HC Deb 19 March 1980 vol 981 cc403-5
19. Mr. Dobson

asked the Minister of Transport when he now expects to publish his White Paper on Roads.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The programme will be set out in the roads White Paper, which will be published after the Easter Recess.

Mr. Dobson

In view of the recent House of Lords decision that roads programme policy cannot be challenged at public inquiries, and since the House last debated the roads programme in 1971, does the Minister agree that it is now appropriate for the House to be given the opportunity to discuss the forthcoming roads White Paper? Is the Minister aware that we have spent £15 billion on the road programme since the House last debated it?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman's description of the House of Lord's decision is a travesty of the judgment in the Bushell and Brunt case. The statement in that case will, I hope, help us to return to roads programme inquiries which are conducted in a way which allows the merits and demerits of road programmes to be discussed in a sensible fashion and, therefore, act as a genuine aid to the decision-making process. We welcome the idea of a debate on the White Paper when it is published, but that is a matter for the Leader of the House.

Mr. Dover

Does the Minister accept that investment in roads and motorways is essential for the economic recovery of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Clarke

I agree about the importance of investment but it must be in the right roads and the right motorways. We have to balance the industrial and traffic needs and the environmental damage that can be done by putting roads in the wrong places.

Mr. John Evans

Can the Minister confirm that the White Paper will not be based on an increase in lorry axle weights in order to suit the proposals of our European colleagues?

Mr. Clarke

We are awaiting the Armitage report. The roads White Paper will not deal with lorry axle weights. Obviously, we always try to keep the design of road surfaces in line with the traffic that uses them.

Mr. Haselhurst

May we have an assurance that the White Paper will deal adequately with the vexed question of noise emanating from roads because of bad surfaces or the failure to provide adequate sound barriers, or both?

Mr. Clarke

We try to take noise problems into account when designing roads. I can assure my hon. Friend that, without waiting for the White Paper, we are studying the particular noise problems that have arisen on the M11 in his constituency.