HC Deb 16 January 1974 vol 867 cc525-6
13. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a further statement on the Manchester Piccadilly-Victoria railway scheme.

Mr. Peyton

No, Sir.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the answer which he gave to the House shortly before we rose for the Christmas Recess he said that, provided the total policy of the Manchester Pice-Vic scheme came within acceptable estimates, the Government would endorse it? Is he further aware that since then the strategic plan for the North-West has become more widely available and in it this project is considered urgent and immediate? While regretting the delay and the fact that it is not now to be in the programme until 1975–76, may I ask the Minister to confirm that grant aid for design throughout 1974–75 will still be available?

Mr. Peyton

Grant aid on design has been available. Before committing myself further I would prefer to write to the hon. Gentleman. Beyond that, I have nothing to add to my statement.

Sir R. Cary

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would agree that the completion of the scheme will bring great facilities and amenities to the area although in its opening years it may not be too profitable?

Mr. Peyton

I have been liberally informed of the enthusiastic support for this project in Manchester, particularly by my hon. Friend. I have no doubt about its importance. I assure my hon. Friend that the scheme has not been judged on strict economics or anything of that kind. I hope that in future it will make a useful contribution to Manchester's problems. In the end the decision will be for Manchester.

Mr. Mulley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread disappointment that his reversal of track seems to have created? Does he appreciate that these local authorities have not gone in for expensive urban road plans and that it has been noted that when they come along with a public transport solution they encounter great difficulties? Will he be more positive in encouraging public transport projects of this kind?

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman is very unhappy sometimes, and I am awfully sorry for him, because he draws terribly wrong conclusions. This is one of them.

Mr. Fidler

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me that many people on both sides of the House and in all parties in the North-West are extremely grateful to him for the way in which he has finally responded to the representations made to get permission for this scheme to go ahead within the limitations he has announced?

Mr. Peyton

My hon. Friend's words are gratefully received.