HC Deb 16 March 1983 vol 39 cc230-1
13. Mr. Neil Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he will give the Government's response to the Transport Committee's report, "Transport in London".

18. Mr. Fry

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to publish his reply to the recommendations of the Transport Committee's report on transport in the Greater London area.

Mr. David Howell

The Government are still considering the Committee's wide-ranging proposals for the reorganisation of transport in London, but a response to other recommendations in the report was sent to the Chairman of the Select Committee on 1 March.

Mr. Thorne

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to instruct his Department to co-operate with the GLC, the London boroughs and the south-east planning conference in preparing a report for submission to the House before July, in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee?

Mr. Howell

If my hon. Friend is referring to the road programme element of the recommendations, I can tell him that the Government have every sympathy with that. We already operate our trunk road programme on that basis. My hon. Friend referred to co-operation with the GLC. With the current GLC attitude, there is not the slightest hope that there can be any realistic prospect of a properly based co-operative programme of road building in London. That is one reason why we are examining the whole organisational arrangements for London roads in the light of the Select Committee's findings.

Mr. Fry

I have read my right hon. Friend's response to the report. Does he accept that I find it very disappointing? Will he note that there appears to be no constructive reaction to the proposal for a metropolitan transport authority, which was one of the Committee's main recommendations? Would not such an authority enable him not only to dispose of the transport powers of the GLC but to lay open the way to dispose of that authority altogether?

Mr. Howell

The Select Committee must decide when to publish my response to its report. I cannot comment in detail on my hon. Friend's remarks. The broader reorganisation of the London transport system, under a metropolitan transport authority, is still being considered by the Government. The matter is of great importance. However, my hon. Friend knows that it raises much wider issues of reorganisation, and the Government are not yet ready to come forward with an announcement.

Mr. Walter Johnson

Will the Secretary of State accept my view, as someone who has been involved with London transport for more than 40 years, that the only solution to the problem is for London's transport to be handed back to the Department of Transport? Is that not the only way to take the issue out of the political arena?

Mr. Howell

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's views. There is a widely held view that, regardless of the antics taking place in the GLC, the longer-term organisation of the transport system for London and the surrounding areas must be based on a different pattern from that which has prevailed in the past and which has proved unsatisfactory—regardless of party politics.

Mr. John Hunt

Does my right hon. Friend recognise the importance of providing a proper orbital route for south London? As an important first step, will he take over the control of and the responsibility for the south circular road from the GLC, which appears to he incapable to responding to the needs of Londoners in that and many other respects?

Mr. Howell

It is questions of that sort that will be raised by the basic decisions about changing the responsibility for London's transport and roads. These matters are currently part of the Government's deliberations. It is worth reminding the House that over and above the completion of the M25, more than one third of the trunk road expenditure on schemes due to start within the next 10 years throughout the nation—that is £1,000 million—will be devoted to London and the south-east. That includes major new work to link the north circular across the east London river crossing with the trunk routes to the Kent ports. That does not solve the south circular problem, but the resources are considerable.

Mr. Ronald W. Brown

Is it not obvious that the problems of London will not be solved in a piecemeal fashion? When will the right hon. Gentleman examine the real issue of an integrated transport system in London as the only possible solution?

Mr. Howell

I have stated clearly that the Government are thinking carefully about these matters. We are not yet ready to announce our decisions. They raise major questions of change in organisation.