HC Deb 05 December 1973 vol 865 cc1258-9
25. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is now in a position to publish his proposed line of route for the Prospect Hill to Blackburn stretch of the M65 motorway.

Mr. Speed

No. As the right hon. Lady knows, doubts have arisen locally about the environmental effect of the line being considered. This makes it more than ever necessary to arrange an opportunity for public consultation at which alternative proposals may be examined.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that of course I am in favour of local consultation but that this can only take place on the basis of two things? One of them is a clear statement of the Government's proposed line of route, and the other is the Government's commitment that they will go ahead with the M65 motorway. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the continuing delay in announcing the Government's plan is leaving my constituents who are affected in a misery of uncertainty and is casting doubt on whether the Government are not using this argument about the line of route as an excuse for axing the whole project, and that we resist?

Mr. Speed

The right hon. Lady has it wrong on both counts. There is no question of axing the route. The new public participation procedures announced by my right hon. Friend last July mean that her constituents at an early stage will have the opportunity to comment upon several lines of route, and these procedures will be published, I hope, in the late spring of next year.

Mr. Waddington

Is my hon. Friend aware that, if the local newspaper is right, a great deal of mischievous nonsense seems to have been falling from the lips of the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) in recent weeks, to the effect that she knew the whole of this project was to be axed? In these circumstances, will my hon. Friend recognise how glad I am that he has yet another opportunity to reaffirm today the Government's commitment to this project, which is so important to the economy of North-East Lancashire?

Mr. Speed

I can confirm that the other two parts of the scheme, from Whitebirk to Burnley and the principal road scheme between Burnley and Colne, will be the subject of a public inquiry in February, and, subject to satisfactory completion of the procedures, I hope that work will start on these schemes by the end of 1975.