, they are draft proposals and that there are consultations with statutory authorities. I know that it is said that once the proposals are put forward, that is a fait accompli. I want to say with all the emphasis at my command that it is not a fait accompli. They are proposals and I think that the hon. Gentleman's speech has shown how long we must take in discussions with statutory authorities about things which have the status of proposals.

Mr. Jenkin

I am grateful for that intervention. The Parliamentary Secretary has made it clear by using the phrase "draft proposals" that he is referring to the announcement of December, 1966, and not the earlier outline suggestion which subsequently became the outline proposals of November, 1964. I accept that the draft proposals which were published three months ago are still proposals, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that they are proposals upon which Wanstead and Woodford and the London Borough of Redbridge are quite unable to offer any valid comments, because the line of that part of the route which would follow inevitably if the draft proposal is confirmed, the bit south of Chigwell, the hit which will go down through the Roding Valley and into my constituency and down through Wanstead and into Stratford, or wherever it goes, will not have been published.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's intervention, because it has enabled me to say with even more force that in these circumstances the Ministry is bound to hold up any of the statutory procedures in respect of the Chigwell-Stump Cross section until it has published the route for the line south of Chigwell and through Wanstead and Woodford so that the local authority is able to comment meaningfully, which so far it has not been able to do.

If that were done, it would still be possible for the authorities affected by the line to comment. The Roding Valley area would be able to deploy its powerful arguments as to why this stage of the M11 should be taken through the older and developed properties, properties which will need redevelopment anyway, in the Lea Valley rather than cut a great swathe through one of the very rare wedges of green which come right down to East Ham. The Roding Valley comes right down through Wan-stead Park and on to Wanstead Flats and the borders of East Ham. It is not a wide belt and one knows what is involved in motorway construction, with all the intersections and so on which go with it, and if the whole of that wedge is to be taken for motorway construction, that is bound to represent the destruction of amenity and disruption of life which will make for considerable hardship and diminution of the value of living in that part of London.

That is why I say that there are powerful arguments but that they must be considered as a whole. They must be considered in their totality right from the outer edge of the built-up area. What happens to the north is clearly important and the Minister would have to bear that in mind, but the line south of the periphery of the developed area must be considered as a whole. If it is considered piecemeal, as the Ministry is threatening, it will make a complete farce of the whole procedure. Local authorities will be faced with a fait accompli and will be unable to argue the merits of the alternative schemes, and all this planning and consultation procedure will be shown to be a complete and empty façade, which would be a great pity, because that is not the intention. I am certain that the Ministry would not wish that to be thought, or even have the appearance of that being so.

My request to the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, is that he will undertake that before proceeding any further with the Chigwell-Stump Cross section in any public inquiries or consultations, he will publish the line south of the area so that all of it can be considered together. It is easy to take the attitude of "Yes, more motorways, but not past my front door." I have never sought to take that attitude, and in my first public statement on the matter, in November, 1964, I made a speech in the constituency saying just that. Therefore, I hope that I shall not be regarded as merely an obstructionist taking the attitude that it must go past somebody else's front door. I do not say that, but that there needs to be full publication of the comparative study that led the Ministry to prefer the Roding Valley as long ago as 1964. The local authorities will then be able to comment meaningfully and constructively on the proposals put before them, which they have not been able to do so far.

By his answer today, the Parliamentary Secretary can give great comfort to tens of thousands of residents at present threatened by the scheme, if he will give the undertaking for which I ask.

1.11 p.m.

Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)

We should all be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) for giving the House the opportunity to debate the subject. He has fantastic luck in the Ballot, but we appreciate his couching Motions in a general way so that we can all get home certain points.

I intend to address myself to the question of the M4 and M5, which must be proceeded with as quickly as possible. It is vital to the South-West that we consider those comparatively minor parts of the motorway network. But first I should like to say a few words about port facilities and the development of ports. The Motion also mentions the need for ready access to ports, and my constituency in Bristol has a major port. At Bristol we have the ambitious Port-bury scheme and, while the Minister has not sanctioned its go-ahead, she still has an open mind on the subject, and the Port of Bristol Authority will be presenting evidence upon it.

The question of motorways comes into our consideration of the hinterland we can serve and the necessity for getting permission to go ahead with the Portbury project. It will be essential that we have communications with the Midlands via the M5 and with London via the M4. The White Paper, "Transport Policy" said on the existing docks at Avonmouth: The Government is, therefore, inviting the National Ports Council to prepare a phased programme of selective investment in schemes on these lines "— referring to smaller schemes— and to consider alternative proposals for the development of the Port of Bristol. The Minister has promised that those schemes shall go forward, and we look to see the development of the docks so that we can handle container trade and all the other new techniques which are being introduced. For that reason also we believe that it is absolutely essential that we develop the M4 and M5. In addition, there is a proposal for the Severnside project, a new industrial area to be built up just to the north of Bristol, and it is vital that we complete the motorways as laid down in the plans we have now seen.

I have been looking at a paragraph in a progress report issued by the Ministry on 31st October, No. 14, which is headed, "Where are the Motorways?" I am sure that the idea is that one is to look at the plan at the back to see where they are. The fact is that most of the motorways come under the designation of "under construction", "contract placed", "tenders invited", "line fixed", or "line proposed", and the answer must be that at present they are only projects. The miles of motorway projected are 1,200, and only 480 have been built. Therefore, the motorways are largely in the future. One finds from the map at the back of the report that the greatest development has been on a line from London to Liverpool, from London to the North. One can well understand that, because of the industrial development in those areas.

But England has been likened to a triangle, and in a triangle one also has a base line, which in this case would run east-west, linking the industrial areas of South Wales with London. At one time much of that traffic had to go by way of Gloucester. We now have a certain amount of motorway development in the immediate environs of Bristol and we also have the Severn Bridge. There is, therefore, now a weight of traffic moving through the Bristol area. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made a great effort, which we appreciate, to get a section of the M4 open to Tormarton which meant that at least the London—Wales traffic did not go through the city. We are very grateful for the speed and initiative he showed there.

Nevertheless, the only major section of the M4 that is complete is that from London to Reading, and over 100 miles have still to be completed. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) will say that the motorway does not even go through Reading, and that is true, although it covers every little town and hamlet so far. I know that the existing road is being improved all along its length. I have the misfortune to travel it very often, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne that we have possibly the most highly-developed village roads anywhere in Western Europe. The real solution is to get on with the 100 miles from Bristol to Reading, because that link is absolutely vital not only for Bristol but also for Wales.

Since the war we have seen the industrial areas to the west of London grow a great deal. We in Bristol wish to improve our port facilities, because we think that with the motorways we can provide excellent services direct from the docks. We regard it as a challenge to be able to get goods away more quickly from the Reading side of London than they could be got through the London Docks, bearing in mind the need to go through the whole conurbation of London. But if we are to do that, the M4 must be completed.

I should now like to say a word about the M5, which I think is an even greater problem. The motorways that we have and the existing road pattern generally fans out from London to the North and North-West. But there is still the basic link from Liverpool, Birmingham and the industrial Midlands to the South-West. One of the major industries in the South-West is the tourist industry, and people coming on holiday to the South-West must pass through Bristol. They must also pass through the centre of Bristol as things are, and in Bristol we have a very great and growing problem of congestion. As things are now, most of the traffic must come through the Cumberland Basin scheme and through the centre of Bristol.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that we now have the Severn Bridge. Of course, many of my colleagues from the South-West rejoice that that makes it possible for people to spend more weekends in the South-West, and the Bridge is vital to the economic life of that part of the country. Nevertheless, it poses certain problems, and it certainly poses problems in my constituency in the north-west of Bristol, because all this traffic, both from the Midlands and from Wales, comes through there.

The fact of the matter is that to get to the South-West it must come through my constituency because the M5 is not yet built and cannot yet handle this traffic. The traffic comes through the built-up area of Shirehampton along Blaisevillage, also by Canfordlane and Sea Mills—all residential areas. A very disastrous situation is building up there.

I am sure that the Minister has exercised some concern over this problem and has gone ahead with this section to take the through traffic down to the port. It still means that the city centre is congested. He is now proposing to go ahead with 4¼ miles section of the Clip Causeway on the Avonmouth section. This will alleviate the problem for many people in my constituency and we appreciate the urgency with which he has dealt with this problem.

I want to be quite sure about that, but I want to be quite sure about something else, too—that it is not the whole answer. The answer to the problem is a bridge at Avonmouth because this would mean that traffic coming from Wales or the industrial Midlands down the M5 to the bottom land could get straight away, without going through the centre of Bristol; it could go straight through on its way to the far South-West. We could thus handle the docks traffic and we could also handle the tourist traffic which must go through this area.

I recognise that the construction of this section of the roadway presents difficulties because there it is flat bottom river land, but when we talk about the M5 all the way to the Midlands we still have the same problem as there is with the M4; 80 miles are still to be built. Those 4¼ miles, we are told, will take three years to complete—till 1970. I impress upon my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that I shall make representations to him again, because it is vital in the interests of my constituents that we complete this road much sooner than that, and I hope he will agree to go into the question again, to see whether we can get alleviation in a shorter period than three years.

It is not only a constituency plea that I am making, for my hon. Friend must agree that that bridge would perhaps be the solution of the troubles of the South-West, at least in large measure. If we can get a bridge at Avonmouth it will not only help the City of Bristol and prevent our city from becoming clogged up with traffic, but we shall open up the whole South-West.

I am not in any way a classical student, but for two years of my life I tried to study Latin a little, including Julius Caesar's campaigns, and one of the things that impressed me about Julius Caesar—I read this in a translation—was that when, on his forward march, he found a river barred his path, he "threw a bridge across the river" and went on with his campaign.

I am well aware that it would be invidious of me to make comparisons between the Minister of Transport and Julius Caesar. I am also aware that there are greater engineering difficulties today than Caesar had, especially when we contemplate the massive road bridges of the size we need. However, I think that if the Minister looks very seriously at the map, contemplates the problems of congestion that we have in the City of Bristol at present, and considers the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne, and the problem of unemployment and the need for better communications, she will, like Julius Caesar, throw a bridge across the river—the Avon in my constituency.

1.27 p.m.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) represents one end of the M4. I represent a constituency practically at the other end of the M4 as it will be when it is completed. I am very pleased indeed that he reminded the Minister of the difficulties we face in the interim period before construction is completed. Indeed, the situation at the moment for many people who are at the end of the uncompleted part of the motorway is really almost worse than it was before the motorway was started, for very obvious and unavoidable reasons.

I can illustrate it in this way. The motorway on the M4 route takes a lot of the traffic from London much faster than it used to be able to move, and this traffic is now decanted on the outskirts of Reading at a fast pace, with the effect that it sometimes takes more time to get from Maidenhead into the centre of Reading than it does to get from the Chiswick Flyover to Maidenhead at the end of the uncompleted part. I can go further than that and say that there have been times when I have found that from the Sonning cutting it has taken 20 minutes or so to reach the centre of Reading, having not taken very much more than that to get along the whole completed part of the M4 route.

I do not want to perform a constituency logrolling exercise, but I should like to refer to one or two problems we face in my constituency before I move on to wider matters. The fact that one is at the point of intersection on the route between Oxford and Southampton and between London, Bristol and South Wales means that we are in the firing line, so to speak, of two main traffic flows. When I remind my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who has already had—quite rightly—to listen to a lot of talk about bridges, that there are only two bridges over the Thames at Reading, he will realise what difficulties we face.

I should like to pay tribute to one aspect of this planning. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) made some criticism of the handling of inquiries and gave the impression that he thought that the Ministry, under successive Governments, had been very insensitive in its treatment of local objections. A lot of what he says may be true.

In the preliminary stages of planning the route of the M4, that was not done. While I was still nursing the constituency which I now have the honour to represent, at one stage I found myself in a curious alliance with the Conservatives of South Oxfordshire who were engaged in a feud with the Conservatives of Berkshire about the route of the M4, which was then intended to go across the Chilterns north of the town instead of south of it. Under the weight of that extraordinary alliance, the Ministry gave way rapidly, so that although the last impediments in the way of a further extension of the M4 westwards have not been removed, the fact remains that the Ministry hearkened to our combined advice in that matter.

I suppose that almost every hon. Member takes the view that we need more motorways more quickly. In many ways, it does not matter if they are rather expensive, because they provide a more than adequate return for the money spent on them. That may be true for some years to come, but I begin to wonder if the day will not arrive when we shall be able to think about setting a limit. I may find myself getting into hot water with some of my hon. Friends from the rural extremities of the country—

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Exeter)

I expect so.

Mr. Lee

Certainly there are extensive gaps in the planned motorway system. The South-West has been mentioned. East Anglia could be mentioned. Central Wales is almost entirely missing from the map with which we have been supplied by the Ministry. The extreme southeast of Scotland and large parts of northern Scotland are excluded. It is obvious that that is not satisfactory, and that the existing projected motorway system will have to be extended to include a good many of those areas.

Before we reach the extensive motorway system which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) seemed to have in mind when he quoted the examples of France and Germany, we shall reach the stage when we shall be able at least to ask ourselves whether we have not built enough roads and whether the real task thereafter is not to see that they are fully utilised.

In almost every debate on transport over the last 20 years, there has been talk about whether or not the railways pay and which railways pay. Generally speaking, the depressing conclusion is drawn that either the railways cannot pay or that most of them cannot.

Is it not true that there are already a number of roadways—not motorways —which do not pay? Fantastic though it may seem at the moment, with the problems of traffic congestion which we face, we may ask ourselves one day the same questions about the roadways system as we do today about the railways.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

My hon. Friend was quite right when he said that he thought he was about to get into trouble with his hon. Friends from the rural areas. Is he seriously suggesting that those of us who can be said to have a railway system which does not necessarily pay in economic terms should be deprived of the country lanes which we have as well? If that is the theory behind his argument, I have the feeling that he will find himself isolated.

Mr. Lee

Let me reassure my hon. Friend. I was asking—and I shall persevere in spite of her wrath—whether the roads pay or whether they are likely to pay when they are finally built. I am not asking whether it is socially desirable to keep in existence communications which do not necessarily pay in an economic sense. In other words, because a railway does not pay, that is not necessarily a reason for closing it down. By the same token, it may be that, if a road does not pay, that is not necessarily a reason for closing it down. Nevertheless, it is right that we should consider the matter.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne for giving a second chance to those of us who did not catch the eye of the chair during the debate on the Transport White Paper, because in the course of the last few weeks I have been trying to find information about the usage of minor roads and the motorways themselves.

Although there are check-points on the roads to measure the volume of traffic on them, they are far from a universal practice, and it seems to be quite impossible to obtain any information about the different usage of many roads in peak and off-peak hours. We all know that even the busiest roads have quiet periods and that almost any road is usable without much hindrance between the hours of 12 midnight and four in the morning.

So far as I have been able to discover, we do not have that information about any of the minor roads. I put down a Question to the Ministry of Transport some weeks ago about the relative use of the various B and unclassified roads. The Department was unable to supply me with the information. I make no criticism of that, because one cannot do everything at once. But one begins to envisage a situation in which it would be desirable to do a Beeching exercise on the roads system in the sense of finding out which roads are being used and which are not, and the extent to which they are being used.

There must be many minor roads in the country which are very much under-used, and although we pride ourselves that our minor roads are very much better than those of many Continental countries—it is a kind of consolation prize for the fact that our motorways are so much worse—and that the local authorities spend something like £160 million a year on minor roads, it may be that not all of that money is well spent. I realise that in many cases it is, but I suspect that there are quite a number of roads which come into the "Bluebell Line" category in terms of their economic value. When my hon. Friend replies to the debate, I hope that he will discuss the need for more inforation about the use of our roads.

In the course of the debate on the White Paper a few days ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) suggested that more should be done to induce even usage of our roads. A number of my hon. Friends did not like his suggestion that a good deal of loading and unloading of commercial vehicles could take place in the hours of darkness. Many of us who live in urban areas might not look upon that with unalloyed pleasure if it meant that the volume of noise at night would be increased, when we have only just succeeded in persuading airlines to cut down the amount of noise created by aircraft during the hours of darkness.

If it is true of the railways that one of the greatest difficulties in making them pay is that they are for the most part used only for two concentrated short periods of the day, is it not also true, in strictly economic terms, that the roads ultimately may not pay because they, too, will also be used for only two concentrated periods of the day and be left with excess capacity at other times?

Mr. Ellis

Is my hon. Friend aware that the White Paper on Transport Policy says that the backlog of years of neglect and the rise in traffic mean that the roads as a whole will still be more congested in the 1970s than they are now …"? When my hon. Friend puts forward this proposition of looking at the problem in a strictly economic sense, will be remember that, while it may be the case that considerations such as this will apply one day in the future, at the moment if we went out from this place and built every inch of projected road there would still be a continuing problem?

Mr. Lee

I accept that, but 1 do not think that there is necessarily any conflict between my hon. Friend's proposition and mine. One reason for this congestion is the unevenness in the flow of traffic. This is because we have only just begun to scratch the problem of staggering hours of work and phasing our work cycle through the 24-hour day. During the transport debate my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire said that a great deal more of our industrial activity could take place on a shift system. If this were done, not only would our communications system be more economically used, but so would our industrial capacity. To make good use of our resources, we must use them in an even cycle. We do not do this, and our communications system reflects this fact rather more dramatically than do many other things.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West said in the earlier part of his speech that when one looks at the map of the projected motorways one sees that they all appear to emanate from London. If one looks at the map from any distance, leaving aside the MS-M6 route which is perhaps a rather conspicuous exception, one sees that in many respects the motorways system looks remarkably like a map of the main railways system, with the spokes of the wheel going out from London. We are in danger of repeating with the road system the mistake which was made with the railways, and the mistake which is often made with town planning. We seem to be thinking in terms of radial development, instead of lineal development.

I suppose it can be argued that the motorway system, which has been embarked on rather belatedly after years of neglect, is an effort to cope with the existing disposition of population and industry. My contention is that if we look further ahead at the way in which we should plan our future motorways, apart, of course, from the extensions which I have suggested for those parts of the country which are obviously neglected, and about which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Cam-borne spoke, we should think in terms of where the population should go, and then start thinking in terms of building motorways to serve them. As it is, we have built up our motorway system to reflect the imbalance between country and town, and between different parts of the country, and in many ways, inevitably, we have reflected the imbalance in their use.

My hon. Friends from the South-West have been looking indignantly suspicious throughout most of my speech. I am with them the whole way in wanting the projected motorways to be completed as soon as possible. I am with them in wanting the motorways to be extended to those parts of the country which have always been badly off, and which have always been at the end of the queue when it came to allocating our economic resources. All I say is that I hope we shall not, by the end of the century, arrive at a situation in which, ironically, because of further changes in our system of transport—for example, through the extensive use of hovercraft, or helicopters, or inland airlines—we find ourselves over-roaded, as we have become over-railwayed, so much so that however sensibly we deploy our resources we are faced with the extraordinary situation of having to close or abandon roads, as we now abandon railways, which, even with the most rational use of transport, cannot be made to pay.

My hon. Friend is thinking of the 'seventies. I am thinking still further ahead. I do not think the points I have made are in conflict with what we all want. I enter them as a caveat because we have a habit in this country of doing things late, of doing them in a wild panic, and ending up by overdoing them. The problem is not that of planning for the immediate future, or even for the next 10 years, but for the period beyond that. I agree with my hon. Friends about the need for more motorways, but I hope that they are with me in the need for the most rational and adequate use of them.

1.47 p.m.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Exeter)

I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), because I was fascinated by the way in which, like many of our skilled lawyers, he managed to face both ways at once, in what I can only assume to be a highly dangerous manner to everybody concerned.

It is not really an accident that so far in this debate three hon. Members from the South-West region have expressed their opinions. I say this advisedly, because both the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministry of Transport might well be forgiven if they groan when they hear mention of the name of the South-West in respect of any transport problem whatsoever. But we are not really just obsessional about this one problem. The reason why we so frequently attempt to speak on the problems of transport is that this is the over-riding problem with which we are faced.

My hon. Friend's speech worried me because of the sort of thinking that it revealed. I am frightened of the way in which people use this word "rationalisation" with regard to transport, when what they really mean is hacking something to death. The difference between a butcher and a surgeon is that the surgeon excises diseased tissue, and leaves, or hopes to leave, the patient alive. A butcher, on the other hand, deals with dead tissue and he can hack away with great abandon because it does not matter what happens to the carcass.

We in the South-West are deeply concerned about the problems of transport because they are central to all the other problems of development with which we are faced. Like at least one other hon. Member who has spoken, I was very anxious to speak in the transport debate on Wednesday. The South-West is facing a highly dangerous situation in terms of its future development, especially in relation to railways. Next month my constituency will lose many jobs because of closures on the railways. I am sorry that the other Joint Parliamentary Secretary is not here, because I should have had a few short sharp words to address to him.

I am worried because everything that we want to plan for in the future must depend on transport in some way or another. The transport policy White Paper spoke of "integrated transport". That is why, when we speak today about motorways, we must let the subject range rather widely, because it is not merely the question of roads that concerns us. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading said that we must decide what we are going to do about the disposition of the large number of people in these islands. We are already in a very small and crowded geographical area, and it seems to me that in my region we have quite lost sight of any sort of planning. We pour more services, more people and more congestion into the South-East, while doing nothing about planning the peripheral areas in respect of jobs, investment and all the things for which my hon. Friend and I have been asking for many years.

The situation has ceased to be funny. The South-West has a consistently high level of unemployment, and those who represent it nag the Board of Trade for development certificates. The Government have made large areas of Devon and Cornwall into development areas, and for this we are grateful. It has enabled us to have new factories built there. But we are faced with an almost insoluble problem; all the manufacturers who are asked to go to the South-West and are given inducements to do so by the Government find themselves having to cope with a situation in which the railways are being consistently cut back. Manufacturers find one of their lines of communication being cut.

There is no question of planning any motorways, or roads of motorway standards, for years to come. In some parts of the South-West we suspect that we may never get roads of motorway standard unless we shout loudly here and now, in the House.

This is what the debate is about. The South-West desperately needs a motorway. We do not merely need small improvements to our existing spine roads, although these are gratefully accepted. We must have a quick, efficient and sensible means of access if we are ever to be able to persuade anybody to come into the region and to invest in it in a way that will provide jobs and a full standard of life for the people.

An important factor about a capital city such as London is the quality of life that is offered. Everything becomes more difficult and more rushed. Other hon. Members have referred to some of the problems that arise when we try to improve communications by building motorways. We have to decide now which comes first, the chicken or the egg. If we are to have motorways built only in areas which already have industry and investment, and which are already overcrowded, people will never be allowed to spread out, because they must go where the jobs are, and jobs are not brought to areas where communications are poor.

I always laugh somewhat bitterly when I leave this House on a Friday night—especially when I am driven by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) to my home in Devon. I am driven, because my hon. Friend, 'who is sensible about equality for the sexes, would not relinquish his steering wheel to anyone. As I am driven along the road between London and Devon I become more and more irate when I think of the extraordinary way in which the South-West is expected to use a very inferior road as its main means of transport.

This is becoming an urgent problem. If the Railways Board is allowed to go on hacking the railways of Devon and Cornwall to pieces, and to continue shutting down stations and depriving the local people of their jobs, everyone will be forced on to the roads. One criticism I have of the White Paper is that it says that whatever is done over the next few decades to improve our railways, roads will continue to have a dominant role in the movement of passengers and goods. This may be so, but the corollary is that roads must be built to motorway standards.

It is much easier for me to go from here to help my friends in the Northern Ireland Labour Party, by going to Heathrow and boarding an aircraft, than it is to visit my constituency for one meeting, because that is practically a two-day operation.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West,)

It is quicker to get to New York.

Mrs. Dunwoody

As my hon. Friend says, it is possibly quicker to get to New York. It means that we are permanently chasing ourselves, in a closing circle. Whatever we want to do—if we ask for overspill, or for new towns—we must have transport. I have only to mention the name of my constituency to have everyone who has ever driven through it hold up his hands in horror, at the thought of the Exeter by-pass. I am told that we are to have a by-pass to by-pass this by-pass. This seems to be slightly lacking in terms of what is necessary. You can keep your by-pass, Mr. Joint Parliamentary Secretary; we should like a motorway! I shall not follow that up, too closely, Mr. Deputy Speaker, lest I be asked to leave the Chamber.

I repeat loudly and clearly that the place for heavy freight is not on our roads but on our railways. This is what an integrated transport policy is about. If we do not get on rapidly with our plans to retain the railways we shall have nothing left to integrate. I hope that we shall get a move on.

It is possible for my family and me to drive from Totnes to Ljubljana in about two and half days. I do not recommend it, but I have done it, in company with my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne. The most difficult and exhausting part of the journey is not from London to Yugoslavia but from Totnes to London.

I am sorry that no Liberal Members from the South-West are present today, because I want to express my opposition to their idea of setting up toll roads. Because of the poorness of public transport the South-West has a relatively high percentage of cars to population. We use the roads a great deal. We pay the same taxation as people in other parts of the country. We contribute to the same Road Fund and we pay the same driving licence fee, besides paying our ordinary taxes. We do not expect other people to give up their first-class roads, and I do not think that we should be expected to provide our own motorways at the cost of tolls. I oppose any such development in the South-West. We must have a road of motorway standard if we are to set up the sort of small industries that the West Country can absorb. The South-West is an amenity area, and tourism is one of its most important industries. We are anxious not to do anything which will damage that aspect of our economy. This does not mean that the cities of the South-West could not absorb light industries placed outside their immediate centres and providing jobs for people in surrounding areas. One of the difficulties about the tourist industry is that it is very seasonal. Having built small factories we must have a rapid means of getting their products on to the motorways and out to the other large centres of population. I would reinforce what the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne said about this. When driving through Western Germany or Italy, one frequently sees quite small rural towns which have a specific industry attached, which obviously provides many jobs for the town. The reason that they can space their industries in this way is largely that they are close to autobahns and autostradas.

The Autostrada del Sol is one of the finest roads in Western Europe, but the interesting thing about it is that it is not planned to go just to Rome but right the way down through Italy. One of the Italian Government's policies for its undeveloped regions is to provide employment to open up the regions to other areas and make it possible for tourists to travel backwards and forwards to the best advantage.

My concern is that we will not get the people and the development which we need in the South-West if we are thinking only in terms of providing motorways where there are large centres of population. We need a motorway road right down through the South-West. When I came to the House I was told that women made very good constituency members, because they never took "No" for an answer, even when "No" was the answer. Perhaps my hon. Friend will consider it sufficient warning if I tell him that, for roads, we will not take "No" for an answer. Perhaps he would tell his hon. Friend the other Joint Parliamentary Secretary that we will be vocal about the problems of our railways as well.

The White Paper says: Special techniques are needed because the benefits from road improvements cannot be measured by simple profitability … the rise in traffic mean that our roads as a whole will be still more congested in the 1970s than they are now … the plans will fit in with the broad pattern of population growth in the 1970s and with the Government's proposals for regional development. Three hon. Members from the South-West have spoken today and there will be a good deal said by hon. Members from the other regions about the needs of the development areas in the motorway problem.

I stress with all my might that this is not an accident. It is because our roads and our railways are our arteries. If they are cut or strangled, it will take us a very short time to die. Before that happens the House will hear about this time and time again. But we will not be content simply with a plan for the 1970s or 1980s. The Minister of Transport said on Wednesday that she could not wait for the 1970s. Believe me, we in the South-West cannot wait for the 1970s either, and we will make darned sure everyone knows it.

2.3 p.m.

Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)

Perhaps I could intervene now first to congratulate the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) on his extraordinary luck in the Ballot. How the hon. Member and his hon. Friend and wife, the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody), have mastered the art of the Ballot I simply do not know, but I envy both their luck.

I am particularly pleased that the hon. Member, although he opened a fairly wide debate on motorways, has none the less naturally directed his remarks to the problems which we in the South-West particularly face. I propose to venture rather cautiously into national policy on these matters, for fear, speaking from this Box, that I might get in trouble with my colleagues. Before turning to those problems—this debate up to now has had very much of a West Country flavour— I should like to underline two points which have already been made.

The first was the point of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne that a national motorway system is essential to regional development. It was absolute sense to plan and build the motorways down the "ribs" of England first, but the nearer those plans get to completion, the more necessary it is that further firm plans should be made to extend the system into the extremities. Otherwise, inevitably, the magnetic effect of the motorways down the ribs of England will attract industrial development to those areas, many of which are congested already, and will work contrary to any regional development policy of any Government.

It is now immensely important that, in those outlying parts of the country where plans do not exist at the moment, those plans should be put into operation, so that people will at any rate know that if they decide to set up new factories, there is at least a prospect that the road communications which are so essential are being planned and will in due course be put into operation.

My second main general point relates to the complicated procedure which is involved. We have had differing arguments on this. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne asked that the procedure should be streamlined. I agree with him in many respects—there is much to be said for this—but at the same time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) made clear, even under the present procedures, it is not always possible for those who are vitally concerned on the ground to have an effective say in these matters and to ensure that their views are put forward.

We shall listen with great interest to the Parliamentary Secretary's comments on the very serious constituency point about the M11 which my hon. Friend put to him. I think that my hon. Friend's suggestion was absolutely right, that one of the ways in which we can perhaps speed up these procedures is better compensation. I strongly agree. We should avoid many of the difficulties and frustrations and much of the discontent if we were rather more generous over compensation than we are at present.

I turn now to the particular West Country aspects which, up to now, have been the main theme of the debate. To use a medical metaphor which I am sure will appeal to the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne, one has only to look at a map to see that the South-West is rather like the foot of the human body. Just as the foot depends upon good circulation of the blood for health, so do we in the South-West.

Unless our road communications are substantially improved, we, as the foot, cannot fulfil the functions which we should be able to fulfil towards national prosperity, as well as having a reasonable measure of the prosperity of the whole country. Nothing is more important to the South-West than that the motorway arteries should be extended to us. There has been agreement on this point from all speakers in the debate.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary knows that if one asks our Economic Planning Council or the joint committee of the main local authorities in the South-West, or consults the Survey of the South-West published in 1965, or asks people engaged in industry, agriculture, or tourism, one will be told the same thing—that the number one priority is a motorway in the South-West.

I agree that it is entirely right to build the ribs down the centre of England first, but we are now approaching the stage at which the north of the region will be linked to the motorways system. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) mentioned the need and the problems which exist in his part of the region as a result of the opening of the Severn Bridge. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) mentioned a similar point—that traffic is decanted faster into those parts which are just beyond the present links with the motorway system. It is immensely important that these two projects to the north of the region—M4 and M5—should be completed as speedily as possible, but it is equally important from the point of view of confidence for industrial development further southwards that firm plans should be made here, too.

The Severn Bridge is open. We are, at any rate, within sight of the M4 linking the north of the region to London and the M5 linking the north of the region to the Midlands. In other words, we are within sight of good communications west, east and north. But for the south we have no more at present than an agreement in principle that we require a motorway. The contrast is marked, and it becomes much more marked as the motorway network comes closer to Bristol and the surrounding regions. That is why we need firm plans now.

There are people who ask, "What more do you want? You have the northern region link. Surely people can go on that a little further south". What many people do not realise is that a person who goes on holiday, and who reaches Bristol, has 200 miles further to go before he reaches his destination in Devon or Cornwall. It is not generally realised that it is twice as far from Bristol to Penzance as from Bristol to London.

Exactly the same comment applies to new industrial development. Any hon. Member from the South-West knows exactly the problem. We can build advance factories and make grants available, but the first question that the prospective industrialist in the South-West will ask is, "What about the road communications? Can I get from my home base in the Bristol area or the London area or the Midlands down to my factory in the South-West and back in one day?" The answer in very many cases is, "No"!

This is a great disincentive which is working very much against the regional development policy which the Government are trying to operate in the South-West. It is not only a matter of atracting new firms into the regions. There are a number of firms, well established in the region, in many cases with comparatively small factories in comparatively small towns, and for them communications between those factories are of immense importance. If they are to expand in the South-West or even to stay in the South-West they will find it more and more difficult as traffic flow builds up and as communication between their various factories becomes more difficult.

A third factor which I want to put to the Minister is the significance of the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea—a discovery which we all welcome, and which will be of great benefit to the country. This is a new source of energy. But in the South-West we cannot but be worried when we look at experience in earlier years of the discovery of a new source of energy. I grant that it is much easier to transport natural gas about the country than it was to transport coal in the first Industrial Revolution, but in my view there is no doubt that the discovery of gas in the North Sea will mean that development in the North-East will be much more attractive, and the North-East will have a magnetic effect.

Very few parts of the British Isles are further from the source of natural gas than the West Country. This is an additional and I suggest a stronger reason why it is necessary for these firm plans to be made. When she was in the West Country opening the Honiton by-pass last December the Minister made friendly noises accepting the need for a motorway, but the Answers which we have had from her since have been very disappointing. I asked her a Question on 25th January to which she answered: I intend that a new road should be built between the M5 at Edithmead and Exeter, but the line of the complete road, the standard of construction and the timing have still to be decided."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c. 1474.] But these represent the important concrete evidence that this will be done and some knowledge of when it is likely to be done. As the Minister well knows, a survey was commissioned as long ago as 1964—a survey which eventually reported giving a comprehensive review of traffic flow and details of possible routes. This survey must have been in the hands of the Ministry for 12 months or more, and yet it is only now, 12 months later, that the aerial survey has been authorised, and we are bound to ask why there has been a delay of 12 months.

We have heard time and again in debate of the inevitable delays in getting the preliminary work done before anyone can move in to do the building. Surely it does not suggest a real sense of urgency in the matter that this aerial survey has not taken place previously, but nevertheless it is now being done and we are grateful for that.

I want next to put to the Minister the question of linking the new proposed motorways with the part which is already firmly in the plan, over the Avon Bridge and as far as Edithmead. In answering a Question on 25th January the Joint Parliamentary Secretary told me that it was hoped that the extension to Edithmead would be completed by the end of 1971. That was good news, although I agree that the opening of the Severn Bridge has emphasised the urgency of this project being completed as quickly as possible. What we want to know is whether there will be continuity beyond Edithmead.

There is no need for me to emphasise to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary the advantages and economies which arise from an even flow of work in continuous phases. If we are to have a gap in the work after Edithmead, following that before Edithmead, we shall lose many of the advantages of economy which a steady flow of work would bring. I hope that the hon. Member will tell us that it is the Government's firm intention to carry this work forward in continuous stages and that there will not be an ugly gap of years after the completion to Edithmead in 1971. He knows very well that the advantages are enormous when a project is going forward and he must equally know of a number of firms which have been working on major projects and have no new motorway work to which they can go.

Not only is expensive equipment lying idle in those circumstances, but very often teams which have been held together for many years have to be broken up and dispersed. I can think of one major road contractor in particular who finished a project a few months ago. Unhappily, he has not got a new one to go to, and not only has he some of the most modern equipment for road building lying idle but he has had to lay off highly qualified men many of whom have been with his firm for 10 or 15 years.

I would ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary whether he can give us a few more details about the new preparation pool schemes which were announced recently. Looking at a Press hand-out that I have here, which was quoted in The Times on 22nd February, I notice that very little detailed information is given about programmes for the West Country which will be in the preparation pool. We are told that four schemes on the Exeter-Plymouth section of the A38 costing about £5 million are in the preparation pool. This is welcome, of course, particularly to those in the far West on that route, but not so welcome, I suspect, to those who prefer the A30. However, that is another matter. The hand-out also says that there are schemes in Somerset and Cornwall, but no details are given. It would be helpful if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary could tell us a little more about the projects which are announced as being in the preparation pool.

We in the West Country do not expect miracles, but I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has been impressed by the unity of view on this matter that has come from both sides of the House. Incidentally I also regret that there is no representative on the Liberal benches when these West Country matters are being discussed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]

We cannot expect these things to be completed overnight, but I think that we are making a perfectly reasonable request when we say that only firm plans and dates can give confidence to people in the West Country and encourage new firms to come in and expand. I agree with what the hon. Member for Exeter said; we on this side of the House will give the Minister no peace until we get those firm dates and plans.

2.23 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

I hope that it will be found convenient for me to intervene at this stage. I want to make plain that I am intervening; there is no question of winding up the debate. I think that it might be found convenient for me to give the Government's view on the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody). Naturally, I shall remain in the House until the conclusion of the debate and take note of any points that hon. Members wish to make.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his combination of good fortune and great skill in using it. I am sure that every hon. Member who heard him appreciated that he put a most cogent case for the Motion, and the main part of what I have to say will be devoted to the points that he raised. Perhaps it would be convenient if before coming to the main part of what I have to say about the Motion and my hon. Friend's speech, I dealt with some of the side effects of his Motion and particular points that were raised by some hon. Members.

I start with the speech of the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin), who illustrated some of the special difficulties that are bound to be involved and that we have all to face in connection with the planning of motorway projects. My first point is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport must, of course, take wholly the responsibility for the planning of these roads. They are national roads, and my right hon. Friend is completely responsible for them. They are paid for totally out of national funds. Therefore, my right hon. Friend must have full responsibility both for proposals that are put forward and decisions that are finally taken.

In the second place, there may be some people who think that it would be better to carry on all the consultations in complete secrecy—if one could ever get complete secrecy—and only at the end of the day announce to the public, including hon. Members, what the decisions are. I well understand that view. It has been put to me many times from the point of view of not raising anxieties or creating disturbance that might be avoidable. It is inevitable that if proposals put forward for road projects are amended in the course of consultations, or become the subject of inquiries and other things of that kind, a number of citizens may quite unnecessarily become perturbed about the effects on their properties. That is one of the prices that we pay for publicity.

We try to take a balanced view in this matter, in the sense that my right hon. Friend puts forward draft proposals when the Department, which is wholly responsible for the projects, has arrived at a view about a route to be preferred or a scheme to be promoted. She is then in a position to put them as proposals to the statutory authorities along the line of route—the local highway authorities—which frequently act as the Minister's agents in the promotion of these schemes and ought to have a right to be consulted because they are the local representatives of the people.

I would therefore tell the hon. Gentleman that when we put forward draft proposals, they are proposals and suggestions, and they will lead in due course, after consultations, to the making of schemes and to the publication of draft orders. I emphasise that they are meant as proposals. Unless we tried what, frankly, I would regard as the impossible procedure of seeking to carry out all consultations about motorway schemes in complete secrecy, it is inevitable that sometimes I am in a position to give only limited information to hon. Members, when more detailed and technical discussions are going on between the Ministry of Transport and the local authorities which have a statutory responsibility in the matter.

I was surprised at some of the things said by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford, especially his comments on the preferred route which my right hon. Friend had put forward. The reasons for this route were, I believe, fully explained to those who in the first place were entitled to get such an explanation; namely, the capacity of the road to be built in relation to the cost. Let me be frank about it. The reasons were two-fold—engineering and economic. As between the suggested Lea Valley route and the Roding Valley route, the point was what size of road and what design capacity one could get for the amount of money to be invested. The route was preferred on the ground that one would get a better route for the money invested. It was therefore a technical matter on which the technicians have pronounced from an engineering and economic point of view—

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not want to keep on interrupting him, but will he say just why, if these were the reasons, when I asked what the reasons were in 1964 I was not given any answer?

Mr. Swingler

I had hoped that I had explained that point. When the Ministry arrives at proposals to be put to the statutory authorities we endeavour to let hon. Members know exactly what these proposals are, but at that stage we refuse, I think rightly, to enter into any details or arguments with hon. Members precisely because these are only proposals: entering into any detailed exchange or argument with hon. Members then would, in our view, only be likely to create unnecessary anxiety before the stage of consultation with the statutory authorities had been completed leading to a ministerial decision on the matter. An hon. Member can then be put in a position of giving firm information to his constituents about what is likely to happen.

Even then we know that there may be public inquiries and amendments to the line of route. That can happen during any stage of what some people call the 39 steps—the statutory and other processes through which we have to go to bring a motorway project to birth. That is why we have taken that attitude. To the statutory authorities concerned we try to explain the full reasons why the Minister has arrived on technical grounds at a view on the line of route, and we genuinely invite statutory authorities to make representations or suggestions, though my right hon. Friend must in the end take full responsibility for the decision.

Perhaps I may now turn to what was said by my hon. Friend—

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not passing away from the case I put. I would remind him, in five words basically, what the question was—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions must be brief. The hon. Member has already spoken at length.

Mr. Jenkin

My complaint is that the Ministry is approaching the route in bits. The Minister has published one bit, but not the other bits. The hon. Gentleman cannot look at it in parts. It must be looked at in the round.

Mr. Swingler

We will publish the other "bits", as the hon. Gentleman described them, as soon as possible. I cannot accept the proposition that in road planning we cannot decide anything until we have decided everything. It is quite impossible to do that, although we know the importance of linking schemes and so forth, because of the very protracted nature of the statutory and other processes. As soon as a decision can be taken on part of a project it is essential, for reasons of speed, to get forward with publication of that part and with the necessary investigations that must be undertaken.

I can assure the hon. Member and his constituents that we are now getting on rapidly with discussion of the southern link road and the linking scheme. This will be published as soon as possible. I am sure that when it comes to any form of inquiry the necessary details will be available to those who may wish to put forward alternatives or to make objections to the scheme as a whole. We shall work to get publication on those lines.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) urges us to speed up the process of building parts of the motorway programme in hand, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) was very concerned about the bridges. I cannot make any announcement about bridges this afternoon, but I can tell my hon. Friend that I shall look at the question very carefully.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West knows that we took special action to speed up the completion of the M4 to Tormarton. We are most anxious to meet the difficulties of the procedure situation in order to get forward with completion of those other parts of the motorway project which create great difficulties, basically difficulties of procedure.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading was looking rather deeply into a crystal ball of his own making. It seemed to show something not often illustrated in the maps in my office, which show rather few under-used roads. If I could only spot rather more of those under-used roads about which my hon. Friend seems to know I might heave a few sighs of relief at the prospect of constructing roads to keep pace with the ever mounting volume of traffic. I therefore rather sympathise with the swift comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody).

I believe that, basically, a great part of our national transport problem is that of overloaded roads and under-used railways, and a great part of my right hon. Friend's integrated approach to transport policy is to get fuller use of railways and other forms of transport in order to give as much relief as we can to the load of traffic which must come on the roads—

Mr. John Lee

As my hon. Friend already knows, I fully accept and applaud the policy of his right hon. Friend, whom I regard as a splendid Minister. Would he not agree that I was saying that we need more information about the use of roads and that this is completely compatible with the idea of an integrated transport system?

Mr. Swingler

I agree entirely that we want to make the fullest and most efficient use of the highway system. Where, perhaps, my hon. Friend may have made mistake was in talking about some sort of Beeching Report on the highway system. One of the things we are trying to do at the Ministry of Transport is to get away from the accountancy approach, the profit-and-loss criterion, and to get towards a criterion based on a proper assessment of social costs and benefits resulting from investment in transport schemes. That is why we know that we shall have an enlarging investment in the road system.

But my crystal ball in the Ministry of Transport predicts that whereas we now have nearly 10 million cars in the Kingdom, in the year 2000 there will be 40 million. That does not seem to suggest that there will be some underloading of the highway system. It is a statistical projection such as this which causes the Ministry of Transport now to suggest that inevitably during the 'seventies the main part of the highway system will become more overloaded than it is now, in spite of the very substantial and expanding investment we shall have.

I rather expected that powerful support for my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne would come from my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter, so I have prepared myself as best I can to comment on the speech of the mover of the Motion. I doubt whether I have much hope of making my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter complacent in these matters, but I may be able to say a few things to allay her greatest anxiety.

The Government have a great deal of sympathy with the terms and general conception of the Motion. No one would disagree with the view that efficient communications are essential to the economic and social progress of our country; or that the growth of road traffic is something for which we must cater now in our forward planning as far ahead as we can see.

The Motion particularly stresses the importance of industrial development, of development areas and of the need for access to ports. I propose to comment in particular on each of these points. These too are fundamental requirements of our economic structure which, of course, need no justification for inclusion in a list of high priority transport requirements. Although it is certainly useful to be reminded of them in the form in which my hon. Friend has put forward his Motion, they are not, of course, exclusive. There are other important criteria to which we must also pay attention—for example, the building of new towns, the links with our major industrial areas, the relief of the creeping congestion in major towns and cities and the preservation and restoration of social amenities, urban and rural. All these are considerations which we have to have in mind all the time in the Ministry of Transport, as well as some of the specific matters to which my hon. Friend drew attention.

My hon. Friend concentrated on one specific aspect of communication—an extension of the motorway plan. He elaborated on this point considerably and it is clear that what he had in mind was that the present plans for building a national network of motorways should be extended by adding to them a further network of additional roads, also built to motorway standards, for connecting those parts of the country for which no motorways have been announced. It is tempting when considering the transport needs of this country, and in particular the road transport needs, to fix upon the motorways as the most obvious and modern example of transport development.

Several hon. Members have referred to the motorway map as it is now, which has the appearance of being self-contained and capable of further development as a separate entity in the highway system. What more obvious course, people say, can there be than to create the cross links between the motorways, to add the spokes to the wheel—all to motorway standards—which appears to move the programme forward to a seeming degree of completion? But the whole problem is not as simple as that. The motorway system, however important in itself, as it is now planned and well understood, is not and cannot be regarded as a separate entity. It depends for its most efficient use upon the whole network of inter-urban roads, and we have to put it in that context. At the same time as we have been building motorways, we have been improving the trunk roads generally to a high standard, sometimes to little short of motorway standards.

Indeed, between 1965 and 1970 we plan to have built or reconstructed about 260 miles of all-purpose trunk road in England alone, in addition to the motorway programme. When comparisons are made with the Continent, it is often forgotten that many of these roads not classified as motorways are, in fact, built to a standard which in those countries enjoys the name of motorway. The high speed motorway with its junction-free carriageways and hard shoulders is justified where traffic is heavy enough to demand its installation, but a motorway of this kind is the most expensive form of road we can provide.

It would be very wasteful indeed to build to motorway standards where expected traffic flows do not justify it. When the pint pot overflows we must provide a quart—not a gallon, unless we can be certain that the gallon will be needed in the foreseeable future. I must not give the impression by that metaphor that the whole thing is as simple as that. There is more—much more—to a highway programme than relieving the worst of the congestion. There is, for example, the vexed question of the balance between expenditure on urban and inter-urban roads, but even more complicated because of the variety of needs is the relationship between this network of highways and other forms of transport.

For so long as there must be firm limitations on the resources available for investment in roads, they must be used to the very best effect, getting the highest value as indicated in my right hon. Friend's White Paper, and this means a continuing struggle to reconcile the needs of all forms of transport with the means of providing them.

I shall not return to the major subject of Wednesday's debate which went into the whole subject of road planning, railway planning and urban congestion. We are now talking about roads and motorways in particular. I wish to make one point very clear in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne. There will be new motorways in addition to those now in the programme. It is the intention to extend the programme, and the Motion calls for that. We are not, of course, planning just to build 1,000 miles of motorway by the early 1970s and to say, "That is the motorway network". Nothing could be further from the truth about our planning, but we have to beware of becoming mesmerised by the name which we have given to this particular type of inter-urban road and simply tacking on new lengths of motorway just because this appears to be a neat and tidy way to complete the pattern.

It is all too easy to draw lines on a map which look satisfactory in isolation. It is much more difficult to make achievements match the actual needs. Our first step must be to establish our overall needs, for example, the traffic loads all over the country. This is a practical matter. It is not difficult to decide where the shoe pinches. With such a heavy backlog of out-of-date roads throughout the country, it pinches all too frequently in too many places. The problem is to decide which area is hurting most and deserves first attention. This is the essence of our programming. This demands the fullest and most careful appraisal in the light of all the considerations of traffic, engineering, amenity, development and of course the amount of finance available.

This, therefore, is the first thing we are doing. We have examined the 5,400 or so miles of trunk road in the country and the expected growth of traffic during the 1970s on those roads. We have estimated to what extent they will be overloaded in future when the existing trunk road and motorway programmes are completed. We have measured the losses which will arise on those roads through traffic delays on present standards and accidents if nothing were done to improve these roads. We have considered what additional routes are needed to correct deficiencies in the present road network.

Armed with these figures, we are seeking to identify those schemes which offer the highest economic and social benefit to the community. Several hon. Members mentioned this, including the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford. The criterion must be the economic and social benefit calculated on the broadest basis and the balance of social costs and benefits in making our priorities for these schemes. I will not pretend that our assessment techniques are perfect. We are constantly working to improve them, but they give us a reasonable basis with which to identify the relative priority to be given to various schemes and, most important, they often provide a pointer to the standard of construction we should adopt.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of priorities, will he recognise that in some parts of the country there are small areas where existing roads might be joined up relatively economically in the terms in which he is speaking and which would provide through connections and give results and benefits out of all proportion to the expenditure? I am thinking particularly of the Kingsworthy link near Winchester which he and I have discussed.

Mr. Swingler

When I was describing the factors that we have to take into account, I was endeavouring to show that our whole emphasis is on getting the greatest value in terms of road space and, therefore, traffic flow for the amount of money which can be spent. There is a vast range of factors such as I have mentioned which have to be taken into account —the actual traffic loading now, what it is likely to be in future, the safety factor and whether there are particular danger spots, and things of that kind and, as the hon. and gallant Member has mentioned, the amount of value to be gained from a given investment. It is on this type of calculation that our economists and engineers are concentrating all the time to decide the priority of particular schemes.

We have to remember that the roads programme is in competition fur money with all the other important programmes in the civil sector—housing, hospitals, school building—and, whether we like it or not, the resources we can allocate to roads will not enable us to do everything that we would like to do on the basis of these calculations. We must, therefore, make the most economical use of the funds that are available. This means the careful setting of priorities, choosing the right schemes in the right order, and ensuring that each new or improved road is built to the appropriate standard and not to a standard which is either extravagant, on the one hand, or, on the other, one which will cause the road to be overloaded within a very short period. If we overspend on one road, there is always another one which will remain untouched for a little while on account of our commitments of money.

We are, therefore, tackling this problem on two fronts. We are taking a very hard look at all our procedures and statutory obligations and we are introducing a number of new methods designed to ensure that the schemes selected for the programme are the right ones and that they are prepared and executed expeditiously and economically.

I am not in a position this afternoon to say anything in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne or other hon. Members about the speeding up of the procedures. I am sure that all hon. Members, especially after having listened this afternoon to the speech of the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford, will know that this will inevitably be a highly controversial question—the rights of the citizen to object, the right of a council to object, and other considerations of that kind, balanced against the national need to get motorway or major trunk road schemes put through as economically, as efficiently and as expeditiously as possible. It is an exceedingly difficult matter which will undoubtedly confront the House in the near future.

Many may easily say that these procedures should be reformed, that the programming of these projects should be speeded up. However, when one gets down to the details of the extent to which the rights of individual citizens will be diminished or even over-ridden in the name of the national need for speedier construction of motorways, it is undoubtedly an issue which all hon. Members will need to examine very carefully.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

My hon. Friend says that the House will have to consider this point. Could he say here and now that his Ministry, too, will accept that it must take cognisance of the warning he has just given us when some of these problems arise?

Mr. Swingler

Certainly. Clearly, it is on the basis of our experience, especially the representations made by hon. Members, that we must examine in what way the law could be reformed, whilst still establishing the rights of citizens to make their case and to have it argued before an impartial inspector.

There is no intention of seeking to assume the powers which exist in other countries and which account for the stories we hear from other countries about speedier road construction. So much can be done by diktat, by the exercise of ruthless powers. There is no question in this country of such powers being adopted; but, nevertheless, we believe that the present procedures could be reformed on democratic lines which would do something to assist the progress of the roads programme.

Mr. Ellis

Did not my hon. Friend take the point made, quite elaborately and so well, by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean)? Very often we could do much to help the owner-occupier, since he is being asked to move at the behest of the community, by liberalising the payments, by paying him slightly more, and by making these payments more speedily.

Mr. Swingler

I know what my hon. Friend has in mind. I have certainly taken note of what the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) said. Compensation is a cost in the roads programme, and it is thus inevitable that any additional obligations which are taken on for compensation, any additional bill for compensation, reduce the amount of money available for expenditure on roads. We want to have a fair and equitable settlement. I confess at once that there are certain aspects of the compensation law which are not satisfactory and which we must investigate further.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Would not the Joint Parliamentary Secretary agree that experience in other countries has shown that there is a saving by speeding up the process as a result of more liberal compensation?

Mr. Swingler

We will certainly examine that evidence carefully, because the hon. Gentleman made an interesting point. We must weigh this against the difficulties on account of financial stringency in paying a bigger bill for compensation, when it means that the amount of money left for compensation on the construction of new highways is diminished.

I was about to refer to the establishment of road construction units. While we are talking about getting value for money and speeding up the roads programme, I want to refer to the statement made by my right hon. Friend in Wednesday's debate on transport about the excellent progress we are making in setting up the new road construction units. It is just because we are concerned to speed up the planning and designing and all other aspects of motorway construction that my right hon. Friend is setting these units up.

These units will play a key rôle in the future development of our inter-urban road programme and are an earnest of our determination to make the best possible use of our resources. We are overhauling the contract procedures and improving the liaison between the Department and the civil engineering construction industry on the lines recommended in the very valuable Lofthouse Report, the recommendations of which we want to carry into effect as soon as possible.

As I have already said, we are seeing what can be done to speed up the statutory and administrative procedures which now cause such a big gap between planning and execution. We are also introducing new methods of selection and programming of schemes, and part of this was announced by my right hon. Friend earlier this week.

What we are doing—this answers some questions raised about the nature of the preparation pool, especially by the hon. Member for Somerset, North—is to authorise preparation by local authorities of a vast pool of road schemes to the point where they can be translated into the firm programme with the assurance that they can be carried out at much shorter notice than is the case at present.

Hitherto, we have not had a sufficient reservoir of prepared schemes. There are many advantages to this new course. When programming decisions come to be taken, they can be made in the light of the latest assessment of what needs to be done. We shall know a great deal about the detailed effects of particular schemes, the degree of promise they hold for the future, and we shall have a much firmer idea of what they will cost and the benefits which they will offer. We shall therefore be able to make much more accurate decisions on details and costs for inclusion in the programme and will run less risk that over the long period of preparation inevitable in every road scheme slips and delays will make a nonsense of the initial plan.

In some cases we can tell from the outset that motorway standards will be required and justified. Other schemes will undoubtedly emerge at the programming stage as motorways, and very properly so, according to the calculations about traffic which have been made.

However, I should not like the House to leave the debate with the impression that what we are doing is to put a great many individual and isolated road programmes into preparation for assessment in individual and isolated ways. I have described already how we assess the overall needs by calculations of traffic flows and so on. It is at the preparation stage that individual schemes have to run the gauntlet of appraisal to ensure that they fit in with the national needs of the country as a whole and with our concept of preparing highways for the future. It is therefore less important at this stage to commit ourselves now to specific decisions about the precise timing and standard of construction of individual highways to be built in the 1970s than it is to be sure that when decisions are taken we are ready to implement them as quickly as possible and to make them fit the needs, priorities and resources of future years.

It will already be clear to those hon. Members who have studied the lists issued by my right hon. Friend that certain roads in the preparation pool will undoubtedly be built to motorway standards, but it would be quite wrong of me to forecast exactly what will emerge. Indeed, that would be contrary to what I have been saying.

The House will have in mind my right hon. Friend's announcement of last Tuesday which included firm motorway schemes, for example among them the large-scale motorway projects in South Lancashire and East Yorkshire. Here is the evidence that we intend to continue to develop the motorway system in the best possible way and here also is the evidence of our concern for the ports and for linking the motorway system to the major ports.

There was also the announcement on 25th January which added more than 50 major schemes to the local authorities' programme on principal roads, no less than 10 of which were routes to the docks. If the House is concerned about new developments, I can draw attention to the proposed improvement to the route between the Wellington-Oakengates-Dawley area and the West Midlands conurbation with links to the M6 and the proposed improvements of the A20 which will benefit the Channel Tunnel traffic.

I should like to turn to the South-West, because much of the debate has been dominated by concern for the South-West, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne naturally paid attention. As he knows, the Minister has already given a firm undertaking that a new road will be built from the M5 at Edithmead to Exeter, although no decisions have yet been taken about the standard of construction or the timing. I ask my hon. Friends and others who are interested to bear in mind what I have said about the classification "motorway" and also the fact that many roads are to be built to motorway standards, although they may not be classified as motorways.

My hon. Friends and others may have wondered why, in view of what my right hon. Friend said at Honiton, this route does not appear in the preparation list announced on Tuesday. The simple explanation is that, apart from the Cullompton by-pass, which is due to start in the spring, our investigations are not yet sufficiently advanced for us to be able to include specific schemes for this route in the initial preparation list. This does not mean that we are giving this road lower priority, or that all the schemes which appear in the list will be given priority over this. The eventual selection of schemes for transfer from the preparation pool to the programme will depend entirely on their comparative merits, their state of preparation and the overall level of resources.

Beyond Exeter our intention is to convert the A38 into a dual-carriageway road right through to Plymouth, and a number of schemes has already been completed or is under construction with that object. Others have already been programmed for the future. I know that my hon. Friend and others have anxieties about the relative merits of that route and the A30, and no doubt correspondence will continue to pass between us on that subject. We have based our view on surveys and the recommendations of the Joint Committee. Nevertheless, we are always prepared to listen to arguments and points of view by those who represent the area.

Mr. Dean

The hon. Gentleman has been able to say very little about the section from Edithmead to Exeter. Can he at least say that he recognises the importance and the economy of not having a gap in time between the completion to Edithmead and carrying on? Can he give an assurance that he will do his utmost to see that the motorway is continued from the present plans by continuous contracts right through to Exeter?

Mr. Swingler

Certainly we want to get more continuity into the programme, not less. One of the basic reasons for establishing the road construction units is that we are very concerned to ensure that there is a greater degree of continuity, a longer-term look at contracting, and no wastage in the use of expensive equipment, and that skilled labour teams are kept together. We shall judge the development of those roads, with the pushing southwards of M5 and so on, from the point of view of getting the maximum continuity of work.

I am afraid that I have already spoken for too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] I notice that I have evoked some applause at last.

The Government are in general sympathy with the terms of the Motion, which asks for an extended motorway plan to be produced. I hope that I have said enough to show that what we are doing already meets the spirit of the Motion, and that we are doing it within the context of a national plan for transport in the most effective way.

I ask the House to accept that, for the reasons I have given, future motorway proposals should be treated as an integral part of our inter-urban road planning for the 1970s and not considered in isolation and if it decides to accept the Motion to do so with the thought in mind that the motorways will continue to be developed and be announced—as some have been this very week—as part of the improvement of the country's highway system as a whole.

3.8 p.m.

Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)

I give general support to the Motion. I shall not take too long, because I realise that the hon and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) has another Motion on the Order Paper and has been here since 11 o'clock.

I wish to draw attention to the fact that most of our time today has been devoted to the problems of the South-West. I am concerned with another south-west—the south-west of London. If one considers the proposed motorways submitted by the Greater London Council and, I suppose, by the Ministry, one sees that four will pass through the London borough of Wandsworth. If my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody) is short of motorways, I am sure that we would be prepared to give her two of ours.

My point is that those four motorways will go through a London borough which at present has the greatest number of main line railways running through it. I refer to the main lines running from Waterloo and Victoria right down to Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton. On top of that, the London Borough of Wandsworth, and particularly Clapham Junction, is to be the fulcrum of four motorways through our borough, and these are the motorways suggested. These motorways are six, or eight, or 12-lane highways going through one of the most densely populated areas of south-west London.

One is the southern part of the west cross route from Western Avenue to Clapham Junction. The second is the western section of the south cross route running from Clapham Junction to Kidbrooke. The third is the route running from Clapham Junction through Putney and leading to the M4. Then there is the route running from Clapham Junction south-west to join with the proposed new Brighton motorway.

This is the position in the London Borough of Wandsworth, and I suggest to the Minister that before any assent is given to these proposals by the Greater London Council, full discussion should take place in this House with regard to the motorways and ring roads for the London area.

I go a long way with the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) when he talks about discussions with Ministries and with the powers-that-be about these matters. We have found that decisions are very often made before consultation, and that consultation is just a matter of course for rubber stamping. In Wandsworth, the highways committee, of which I happen to be a member, is perturbed about rapid advances which are made with these proposals without adequate consultation. I suggest to the Minister that before these plans are finalised, full discussion should take place in a proper manner with the representatives of the residents in the areas to be affected.

For a moment 1 want to dwell on the effect of these motorways on the people of Wandsworth. The price of land in Wandsworth is high enough as it is. If this land is acquired for motorway use the price of land will soar much higher. We are concerned with the fact that new, public, housing schemes, and estates that we have built, are threatened by the new motorways and that the enormous trading centre of Clapham Junction is threatened with being made the fulcrum of these four motorways.

Clapham Junction is the largest railway junction in the world, and I think a very fair point was made when it was asked, why have under-use of railway lines and over-use of roads? In Battersea, part of which I represent, and at Clapham Junction more development could be made from railway lines, and not so much with motorways.

Several different schemes have been put forward, and I suggest the Minister should study ideas proposed by people who know something about this. One is that if the roads have to built, they might be built on stilts over the railway lines, and I would think we have railway lines in Wandsworth that at the present time are not being used. On the other hand, what is the objection, if traffic is to pass through London, and London is not to be by-passed, to building the main roads or highways underground—in exactly the same way as we have the Dartford Tunnel and other tunnels in London? We suggest that full examination should be made of this idea before literally hundreds of acres of good land are taken away to be used as motorways. We have developed some very fine open spaces in Wandsworth, but we discover from the latest plan that one of our fine open spaces is to be destroyed for an enormous motor road going right over it because of the new southern approach to Wandsworth Bridge.

These are things which we in Wandsworth and in London as a whole are worried about, and we should like an assurance this afternoon that before these plans are finalised the London Members of this House will have adequate opportunity to discuss them in the interests of their constituents.

3.15 p.m.

Mr William Hamling (Woolwich, West)

I want to support the remarks which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry). It is a pity that London matters seem to be ignored so much in this House. I do not want to take very long, because I feel that the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) should have an opportunity to move his Motion. I, too, have sat in this House from 11 o'clock until 4 o'clock to discuss important questions relating to London, and I have been prevented from doing so by what appeared to be a deliberate attempt on someone's part to talk too much.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that that is a gross calumny of the debate which took place on that occasion? Serious points were raised and fully debated, without any attempt at a filibuster.

Mr. Hamling

If the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) had had less to say today, his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester might have had an opportunity to move his Motion. The hon. Gentleman interrupted my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary so much that he was obliged to be on his feet for 50 minutes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Can we get to the Motion, please?

Mr. Hamling

I should be grateful to do that, Mr. Speaker, but there is a lot of time wasting in this House by certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen.

I said that I wanted to support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South. We have heard a lot about motorways today, but there are serious objections to some of the matters which have been raised.

I represent part of south-east London which will be affected by a motorway linking ultimately with the motorway in the Wandsworth area coming from Kid-brooke. That motorway will cut my constituency in half. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary talks about the preservation of social amenities. All that I can say is that this motorway will destroy a great many social amenities in the London borough of Greenwich.

He said that road building can destroy social utilities, and that is certainly true. I was always led to believe that towns were places for living in, but these days it seems that towns are places for not living in. Certainly south-east London is not a place to live in graciously, quietly and peacefully with the coming of the internal combustion engine. Quiet urban life is being destroyed, and the coming of motorways into the heart of London will destroy it still further.

When I was a boy, I lived in a very large city where we played in the streets. The streets were our playground. In south-east London today, the streets are a death trap. There is no grace and very little quietness on the roads of southeast London. A great many of them are being used as lorry and car parks, and it appears to those of us who live there that the authorities make no attempt to limit the parking of lorries and motor cars in the inner part of London. There seems to be a gross disregard of the regulations about street parking. The coming of motorways will mean more traffic on the roads of south-east London and not less and, as a consequence, more parking, more noise, and more disturbance to amenities.

Have ordinary people no rights in this matter? I am thinking particularly of the quiet residential area known as Eltham Park, which will be cut in two by the proposed motorway. Some of the finest and most desirable family houses in London will be destroyed. As I said earlier, there will be a build-up of traffic in the adjacent areas. People who have spent thousands of pounds to come to live in a quiet and pleasant part of England will find that pleasantness and quietness destroyed. They have a right to some security. They have a right to some relief from this monster which is coming in.

This motorway is supposed to be a ring road. If it is a ring road, let it be one, but let it stay out of London. Let it be away from where people live. If the intention is to have a motorway to be used by cars and lorries coming from the Channel ports around London to miss London, for heaven's sake let it miss London. Let it go round London, and not destroy the peace of the people of this great urban area.

The people of London have a right to the sort of things which other people had and continue to have. There are many quiet towns in England. There are many places where citizens can still walk freely and without hindrance. This is not so in London. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea, South and Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), I speak on behalf of thousands of Londoners who pay in taxes as much as anyone else does, and who have as much right as anyone else to the ordinary demands of an ordinary civilised life.

3.21 p.m.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)

I am delighted to make a contribution to this debate on behalf of yet another South-West. We have heard about southwest England, and about south-west London. I should like to speak particularly about the problems of South-West Wales. I may say in passing that I am sad to note that there are no representatives from the Conservative Party in Wales, from the Liberal Party in Wales, or even from the Welsh Nationalist Party, who talk so much about the motorway problem.

I make no apology for raising the problem of Wales, because to illustrate the vital importance of the motorways to development areas I can think of no better example than South Wales, and what has already been done, and what could be done, as a result of the extension of the M4 westwards, as I hope to outline later.

I am glad, too, to announce that this is a particularly opportune day to raise the problem of motorways in Wales because today is the birthday of a section of the M4, half the Newport by-pass. This is a critical moment in the economic geography of Wales, because a number of major transport development investments are beginning to influence other developments in the area. Indeed, these will in time transform the whole of the Bristol Channel area. I am thinking particularly of the opening of the Severn Bridge in September of last year, about which we were reminded in the announcement yesterday by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State of the planning study of Severnside, that new region which has been created by a positive act of Government policy, the building of the Severn Bridge.

It is true that the M4 and M5 to the north and east of the Almondsbury Interchange are not complete, and I support my colleagues who have said that the sooner the stretch of the M4 between London and the West, and the M5 between Bristol and Birmingham are completed, the better it will be for economic development in our respective regions.

The full impact of the M4 and M5 motorways will not be felt for several years, perhaps five years or more. Yet already decisions, both public and private, on both sides of the Bristol Channel are being affected as a result of the construction of the Severn Bridge. The distance between Bristol and Cardiff is now only about 40 miles, and in many ways the Greater Cardiff and Greater Bristol regions are now drawn more closely together than are the Greater Cardiff and Greater Swansea regions. Relations inside South Wales and on Severn-side have been affected by this one large-scale investment—the Severn Bridge.

This is bound to have extensive implications for developments in South Wales and beyond, but those implications are not only internal; they affect relations not only between Bristol and Cardiff and Cardiff and Swansea but also between areas immediately serviced by the motorway and the markets outside. The accessibility of the Severn-side area will be transformed as a result of the eventual completion of the M4 and M5 motorways. Whereas before we had two relatively small markets of about 2 million people each, in Wales and the South-West, we now have one larger combined market of about 4 million people. This is bound to have a considerable effect upon business decisions.

Furthermore, this new market will have access to both the London and the Birmingham area and will provide a great attraction to industry and business. As an example, a Ford distribution centre has been established at Severn Tunnel junction, very close to the Severn Bridge, which will service both the South Wales and the south-west regions.

Pressures on congested areas and great conurbations—pressures on labour resources, especially in the South-East and in the Birmingham area, and pressures on office and industrial sites—are bound to cause industrialists to be attracted to the next nearest areas which do not suffer from either a lack of land for development or a lack of labour. We welcome this. These were the arguments that we in South Wales were deploying in favour of bringing the Royal Mint to South Wales. That is not concerned directly with the construction of a motorway, but with improved communications there will be a considerable increase in the attractiveness of this area. Industrialists have told me that from a site near the Severn Bridge they will be able to travel to London or Birmingham in about two hours.

All this is fine, so far as it goes. It is fine for my constituency of Monmouth, but it is not quite so fine for areas further west in South Wales, just as is the case with areas further west on the south side of the Severn Bridge—Penzance, and so on. I speak as a west Walian—talking about the land of my fathers rather than the land of my adoption, Monmouth.

There are, in effect, three areas in South Wales. First is the northern coalfield area, which is an area of relative stagnation and is likely to serve increasingly, whether we like it or not, as a dormitory area for industry sited near the coast. We need not be too unhappy about this development, which means that we are coming to terms with the motor car age and that workers are more ready nowadays to travel some distance to their place of work. That is why when, for instance, a coal mine is closed, we need not be too worried if new industry is not attracted directly to that spot, so long as there are adequate job opportunities within a radius of, say, 12 miles.

The second area is the greater Swansea area in the south-west of Wales. This is an area of slow growth, an area which, like almost the whole of Wales, is within the development area. The third is the greater Cardiff area, which includes my constituency, Newport, as far as the Severn Bridge, Bridgend and large parts of the Rhondda as well.

It is the greater Cardiff area which has gained most from the present transport investments and the M4 development. I have already mentioned that, aptly, a section of the M4 will be opened today. Just before Easter, the Coldra-Crick section of the motorway will be opened, presumably by the Secretary of State for Wales, which will mean that the whole area from west of Newport almost to Bristol will be served by a motorway in the near future.

It is paradoxically that area, which has gained most from the present developments, which needs least to gain from new industry. The area which needs most to gain from new industry is the greater Swansea area, which has so far gained least and is within the development area. The difference between the two areas is largely explained by the present and future development of the motorway system. Indeed, much has been done in West Wales under this Government.

The previous relative decline in population has at last been arrested. I accept the Minister's point that we should not be too beguiled by the word "motorway" and that a trunk system somewhat less than a fully-fledged motorway could well serve the area.

He also said, I believe, that the proper criterion in assessing motorway needs was traffic volume. By giving a great incentive to certain industries to go to certain areas, one can create traffic volume. I hope that too narrow a view of existing traffic volumes will not be taken in assessing motorway needs.

Already, as the effect of extended development in the greater Cardiff area has, to a large extent, depended on decisions about roads, so the decision about the development of the next area west—the greater Swansea area—must equally depend upon a Government decision about the future pattern of the road network. The decision is in our hands, and an area like the south-west of Wales could, unless something more dramatic is done, suffer from the pull to the North-East, which will result from the discovery of North-Sea gas and so on and equally from the pull to the coast related to the Channel Tunnel announcement this week.

Obviously this is a question of priorities which must be assessed according to realistic criteria. The argument put forward by some in Wales that our priority is a vast highway between North and South Wales, linking people from the north and south who very seldom meet otherwise, is, I think, economic nonsense. Perhaps paradoxically, the road system which can bring most economic benefit to Wales is a development outside the Principality itself. I refer particularly to the speedy completion of the M4. Obviously the first priority for the Principality is represented by the M4 and M5 communications to London and to the Midlands respectively. These will act as great poles of attraction for industrialists to our area. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy)—may I refer to him also as my hon. Friend from Swansea?—agreeing with me on this point.

The second priority, as a development most affecting Wales, is the extension of the M4 beyond Newport, beyond Cardiff and beyond Bridgend, perhaps as far as Swansea and Briton Ferry, which will open up the whole of the west of Wales to the great development which we expect to see around the Bristol Channel area and the coastal belt particularly concerned with the most exciting Severn-side development.

If the M4 is extended beyond Cardiff, beyond Bridgend and as far as Swansea, the whole of this zone of the Swansea area will become accessible. I mean by Swansea the greater conurbation involved. If we are thinking of city regions we must include, within Swansea, Port Talbot, Neath and Llanelly—a much larger population area, though the inhabitants might be somewhat unhappy at the point which I am making. The whole of this area would thus be made accessible in a new way to the rapidly developing area in the south-east of Wales. In passing, I would favour an urban motorway in Cardiff at an early stage, as Cardiff is the major bottleneck in South Wales. Such an extension of the M4 is the best means to open up the whole area and is completely in conformity with our development area concept.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. If I am sure about what the hon. Member is saying, I suspect that he is being rather repetitive. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who still want to speak in the debate.

Mr. Anderson

Finally, this is my vision of the future—the Swansea area linked to the rapidly developing area of South-East Wales. This can be done by a speedy decision about extension of the M4.

3.40 p.m.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

Speeches by some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry), have expressed doubts about the proposed London motorway box. I do not entirely share their anxiety. This proposal by the Greater London Council is bold and imaginative. Sooner or later a decision had to be made about an improved motorway system for London. London's traffic has been neglected since the time of Sir Christopher Wren. Every proposal for major improvements in London to meet traffic needs has been scotched in the past by critics and vested interests. Sooner or later a decision had to be made about having a motorway box around London, and I am glad that the Greater London Council has had the courage to make it.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that one must not consider motorways in isolation from other road improvements. There is an essential difference in concept here. A motorway system represents segregation of vehicles from pedestrian traffic. We have heard far too little about the Buchanan Report since it was published, partly because of the enormous cost of implementing it. However, the difference in respect of a motorway is that one's child cannot be run over by a vehicle on it. A child is in no danger from a bus, a car or a motor cycle passing along a highway segregated from pedestrians.

This is the reason why, despite the difficulties involved, such as those in relation to the acquisition of land, I am keen to have a motorway around London siphoning off some of the traffic from roads where there is great danger of accidents taking place and of children being run over.

This praise of the general principle is not entirely without qualification. A decision needs to be made as soon as possible, not about when the motorway is to be constructed—one realises that it will cost a great deal of money and must be phased into the programme—but about the route of the motorway and the consequences that flow from it. It would be right, for instance, to tell any owner-occupier who has a house in the path of the motorway that if he wants to sell it he will have a ready customer in the highway authority and can be assured that his house will be purchased.

What happens at the moment is that if a person goes to buy a house which is on the projected path of a motorway—the project may be remote, not to be constructed for perhaps 10, 20 or 30 years—the building society is perhaps anxious and may have doubts about the value of the house and about acquisition costs in the future. However, if an assurance can be given that owner-occupied houses in the paths of motorways will be purchased readily and quickly, and even resold, by the highway authority, or taken into the local authority's housing pool, a great many of the objections that owner-occupiers have to such proposals would disappear.

This is not limited merely to owner-occupiers. I have in my constituency a school built 150 years ago, and the governors are anxious to have it redeveloped. Because of the uncertainty about the path of the motorway, they are unable to make definite plans for redevelopment, though the school is crying out for it. Because of doubts about compensation, they will be unable to make definite plans until the projected path of the motorway has been announced.

A third reason for wanting certainty about the motorway route is that one day town planning proposals will have to take it into account. For instance, it is not right to have a large housing estate immediately next to a motorway because of the noise, fumes and general inconvenience likely to result. But once one knows the path that is laid down and it is reasonably certain, one can then re-zone the area and have industrial or office accommodation next to the motorway acting as a barrier between the motorway and residential accommodation. It might also be possible to lay out an area alongside a motorway as a public open space, where the noise and nearness of the motorway would not necessarily hinder the use of the land as parkland, sports fields, or the like.

A great deal of research should be made into the design of urban motorways. It should be possible to design a motorway through London which would be an architectural gem. The Romans, the Greeks and other peoples were able to design roads and bridges that are a pleasure to look at to this day. We should be able to do the same. Research is also needed into means of keeping down noise and other forms of inconvenience to people having their homes, and using schools or offices, close to the projected path of a motorway.

Those who are the boldest advocates of motorways are often also those who speak against public expenditure. We must realise that a better road system and improved urban systems must be paid for. I do not see any objection to offering the motorist a chance to buy a better road system. Car owners can choose such things as headlamps and leather seating for their cars, and they should be given a chance to pay a little more towards the provision of motoring facilities.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) on both his luck in the Ballot and his selection of this subject for our debate. I listened very carefully to the plaintive argument of my hon. Friends the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody), but in the long run it may prove that the area she represents will be much better off than the areas that some London Members represent.

Like my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry) and Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) I am greatly concerned at the possibility of the motorcar and motor lorry being raised to a status far above that of human beings. I refer now, of course, to the ring road which has been the subject of discussion in my constituency, and which now hands like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of thousands of my constituents. My right hon. Friend the Minister must not allow the demands and problems of vehicular traffic to over-ride the will and desire of human beings. If we reach that stage we create a new tyranny and call it efficiency. This House of Commons must do all that it can to prevent such a situation developing.

Let me explain the effects of these proposals on Northolt and Greenford. If two of these proposals were rammed through—and both would cut across Northolt and Greenford—they would smash a developing community. The project would have a great effect on quite a large council housing estate. It might result in quite a large number of council houses, only seven years old, being pulled down. It could result in quite good residential property being torn down, and I am not exaggerating when I say that families who have lived in the area all their lives are not only anxious but have suffered a great deal of anguish merely from the thought of the proposals.

These proposals go even further. When we propose a great motorway we have to take care that we do not allocate to it all the money available, to the detriment of such things as schools and homes, but an even worse position would be where the motorway not only took the money from the provision of new schools and homes but by its very construction smashed existing schools and homes. There is a grave possibility of this sort of thing in the areas of Northolt and Greenford and in other areas, such as Harrow. The people there are very deeply concerned. If their voice is not heard there is a great danger of a new form of tyranny arising under the excuse of efficiency.

The people I represent in Northolt and Greenford are not unreasonable. We acknowledge the need for great motorways. We have already suffered from having almost a major motorway pass- ing through the constituency. Western Avenue has claimed many victims. It has maimed many and killed many people. We are sandwiched between Northolt Airfield and Heathrow. If we were to have a massive new motorway thrust into the middle of a new community there, there would be an area comprising Greenford, Northolt and Harrow with only small gaps between and surrounded by airfields and major roads. Then we would have got the priorities wrong.

I am all for planning, but for that form of planning which always puts the family and the human being at the top of the list and does not subordinate people to the efficiency of roads, railways or anything else. If we lost that aspect of planning we would have created a new tyranny which could terrify not only the people of my constituency but those in many others. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary spoke about social upsets which can occur when great programmes like this are planned. I am glad that he did so. Even before a scheme comes into operation and before the proposals are finalised they already cause social upset. People are hurt by the possibility of what might happen.

We do not know precisely the details. I hope that my hon. Friend will get in touch quickly with those responsible in the G.L.C. and get them to tell us precisely what they have in mind. They have not done this. They have informed people in my constituency of just enough to frighten them but not to ease their minds. People in Northolt and Greenford are frightened at the little they have heard emanating from the Greater London Council. I beg my hon. Friend to make note of that and to let us know quickly what is in mind. Later we can have public inquiries, and inspectors may make reports and so on, but ordinary people have not the expert know-how nor recourse to lawyers to delve into the detail of what is proposed. It would be monstrously unfair if within a couple of weeks of the details being provided, a public inquiry took place. I hope that this will be avoided.

There is so much that I should like to say about this scheme because it is causing grave concern not only in my constituency but also in Harrow and other neighbouring constituencies. Strong feeling has been exacerbated because only six or seven years ago when some of these proposals were first adumbrated the two which appeared to be achieving pre-eminence were the subject of public examination. Because of the feeling expressed there was a further examination and a team of consultants from the then L.C.C. considered what would be a more rational proposal. The bitterness of the whole matter is that a scheme was produced which could have done everything which these two schemes proposed. It could have resulted in efficiency and in the construction of a large motorway. All that it would have disturbed probably would have been a couple of moles and a few hundred rabbits. Instead, the G.L.C. has decided that it is more concerned to upset the lives of thousands of people in Greenford and Northolt. The Council should be ashamed of itself. It will have to put up with me right the way through, until there is a fresh examination of the problem.

I receive an enormous amount of mail. People know where I stand on this issue. Nevertheless, they are asking me such questions as "Will my house be pulled down? Shall I be compensated?" Teachers are asking me, "Is it our school which is to be taken down?" People are saying, "Even if it is not our house or our school, shall we be living close to a new, massive roadway? Heaven knows, we have suffered from Heathrow, Northolt, Western Avenue and all the other great trunk roads running through this area. Are we now to suffer from a massive new road?"

The problems and worries exist not only about whether the scheme is to go through. Even if the scheme were to go through, serious problems would be created for those whose homes were not taken away or whose schools were not destroyed. There are schools on one side of Western Avenue and children on the other. This creates the problem of getting the kiddies across the road for their education. All these problems could be exacerbated.

I beg my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to use all his influence to get the G.L.C. to return to the original scheme. It would simply mean taking this road back a few more miles. The Council would then achieve all the efficiency the motorway would bring and would remove a great deal of anguish from the minds of those I represent. I beg my hon. Friend to take serious cognisance of the earnest plea I have made this afternoon.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)

It is a rare and probably unique experience for me to find myself wholly in agreement with the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy), who has expressed the objections to the D-ring road which affects my constituency just as much as, if not more than, his, so eloquently.

I beg the Minister and, through him, the G.L.C. to bear in mind the very great anxiety this issue is causing in my constituency. It will cause considerable damage and disruption to what I believe is the most beautiful and charming part of the whole of Greater London, namely, Harrow-on-the-Hill. It is particularly unfortunate, because a much more satisfactory scheme which was prepared by consultants was put before the G.L.C. a considerable time ago.

Above all, I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to bear in mind that it is human beings who are involved and they are probably very much more concerned with the homes in which they live than with the sheer technical problem of getting through a great streaming motorway. These are important points. Questions concerning people's homes and the compensation they will get will be watched with great interest and anxiety by my constituents and myself. I ask for this to be borne in mind before the scheme comes to fruition.

I shall not take up any more of the time of the House, because this matter has been fully debated, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite would wish to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) just be able to move his important Motion.

3.59 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

I should not like the debate to come to an end without drawing attention to the action of the Automobile Association. This body has approached this whole problem in a manner which I think is extremely regrettable. I expect an organisation of this type to represent motorists' interests in a reasonable, calm and efficient manner. This debate has approached this problem in such a manner. Hon. Members who have had particular objections have stated those objections. The Motion itself, which was moved in an exemplary fashion, puts the whole thing on the right basis.

The Automobile Association has stepped into the arena and launched a party political attack upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. I have been a member of this organisation for about 30 years. Unless the Automobile Association withdraws its attack upon my right hon. Friend the Minister, I shall resign from the organisation in the course of next week and I shall advise all Labour Party supporters to do the same. We do not belong to organisations such as the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club to subsidise them for the purpose of making party political attacks upon the party which we represent.

If anybody doubts that this is, in fact, a party political attack, I draw hon. Members' express attention, for example, to The GuardianA.A.'s fierce attack on transport policy. It should have said, A.A.'s hysterical attack on transport policy"—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.