HC Deb 21 May 1980 vol 985 cc485-7
10. Mr. Wigley

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he has taken to ensure that the priorities of his road programme are acknowledged and, where practical, aided by the European Economic Community.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

EEC aid for United Kingdom roads at present comes only from the European regional development fund, which benefits certain local authority schemes. Of course, we seek to ensure that United Kingdom priorities are reflected in such aid.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister take up with the European authorities the importance of roads such as the E20 Euro-route that runs from Dun Laog-haire to Holyhead along the North Wales coast to the A55, across England and then to the Continent? There is an increasing volume of traffic on that trunk road. Should not there be a mechanism whereby European aid could be given to improve this road as a matter of urgency? Will the Minister take up this matter with the European authorities?

Mr. Clarke

At present, there is no such mechanism, but there is an interesting proposal for a transport infrastructure fund. We wish to make progress on that proposal, and we are not holding back on the suggestion that some good European routes would justify Community expenditure.

Mr. Hicks

Will my hon. and learned Friend elaborate on the proposals for the EEC transport infrastructure fund? Can he say what criteria will be used for aiding roads in this country, and if and when progress is likely to be made along these lines?

Mr. Clarke

At the moment we have only a Green Paper from the Commission setting out the basis for a possible transport infrastructure fund. We hope that there will be further discussions about this possible transport fund at the next meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers. Certainly my right hon. Friend wishes to have a detailed discussion of the criteria and possible scope of such a fund, because we see potential in it and we should like to forward the idea.

Mr. Snape

Will the Minister bear in mind that among the people demanding bigger, better and wider roads in this coutry are organisations such as the AA, the RAC, the BRF, the RHA, the Movement for London, Shell, Mobil Texaco and the multi-million pound road haulage industry, and also certain unpaid hacks on both sides of the House who frequently talk out of the sides of their heads?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman must have many effigies on his mantle-piece into which he sticks pins from time to time. In discussions about the possible EEC infrastructure funds for transport we are considering not only roads schemes, but possible rail investments. We should also like to see investment in airports and port and ferry facilities in Britain. We see no reason why the various modes of transport should be regarded as mutual enemies, or why their interests should be mutually antagonistic.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Is it not clear that one of the main objectives of the transport infrastructure fund will be to enable grants to be made for roads and other forms of transport, in particular to the South Coast ports, which would be of great benefit to communications between Europe and Britain?

Mr. Clarke

We are anxious to pursue that idea. There seems to be a genuine Community interest in improving international links, particularly our links with ports in continental Europe. At the moment, there is no such aid in existence or on offer. My right hon. Friend will do what he can to forward discussions on the present quotas.