HC Deb 21 May 1980 vol 985 cc476-8
3. Mr. Adley

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to publish the White Paper on roads.

21. Mr. Speller

asked the Minister of Transport when he now plans to publish the White Paper on roads.

The Minister of Transport (Norman Fowler)

I had planned to publish it today, but printing has been held up by an industrial dispute. I shall publish it as soon as possible.

Mr. Adley

I regret that, once again, an industrial dispute has prevented the publication of an important document. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, when he prints the White Paper, it will reaffirm the Government's commitment to improving the main roads to our main ports, such as Southampton? Will he take note of the recommended Euro-routes recently produced by the EEC?

Mr. Fowler

I cannot comment on individual decisions that will be contained in the White Paper. I confirm the general point made by my hon. Friend, namely, that one of the Government's chief priorities is to encourage routes that have economic benefits, including the routes to the ports.

Mr. Speller

Will my right hon. Friend urge upon whoever has to be urged the importance of the early publication of the White Paper, especially for areas such as the remoter parts of Devonshire where there is no other form of transport and the roads are in an awful condition?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, I take my hon. Friend's point. I hope that the printing dispute will be settled today. Whatever happens, I can assure him that the White Paper will be published in the week following the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the comments of the chairman of the Automobile Association deploring the fact that the Government have increased road tax revenue by £745 million but are cutting back on road expenditure, especially on the maintenance of existing roads?

Mr. Fowler

If the hon. Gentleman studies the Government's plans for and achievements in road spending and compares them with the last two years of the previous Labour Government, he will understand how well we are doing in comparison with that Administration. I cannot say that road expenditure, any more that any other form of expenditure, will be exempt from examination in the present public expenditure climate. We are giving priority to essential economic routes.

Mr. Hal Miller

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that priority extends to routes from the West Midlands to East and South Coast ports? When considering those routes will he also consider the removal, by bypasses, of the many bottlenecks that exist?

Mr. Fowler

My hon. Friend would expect me, as a West Midlands Member, to be aware of the problems of the West Midlands. That is a topic that will be included within the White Paper. It is true that we place the greatest importance upon improving the environment when considering bypasses. Some of the economic routes, such as the M25, have substantial environmental benefits.

Mr. Penhaligon

After the White Paper is published, is there any prospect of the House having an opportunity to discuss the road building programme? In my recollection it is years since it was last discussed.

Mr. Fowler

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than a debate on the road building programme. I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's comment to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Mr. Hawksley

Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements, before the publication of the White Paper, for the 10 or so right hon. and hon. Members who are pushing for the M54 to be included in the White Paper to meet himself and the Secretary of State for the Environment? I appreciate that certain side road orders and compulsory purchase orders could be sub judice because of the inquiry that took place last year. However, my colleagues and I would like to push the needs issue to both my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Fowler

I shall give consideration to that. I cannot go any further on the White Paper. I am aware of my hon. Friend's argument on the M54, which he has consistently advanced. We shall give consideration to that and further consideration to the needs issue.