HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc737-8
6. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been spent on new road construction in the past three years at constant prices.

Mrs. Chalker

At average 1980–81 prices, motorway and trunk road capital expenditure in England was £440 million in 1979–80, £407 million in 1980–81 and £452 million in 1981–82. The corresponding figures for local roads are £414 million, £429 million and £343 million. In both cases the 1981–82 figures are estimates.

Mr. Knox

As it is the Government's aim to improve the competitiveness of British industry, and as a better road system would contribute to that, does my hon. Friend not think that we should be spending far more on new road construction than we have in recent years?

Mrs. Chalker

In 1981–82 we carried out far more work than was anticipated, because of the lower tendering prices, and in 1980–81 we opened 75 miles of motorway and 97 miles of new trunk roads. In the past two years we have started 62 miles of new motorway and 91 miles of new trunk roads. We shall do all that we can within our budget to make sure that motorway and trunk road building goes ahead as speedily as possible.

Mr. Eastham

While the Minister is busy trying to pat herself on the back for the success of the road programme, is she aware that in my home city of Manchester road maintenance in 1981–82 was cut by 22.5 per cent. in real terms as against 1975, and that the roads are falling to pieces? When will the Government find some money for the roads in Manchester?

Mrs. Chalker

Many local authorities last year underspent the money that was allocated to them for their road programmes. It is up to individual local authorities to decide their priorities. Overall, the transport supplementary grant was highly favourable to most local authorities, and some had a 100 per cent. grant.

Mr. Dykes

What has happened to the idea of using private money for road construction?

Mrs. Chalker

We are discussing that further, and there are excellent possibilities. We may be able before long to use private capital in road building.