HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc396-7
16. Mr. Adley

asked the Minister of Transport if he intends to bring forward proposals to shorten the preparation times for road schemes.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I have no proposals at present for major changes in procedures, but I am taking some steps to speed up our administrative processes and eliminate some unnecessary work. The main delay is caused by the procedures of consultation and public inquiry, but these are beginning to work better and win greater public acceptance, and I would not wish to reduce the open debate on schemes which they now produce.

Mr. Adley

Will my hon. Friend try to concentrate his priorities on gaps in our motorway system between motorways and also on stretches of road that have exceptionally bad accident records? Is he beginning to note a swing back in the pendulum from overt insistence on listening to absolutely anyone who has an axe to grind, whatever his motives?

Mr. Clarke

Those are all factors that have to be borne in mind in assessing priorities. Our main priorities remain the M25 and then the major routes between industrial centres and the ports. Most representations that I receive are from those who want roads to relieve environmental and other problems. We must not conduct the system in such a way that we disregard the wishes of those who want to make representations about the adverse effects that some road schemes can cause.

Mr. Cant

Does the Minister not agree that delays that have taken place in the West Midlands, where 36 miles of motorway have been built in 10 years, are disgraceful? In view of the fact that each year there is a massive under-spend on road building, will he have discussions with the Treasury to see whether more starts can be made, so that the amount allocated can be spent?

Mr. Clarke

Delays are often caused by deep divisions in public opinion. In the West Midlands, in particular, great passions are aroused for and against the motorway schemes that are proposed. We are anxious to spend the right amount of money on improving the road system, but various factors intrude, not least the British weather, which make difficult the task of calculating precisely each year the amount that will be spent by the end of the financial year on road schemes.

Mr. Dykes

Is my hon. Friend aware that residents of Harrow and North-West London are waiting impatiently for the completion of the outer orbital road, particularly because of its beneficial effect in diverting heavy lorries? Will he see whether completion of that project can be accelerated?

Mr. Clarke

Very good progress is being made with the M25. In a year or two, subject to statutory procedures being completed, long stretches should be under construction all round London.