HC Deb 25 February 1981 vol 999 cc872-3
15. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what account he took of the £3.6 million underspent on the trunk road construction budget for 1979–80 in fixing the amount for 1980–81.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The cash limit for roads was overspent by £3.9 million in 1979–80. Within that limit, the lower spending on new construction was more than offset by an increase in motorway and trunk road maintenance. The allocation for new construction within the cash limit for 1980–81 is sufficient to enable good progress to be made with the schemes in the Government's programme.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Minister agree that he has not accurately assessed the inflation factors in these figures? This has had the effect of slowing down the construction programme even though this is not immediately apparent. Does he also agree that the outcome is that starts on many important road schemes have been delayed?

Mr. Clarke

There were difficulties, certainly in the first year, in estimating inflation figures correctly. That had an effect on the volume of new construction. Nevertheless, we are now maintaining good progress with the programme. We look certain to start work on all the main programme schemes that are ready this year. I hope that we shall be able to build a substantial part of the reserve schemes that are waiting to be built. There are no substantial delays or shortfall in our capital construction programme.

Mr. Jessel

If there is any underspending on new road and motorway construction will these sums be used to hasten completion of the M25 ring motorway around London that is so badly needed?

Mr. Clarke

I am glad to say that we are avoiding, by more careful management, the massive underspending that always plagued the Labour Government's road programme. With the money available we are giving the highest priority of all to the M25 orbital road round London. I am glad to say that we have passed the half-way point of construction. I hope that we shall get the whole road open well to time.