HC Deb 28 January 1981 vol 997 cc917-9
14. Mr. Eggar

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is satisfied with progress on the construction of the M25.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

More than half the M25 is now open or under construction, and I am satisfied that the road is going ahead as fast as possible within the constraints of the statutory procedures.

Mr. Eggar

Will my hon. and learned Friend take it that all of us representing constituencies in London and the South-East are grateful for the special priority which his Department and the Government have placed on the construction of this road? Is he aware that constituents of mine are concerned that there are rumours about delay in completion of the section between Potters Bar and the A10 and from the A10 to the M11? Has he any comments to make on that?

Mr. Clarke

There are no delays whatever on that stretch of the M25, I am glad to say, and those parts which are not under construction now will be under construction very soon.

Mr. John Wells

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that many people in Kent would much prefer the missing link of the M20 to be completed before the Darenth Valley section of the M25, as there is already—or in a few days there will be—a continuous motorway link M20-M26-M25, and it therefore seems to us daft to spend money on the Darenth Valley project when the soakaway, if I may so call it, to the East on the M20 seems to be obstructed, without any date for completion?

Mr. Clarke

I am looking forward to my visit to Maidstone, at my hon. Friend's invitation, to see the problem on the ground, but perhaps I may give him my preliminary view before I hear what he then says. The M25 orbital route has a very high priority. A lot has been done to the route to Folkestone, so that most of the A20 will be the M20 very soon, and the part between Maidstone and Ashford is able to cope with the traffic for a few more years. But it is only postponed, and on my visit I shall discuss with my hon. Friend when we may be able to recommence it.

Mr. Booth

Will the Under-Secretary accept that the almost total priority in motorway terms which is being given to the M25 as a London ring route is arousing the feeling in many other regions that this priority for London is being achieved at the expense of many highly desirable road programmes in the regions, including various bypass projects which we were discussing last night?

Mr. Clarke

It is of national significance to provide a route which is a way round London from the northern industrial towns down to the Channel ports. In fact, we are continuing the same priority as the previous Government gave, except that we are getting on with it and the M25 is now appearing on the ground. In the rest of our programme there are important projects elsewhere in the country, and, once we get over the peak of the M25, work will progress more rapidly in other regions.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Is it my hon. and learned Friend's view that unnecessary delay has been imposed on his Department by Parliament, and, if it is, what is he doing to correct that? Second, what is he doing to make sure that there is no undue delay in getting cases before the courts?

Mr. Clarke

The statutory procedures are elaborate, and those procedures and some of the provisions of the law are used very skilfully by people trying to delay road schemes. But people are entitled to exercise their legal and other rights to delay such schemes, and we have to comply with the law, as of course we shall. We expedite hearings before the courts when we have frivolous applications, and I assure my hon. Friend that, within all the proper procedures open to any litigant before the courts, we do not let the grass grow under our feet when we are faced with what is obviously a time-wasting tactic.