HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc968-9
16. Mr. Waddington

asked the Minister of Transport what estimate he has made as to the extent of the economies on road maintenance in the current financial year; what representations have been made to him about the possible consequences of these savings; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mulley

Cmnd. 4234 shows an estimated saving of about £10 million compared with 1968–69, mainly on roads which are the responsibility of local authorities, some of whom have represented that standards are deteriorating. But I have no evidence that safety standards are not being maintained nor have I any control over the way in which local authorities decide to spend money on the maintenance of their roads.

Standards of maintenance, and the appropriate levels of expenditure, will be fully reviewed when the Report of the Marshall Committee on Highway Maintenance is received.

Mr. Waddington

Will the right hon. Gentleman do his utmost to ensure that no steps are taken by local authorities which might prejudice road safety?

Mr. Mulley

The statutory position is that a block grant is payable to local authorities. I have no control over it and no means of telling local authorities how to spend it.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. Friend try to persuade the Liverpool City Council to do something about the atrocious conditions on roads in working-class areas, such as Norris Green and Fazakerley, where matters have deteriorated considerably over the last three years?

Mr. Mulley

As I say, that is a matter for the local authority concerned. I am not myself without employment. We must leave the local authorities to decide these matters.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

How can the Minister say that he is not aware of the dangers arising from the £10 million reduction in road maintenance when he has had widespread representations from county surveyors on the subject? Will he take urgent action to find out whether there is any substance in their charge that road safety has been endangered by the cutbacks imposed by the Government?

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Member must not assume that he is the only person to receive representations. I have had a minor investigation carried out by the Road Research Laboratory. In addition, one of the duties of my divisional road engineers all over the country is to keep these matters under review. However, opinion varies as to the amount of money which people would like to be spent on them.