§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before the Second Reading debate begins, may I say that I have not selected the six-months amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher). His motion, That the Bill be committed to a Joint Committee of both Houses, is in order, and it may be convenient to the House to debate it together with the Second Reading motion.
§ 7.1 pm
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
For the last half of this century, the people of Edinburgh have been waiting for tonight's debate. The concept of a western relief road has featured in every plan for Edinburgh for some 50 years. Indeed, the line of the western relief road has been safeguarded by the Government, and in every statutory plan since the war its construction has been supported by the officials of Edinburgh corporation, on which I had the honour to serve as a councillor, and by the officials of Lothian regional council and Edinburgh district council. The relief road is not a motorway or a high-speed road. For almost its whole length it will be subject to a speed limit of 40 mph.
At the provisional order inquiry, evidence was given by the officials of Lothian regional council, including the director of public transport, and by the police in its favour. It is significant that not one official of Edinburgh district council was prepared to give evidence against it at the inquiry.
The purpose of the relief road is to provide a bypass to relieve the intolerable environmental pressure on communities in Gorgie, Dairy and Corstorphine. The construction of the outer city bypass is likely to relieve Corstorphine, but all estimates have shown that it will make traffic from the proposed M8 extension on to the Gorgie-Dalry road worse, much of the Gorgie road lying in my constituency. At present, almost all the traffic from the west goes along the A71 on the Gorgie-Dairy road or along the A8, the Corstorphine road. Both roads are narrow and have shopping centres and schools fronting on the road. There is a very high accident rate on both roads, particularly on the Gorgie-Dalry road. There are about 300 accidents in west Edinburgh every year. About 100 of them involve pedestrians, and in an average year there are about seven deaths.
That brings me to the case for the road and its moral justification. I think that the strongest single reason for the western relief road is that without question it will save lives and reduce personal injury accidents. The streets with the highest personal injury accident rates are those where there is a conflict between heavy volumes of traffic and concentrations of parked cars, service lorries and pedestrians. The relief road will attract a substantial amount of traffic from these streets and in consequence reduce traffic conflict and accidents. It was calculated that the contribution of the relief road would reduce the personal injury accidents by about 60 a year, and the traffic management measures would increase that reduction to about 120 a year. Therefore, the safety considerations are extremely important. In the past three years there have been 21 deaths. The Bill will reduce that grisly figure.
355 Secondly, for the five sections of the western relief road there are significant employment opportunities. When one takes into account the work of the suppliers from the granite quarries, those making the cement, the binding of materials and the haulage contracting, the road would ensure the employment of 1,500 people for three to four years. Unemployment in my constituency over the last year has gone down by more than 5 per cent., but the issue of enhancing employment opportunities is very real, and there will undoubtedly be employment benefits to other constituencies if the project goes ahead.
Hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies will have received from the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors a letter making it clear that employment is of great concern to them and to the trade unions. I have received a message from the managing director of the Tarmac Group who confirms that the general secretaries of the Transport and General Workers Union and of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians support the Bill. Indeed, it is mentioned in the letter of the federation that there was substantial trade union support for it.
The third reason in favour of the Bill is that the building of the relief road will make it possible to take further steps to reduce the volume, noise and fumes of traffic in Gorgie-Dalry and in Corstorphine, and it will improve conditions for public transport. Without the relief road, no such steps can be taken. The director of transport wants the relief road to be built because it will make it possible for him to run a better and more attractive public transport service. The relief road will allow much higher bus running speeds on existing roads, increasing the popularity of public transport.
In addition, the traffic restraint measures will increase the environmental gains. Beside the A8 and the A71 are 1,800 homes experiencing noise levels above the threshold required for double glazing. The road will cause over 1,000 houses to obtain an important improvement. Indeed, where it is proposed to build a bypass to relieve comparable environmental conditions, there is often a great deal of support for it beyond that in towns and villages. At present, bypasses are under construction to relieve Portobello, Musselburgh and Tranent. The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), I understand, is supporting a bypass for Dalkeith also, and I wish him well.
I am glad to see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) present because, I understand, he is only too happy to have a bypass for Musselburgh giving relief to the constituents of Edinburgh, East. But I say to him with the greatest respect that he is seeking to condemn the constituents in the western sector of Edinburgh, particularly in Gorgie-Dairy, to living in increasingly intolerable conditions without relief. For this there is no cure other than the western relief road.
As I explained earlier, all estimates have shown that the outer city bypass with the M8 extension will make traffic on the Gorgie-Dairy road worse if the western relief road is not built.
§ Mr. Robin Cook (Livingstone)
The whole point of the bypass is that it takes the traffic round the obstacle in its path. The whole point of the western relief road is that it will funnel all the traffic to which the hon. Gentleman is referring to a traffic light connection with Lothian road. 356 Does he really believe that the traffic can be brought to that point with no additional traffic measures without resulting in intolerable traffic pressure in the centre of Edinburgh and eventually in a road through the centre of Edinburgh?
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I have explained why it will not add to congestion in the centre of Edinburgh, and how congestion in the centre of Edinburgh can be prevented. The Musselburgh bypass gives relief in the eastern sector of the city and, I understand, most of the traffic using it goes on to the centre of the city. That provides relief for the east of Edinburgh. I am asking for relief for the west also. I will deal later specifically with how congestion can be avoided.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
I am anxious that many hon. Members should be called to speak, and I wish to get through my speech as quickly as possible.
I am exercised by the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) with the representations of the Cockburn Association and the National Trust for Scotland. For many years I have been a life member of the National Trust for Scotland and the Cockburn Association. If I believed for one moment that the Bill would damage their interests, I should not be proposing it. I sense that they fear what they imagine to be the unknown, but the methods used—
§ Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)
Nevertheless, is it not a valid point that the outer city bypass makes more sense than this road? Let us make building the outer road our first priority. If it does not work, we can consider this road.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
While the outer city bypass will reduce congestion in Corstorphine, all the estimates, and the evidence in the inquiry, have been to the effect that it will increase congestion in Gorgie-Dalry. This is not an advantaged area of Edinburgh, and that is one of the fundamental reasons for the western relief road.
The methods used in prediction techniques in transport planning are standard world wide, and it is indisputable that the traffic witnesses for the objectors at the inquiry admitted that this relief road would not increase traffic in the city centre. Of the 300 accidents a year in the area affected by the relief road, more than half occur in the constituency of Edinburgh, Central which includes Edinburgh city. Most of the accident saving can come within that constituency, which is an important benefit of the Bill. I can give two examples.
Along the A8 going down West Coates into Shandwick place, about 50 injuries or fatal accidents occur each year. That is the heaviest concentration of accidents in the western sector. Hundreds of homes and businesses are also affected by congestion and pollution. The relief road will remove one third to two thirds of the traffic on this road. On the Dairy road, the A70 is a high-density, tenemental area on which occur about 40 accidents each year. The construction of the outer city bypass will increase traffic volumes and, in its turn, the risk of accidents. The relief road would reduce traffic on the Dairy road by about 20 per cent. and would make possible traffic management measures to remove the 80 per cent. of bypassable traffic to that road.
The Gorky road, which is in both the Edinburgh, Central constituency and mine, is also a high-density 357 tenemental area, with problems of noise and environmental pollution. Even on the short section in Edinburgh, Central, 15 people are killed or injured each year. The outer city bypass increases traffic problems on this road which the relief road will alleviate.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
It is important for safety considerations, and is thus one of the fundamental points of the Bill.
It should not be forgotten that part of the western approach road has already been opened, from Lothian road in the city centre out to Balgreen, and it is significant that after its opening studies recorded a drop in peak hour traffic in Lothian road. In other words, opening half of the western approach road, far from doing harm, has done some good.
Basically, people come to the city centre only if they have the time and the money. If and when the relief road goes ahead, it will not radically affect the amount of time or money available to the traveller. In the absence of extra time and money, it is unlikely that there will be extra journeys. Traffic within the city centre can, should and must be controlled. The principle behind the Bill is that traffic in the western city area of Edinburgh should be redistributed from residential and shopping areas to the relief road. Even so, the distribution of access points to the city centre will remain the same—from Shandwick place, Queensferry street, the existing west approach road, Morison street and across Fountainbridge. In future, traffic will be able to fan out as it does now.
Because of the environmental improvement measures to Gorgie-Dairy, Stenhouse-Whitson and Corstorphine, the capacity of existing roads will be reduced, but the total road capacity from the west will remain the same. Additional measures will make certain that congestion in the city centre is avoided, thus helping to alleviate the concern of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown). I can give five examples of how this can be done.
First, the present computer-controlled central area traffic light control system can and will distribute traffic between the Lothian road exit and that at Roseburn. Secondly, the council's parking control measures can and do discourage long-stay parking in the city centre. The effect has been to keep peak hour traffic at the same level since 1968.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
I was the chairman of the inquiry and thus had the opportunity of travelling through Corstorphine. I noticed that there was an absence of traffic management schemes, particularly at the peak hour. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if there were traffic management at Corstorphine, there would be a truer figure of how fast traffic can move in that area and the extent to which the new road could alleviate people's problems?
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
That is a fair question, although the hon. Gentleman has broken the thread of my speech. Corstorphine is a tremendous bottleneck in peak hours, and business men have complained because they want to travel more rapidly instead of being stuck in traffic jams on that road. I am more concerned with Gorgie-Dalry. I am explaining how congestion in the city centre can be prevented.
The third way to avoid congestion is the newly opened railway halts at South Gyle and Livingston, and other 358 stations at Bathgate and West Lothian, which will soon be open, all of which will provide park-and-ride schemes. This will encourage commuters to leave their cars outside the city. In west Edinburgh, the South Gyle halt was the initiative of councillor Donald Gorge who got the measure through with the support of Conservatives.
The third item is the large multi-storey car park being promoted by the Lothian regional council at the end of the western relief road. The Edinburgh district council has now objected to it and the matter is on appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The car park would provide places for 1,500 cars and would prevent congestion. If the district council is so concerned about traffic in the city centre, it should bear in mind the need for proper parking facilities. Not everyone wishes to travel by public transport, and appropriate provision should be made for parking.
A fifth way to prevent congestion in the city centre is to go ahead with the outer city bypass as a priority commitment. This will remove from the city centre all the bypassable traffic.
The conservationist objection represented by the Cockburn Association, which has concerned my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher), is a relatively new phenomenon. Until shortly before the inquiry, the Cockburn Association did not oppose the road in principle. It argued that it should be single carriageway rather than dual carriageway, and I can give evidence for that. In its newsletter of April 1984, it was confirmed that it held a special meeting and submitted detailed comments to Lothian regional district council. It reported:These accepted the principle of the road, subject to rigorous conditions.The road is planned as a dual carriageway, principally for safety reasons. The police stated that they would be strongly opposed to a single carriageway for safety reasons —particularly in connection with access for ambulances and fire engines, if required. Every effort has been made to take account of amenity considerations. In particular, every effort was made to safeguard the industries and employment at Westfield, in my consitituency, by building a viaduct. Also, only one house is to be demolished and the lady concerned, whom I have seen, is already rehoused.
What is more, the Royal Fine Art Commission has discussed with the region at every stage the lay-out of the road and its landscaping, which will be extensive. No fewer than 300,000 trees and shrubs will be planted, and therefore the overall impression will be extremely attractive. A great deal of effort has gone into that.
The Cockburn Association stated in its petition that the procedure is constitutionally unsuitable. I reject the allegation that it was not satisfied that the majority of commissioners gave proper consideration to the effects of the road. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central still has doubts over the issue —indeed, he has tabled a motion, supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) and for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) to refer the matter to a Joint Committee of both Houses. That appears in both petitions. I am certain of the overwhelming justification for the road, and, in a desire to be helpful to my hon. Friend, I shall not oppose the motion. The people of Edinburgh have waited 50 years for the road, and if they have to wait a few more 359 weeks so that justice is seen to be done, so be it. I hope that it will be for only a few weeks as the contractors are ready to start work.
Lothian regional council's reason for using the procedure of a parliamentary commission was that it would simplify overlapping statutory procedures. I could have been faced with three separate, lengthy public inquiries on, first, the planning aspects of the proposed road; secondly, the land acquisition, apart from the rail diversion; and, thirdly, the rail diversion and associated land acquisition. The public would have had to bear the cost of three major public inquiries.
The procedure of a parliamentary commission enables a public hearing to be held dealing with all the relevant facts leading to the provisional order and to the Bill. It is the only procedure which guaranteed a hearing for all the objectors to the proposal.
The witnesses from the smaller amenity bodies said that they had received a fair hearing and the parliamentary commission procedure has allowed a wider range of compensation than would have been available under the Land Compensation Act 1961. A planning inquiry would not have allowed any other issue to be aired. The two independent commissioners were entirely independent. I believe that the Cockburn Association's attack on the procedure and on the commissioners is wrong.
As I have said, I shall not oppose the motion to refer the Bill to a Joint Committee of both Houses. That is something for which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked in The Scotsman on 28 February this year. He said:If Labour MPs could not defeat the Bill before or at Second Reading they would certainly want it referred to a Committee of both Houses because of the legal and procedural matters raised.I will end with the words of a man whom the House of Commons remembers with warmth and affection, the late Frank McElhone. He replied as Minister to my Adjournment debate on this subject and on the outer city bypass on 6 February 1978. He said:Although I am a great lover of Edinburgh, it figures much smaller in my affection than does Glasgow. However, it is plain that over the years Edinburgh has, as the hon. Member for Ayr said, been plagued by indecision. Whether we talk about opera, sewerage or roads, Edinburgh seems to be plagued with that indecision. Perhaps those in Edinburgh are not gifted with the directness and desire to do things that we have in Glasgow."—[Official Report, 6 February 1978; Vol. 943, c. 1207.]Tonight we have the opportunity to prove that Edinburgh is capable of the same greatness of character that Frank McElhone knew to exist in Glasgow.
The Bill is in the interests of Scotland because a capital city needs good communications. It is in the interests of Lothian region because it will provide employment for more than 1,550 people for several years. It is in the interests of Edinburgh because it will improve the amenities of thousands of house owners. Above all, it will save lives and reduce personal accidents. This is the moral justification for the Bill and why it deserves to succeed. The Bill is good for Scotland, Edinburgh and its citizens. It stands for progress, and that is why I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Alex Fletcher (Edinburgh, Central)
I have had the privilege of voting for my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) in all of 360 the elections in which he has been a candidate, but I shall not be voting for him in any future election. He may know that that is because I have moved out of his constituency.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)
And moved into his own.
§ Mr. Fletcher
My hon. and learned Friend is correct. I can now vote for an even better candidate.
I have always been impressed by the interest and hard work of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West in local issues, and I respect his point of view in this instance. However, what is good for West Edinburgh is not necessarily good for Edinburgh as a whole. The proposed western relief road would benefit one ward of my hon. Friend's constituency, and I know that it could be stretched to cover some parts of my constituency.
I do not think that my hon. Friend would deny that the main traffic problem in West Edinburgh is in the Corstorphine area, which stretches from Drumbrae to Clermiston, a distance of less than half a mile. It is rather absurd that we should vote to spend £37 million on four miles of dual carriageway to overcome this short length of congestion, especially when it will only overcome the traffic problems in West Edinburgh and Corstorphine by transferring them to the centre of the city.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Is my hon. Friend not aware that all the evidence at the inquiry was to the effect that the congestion in Gorgie road and Dairy road, much of which is in his constituency, will be far worse once the outer city bypass is constructed? Is he aware also that in Corstorphine there are least four wards and not one?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not think there are four wards between Drumbrae and Clermiston, which is the locality where most of the trouble is. The road is quite broad until it reaches Drumbrae, and it spreads out again immediately after the Clermiston road. My hon. Friend said that the western relief road had been planned for 50 years. I suggest that that is evidence in itself that the plans are out of date. Indeed, we are in the middle of constructing an outer ring road, which will relieve a little pocket in my hon. Friend's constituency and a great deal of traffic from the city as a whole.
§ Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)
In the course of my hon. Friend's research into this issue as a local constituency Member, has he read the transcript of the evidence that was laid before the commission? The evidence of the traffic analysis and projected traffic flows is that even after the ring road is built —it will take away some of the traffic that would otherwise go through Edinburgh —there will still be a substantial amount of traffic passing through the A8 and the Gorgie-Dalry road. It is to relieve these communities that the western relief road is so essential.
§ Mr. Fletcher
What my hon. Friend is suggesting is only one solution to the problems to which he referred. I and others take the view that the problems at Corstorphine and Gorgie-Dalry can be overcome at much less cost than that proposed by the construction of the western relief road.
I wish to make it clear to those who are not familiar with Edinburgh that the relief road is not an Edinburgh city bypass. That bypass is being built at enormous public expense and will be ready for opening by about 1990. It 361 is of great significance to all traffic problems in Edinburgh, and that is why Edinburgh Members are most grateful that construction of the road is well in hand.
The relief road is not planned to decrease city centre traffic. On the contrary, it will increase the amount of traffic entering the middle of the city. It will invite vehicles into the city centre traffic jams and tend to make them worse. The relief road will be a story of misspent millions and misplaced party loyalty. It is not wanted by those whom I meet in the city centre and nor is it wanted by groups which take an interest in their local environment and local amenities. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West that I do not accept that we must spend £40 million to ensure his return to the House after the next general election. I believe that we can confidently expect him to return here at much less public expenditure.
I have conceded already that Corstorphine has traffic problems between Drumbrae and Clermiston and Fermaston, a distance of half a mile. However, other remedies are available there and elsewhere. I contend that the relief road proposal is out of proportion to the size of the problem.
The issue of the relief road was raised during the 1983 general election campaign, and I was put under pressure. I did not always welcome those who tended to follow me round and ask, "Are you going to oppose the western relief road?" My reply was, "Frankly, I know little about it." That was the position. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) might confirm that the boundary changes that affected the two of us occurred at a late stage before the general election. That was mainly because there were two public inquiries into what should be the boundaries of what is now the Edinburgh, Central constituency.
I told those who were asking me whether I opposed the relief road that after the election I would consider the matter most carefully and then make my decision. That is what I did. I discussed the issue with my regional councillor, the late Ian Cramond, who spearheaded the proposal in the region. I had discussions also with consultants, council officials and others in the constituency, including members of my constituency association, before reaching the conclusion that the road as proposed was not welcome and would not be beneficial to my constituents. My position has been known now for almost two years.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Why is it that every Conservative regional councillor supports the relief road, including those in my hon. Friend's constituency?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am amazed that a former Whip should ask why Conservative councillors of a tightly balanced region should all take the same line on the proposal.
In October 1983, the region decided to construct the road and applied to the then Edinburgh district council for planning consent. The council gave its approval in February in 1984, subject to various but important detailed conditions being greed. Agreement on those conditions was never arrived at and, despite strong objections and requests for a public inquiry, which I supported, the region took the less helpful route of opting for further discussion. As the House knows, it promoted a provisional order. A parliamentary inquiry followed, which lasted for no fewer than 52 days. I understand that my hon. Friend the 362 Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) feels rather sore about that, because he was one of the commissioners.
§ Mr. Hirst
Does my hon. Friend accept that the parliamentary inquiry was the only forum at which the details of the proposal, including the diversion of the railway, compulsory purchase orders and planning permission, could be discussed? Had the application to the district council for planning permission been approved without a public inquiry, the people of Edinburgh who allegedly object to the scheme would never have had the opportunity to make their views known. Does my hon. Friend accept that the parliamentary inquiry fulfilled the right to consultation?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not think that it is important whether I accept that. Most of the objectors who participated in the inquiry did not think that the inquiry met their requirements. They would have preferred a public inquiry. They felt that that procedure would have given them greater access and would have allowed them to make their case. I agree that the parliamentary inquiry allowed all these matters to be considered, including the railway diversion, but the railway issue could have been dealt with separately. Indeed, I understand that that issue has yet to be resolved. That could have been dealt with as a separate issue, and a public inquiry could have taken place in the normal way, which is what the objectors wanted.
§ Mr. Martin
Had it not been for the railway, a parliamentary inquiry could not have been conducted. That would not have been possible if the only issue had been the road.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Yes, I understand that. The parliamentary commissioners ruled that the objectors were entitled to two thirds of their costs. I understand that the region claims that that ruling is ultra vires and refuses to pay the costs. I respect the legal point that may exist, but I hope that the region will consider its position. It is extremely costly for members of the public to make representations when such important matters are being discussed. I have been an objector to a number of schemes, and I know the effort, time and costs involved.
No one will be surprised to learn that Edinburgh has a proud history of preserving its architectural heritage. not least against the road lobby. As the hon. Member who represents the old and the new towns in Edinburgh, I have a duty to foster that tradition, even against a Conservative council, which I do with reluctance. I do not believe that this should be a party political occasion.
I do not go lightly against the Lothian region or my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West, but my judgment of what is right for my constituents must take precedence over other considerations. I accept that conservationists are not always right, but in Edinburgh they have been right more often than not. I quote an article that appeared in The Scotsman in October 1983 on this issue. It reads:Edinburgh, the only British. City which has not been. a happy hunting ground for road planners over the past 20 years, owes its escape to broad based campaigns which in 1966, 1970, 1973, 1976 and 1979 told all the experts and most politicians they were wrong. As a result, there is no motorway under Charlotte Square, above Tollcross, over the Meadows, across the Royal Mile, round the bridges, through Calton Hill, and next to the New Town".That is excellent for Edinburgh.
363 Opposition to the relief road is broadly based. It stands alongside the campaigns to which the article in The Scotsman was referring. No fewer than 38 organisations believe that the proposals supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West represent a major threat to the city's environment. These include the National Trust for Scotland, the Cockburn Association, the Scottish Civic Trust, the Architectural Heritage Society, no fewer than 17 residents' associations, six community councils and 11 amenity groups. The views of these various organisations must be taken into account when we decide whether the Bill should receive a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I know that my hon. Friend wishes to participate in the debate, and I think that I should proceed with my speech so that I can leave time for him.
I have recited what I consider to be an impressive list of organisations in Edinburgh which are opposed to the relief road, and their objections deserve the closest consideration by the House.
The main reasons for the objections include increased traffic congestion in the city centre. The western relief road may relieve the western approach to Edinburgh, but that will be achieved at the expense of the city centre. The road will funnel traffic into the centre of Edinburgh. There are no intermediate junctions for traffic to leave or to join the proposed road between the periphery near Edinburgh airport and the central area. Like any other new road, it will attract more traffic, including heavy vehicles, to the city centre. There is no evidence from the consultants to support the contrary.
The road will be connected directly with the M8, making it, in effect, an extension of the motorway into the city centre. When the region first made the proposal, it was proud to talk of it as an extension of the motorway. It will be a dual carriageway and will be built on stilts. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West underlined that there will be a speed restriction of 40 mph. Now it is referred to only as safe dual carriagway leading into the city centre. Even that more modest presentation will encourage at least some of the traffic to continue through the city centre when the new ring road, which will be completed shortly, would be more appropriate.
Areas in my constituency such as Roseburn, Haymarket, Tollcross and the Meadows will be adversely affected. The Meadows are the southern boundary of my constituency and the northern boundary of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, south (Mr. Ancram), who is not prepared to bat even an eyelid lest his neutrality is questioned. Congestion in that part of the town could lead to demands for widening of the road at the Meadows —a precious part of Edinburgh's green belt.
There are fears for the stability of many listed buildings in the old and new towns in the city. All of this is to save only an estimated two minutes on a typical journey from the western periphery to the city centre, a distance of four miles. On arriving at the city centre, drivers will find a bigger than ever traffic jam at Lothian road.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West claimed that the proposed road would reduce the number of accidents. With respect, that is misleading because the road and all that is claimed of it will not solve anything. 364 It will shift problems elsewhere. The congestion caused in the central area of the city will be just as likely to create as many accidents as those that my hon. Friend claims are caused by congestion in Corstorphine and in Drumbrae Dalry. Shifting the problem from one part of the city to another will not solve anything.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Is my hon. Friend aware that traffic management measures on the other roads which go through his constituency, such as Dalry road, can reduce the volume of traffic on those roads? What is proposed is merely a redistribution of existing traffic and not an increase of traffic into the city centre.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am coming to what improvements might be made. I accept that improvements could be made to the western road system, but I do not think those have to be achieved by funnelling all the traffic on to one road with just one exit in the city centre. That is the basis of many complaints about the system. There could be better traffic management measures, such as junction improvements and road realignments, as well as improved parking facilities. Those could be carried out at a cost of a very few million pounds compared to the proposed expenditure of nearly £40 million.
I note what my hon. Friend said about the motion that I have on the Order Paper that the Bill should be committed to a Joint Committee of both Houses. I do not propose to enlarge upon that. If that were the decision of the House, it would allow further discussion on some of these matters.
Much discussion here and outside the House is concerned with inner city deprivation. I confess that Edinburgh has problems, but by no means can it be regarded as a deprived inner city area. Edinburgh ratepayers could think of better things to do with £40 million; for example, a cut in the rates would be much more warmly welcomed than the proposed road. My hon. Friends complain frequently about the extravagant plans of Edinburgh district council. How can they justify expenditure on a road that is largely unwanted? No doubt the region believes earnestly that the relief road would be good for Edinburgh, but Edinburgh thinks otherwise. Why not simply save the money and have the benefit of a cut in public expenditure on the one hand and being popular at the same time?
I repeat that the proposed road will not be a city bypass but will shift a traffic problem within the city. The House is being asked to decide on a matter where the majority of Edinburgh opinion is at best opposed to the road and is at worst evenly divided. In those circumstances, the House should follow the excellent traditions of the Chair; we should support the status quo by voting against the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)
My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) approached me while he was a Scottish Whip to ask if I would take part in an inquiry in Edinburgh. I asked the obvious question about how long it would take. He replied that the local authority, the promoter of the Bill, had said that it would take three or four weeks. That was a ridiculous assumption by the local authority. Some people who gave evidence were in the witness box for seven or eight days.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) mentioned landscaping. He will know 365 that landscaping was not referred to in the proposal that was before the inquiry, yet we had a witness giving evidence for three days about how many trees would be planted along the proposed road. It was ridiculous that the promoters of the Bill gave an estimate of three or four weeks for the inquiry when they knew that it would take longer. In fact, it took three and half months.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
In clause 36, which deals with preservation of amenity, landscaping and tree planting have been mentioned, so they are taken into account.
§ Mr. Martin
If the hon. Gentleman reads the evidence, he will note that that clause was not in the original legislation.
In an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) I made it clear that had it not been for the railway there would not have been a parliamentary inquiry about the road. If we allow the legislation to go through, we will set a precedent. For the first time in the history of private legislation in Scotland a road was tied in with a railway. If it had been only the railway that was under consideration, the parliamentary commissioners would have taken only about three weeks for the inquiry.
§ Mr. Martin
I am not giving way. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make a speech.
As parliamentary commissioners, we received strong legal advice straight away from the clerks, who are also counsel to the Secretary of State for Scotland, that every statutory means should he used by the local authority before it sought a parliamentary inquiry.
The only reason for a parliamentary inquiry was the railway. There was nothing to stop the local authority from drafting another piece of private legislation when only the railway was under consideration. The other proposals in the Bill could have been covered adequately by ordinary planning permission or a planning inquiry.
It is nonsense to suggest, as officials of Lothian region suggested in their evidence, that the reason for a parliamentary inquiry was to provide a public forum for the good people of Edinburgh. Another argument for the parliamentary inquiry was that it would save money. It is difficult to accept talk of making savings on public inquiries when one is considering spending £40 million. The main consideration of a local authority on an issue such as this should be to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to express a point of view for or against the proposal.
As I understand it, a person wishing to object to this legislation would have to petition to become an opposer or an objector at the parliamentary inquiry. There is nothing to stop someone from appearing in person as an objector at a parliamentary inquiry, but that is rather like saying that there is nothing to stop a person accused of a serious crime from turning up at the High Court and appealing on his or her own behalf. Anyone with any sense would urge people to get proper legal counsel in such a situation and it was no accident that every body which petitioned for or against had a Queen's counsel and a junior present at the parliamentary inquiry.
I complained bitterly about the hearing lasting three and a half months, but it would have lasted a great deal longer 366 if the Cockburn Association had not decided to be the umbrella organisation for all the petitioners against the proposal, apart from the railway and the district council. The hearing might have lasted many months if they had all chosen to appear as individuals rather than under the umbrella organisation.
I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind that our consideration of the legislation is not solely on the merits of the road. We are here to examine legislation and to ensure that the House is not abused. We must make sure that the legislation is properly drafted and worded. As parliamentary commissioners in Edinburgh, we had to consider what the wishes of the House would be and I know that hon. Members who are more experienced parliamentarians than I am are very particular about the wording of legislation.
If a railway is diverted by means of parliamentary legislation, someone 100 years hence must be able to identify where the railway was diverted to. That could not happen in this case. The legal advice was that the proposal was ambiguous as to the location of the new railway layout. Although I expressed my dissent and concern and voted in favour of the legal advice, I was overruled. The plans which the commissioners accepted by a majority decision are not the plans before us now. The plans have been changed since we left Edinburgh. Therefore, the decision taken in Edinburgh is not the one that we shall take tonight.
The officials of the regional council told us at the parliamentary inquiry that the road would be a dual carriageway. I said that there were dual carriageways and dual carriageways, and I asked them to describe a dual carriageway similar to that in the proposal. I was told that the nearest thing to the proposed plan was the Clydeside expressway in my native city of Glasgow.
There are dual carriageways in my constituency that are very quiet, and if someone were to describe a dual carriageway I would think of one of those which are in housing estates and therefore do not have much traffic. The Clydeside expressway is not a typical dual carriageway. It is sectioned off and the public cannot cross it. Workmen who were late for work were injured when they tried to cross the expressway with using the overhead bridges. It is more like a motorway without a hard shoulder. I do not think that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West would like such a road in his back yard.
Many people believe that Glasgow has a terrific motorway system, and I grant that that is so, but, having lived in Glasgow all my life, I believe that the people who get most benefit from the motorway system in Glasgow are not the people living in Glasgow, but those living outside the city. The expressway is in the Anderston district where I was brought up. A whole community was destroyed and streets, schools, churches and places of historical interest disappeared from the face of the earth.
I later moved to Townhead. I first heard of the Townhead interchange when Lord Ross of Marnock pressed a detonator, blew up a wall and set the interchange on its way. There are areas in Townhead which no one would recognise. People have been pushed to the four winds because of the motorway system there. Everyone can say "Hear, hear" for the motorway system in Glasgow, except the majority of Glaswegians. In my own constituency of Springburn, where I live, many difficulties are caused by motorway proposals.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a fundamental difference between the environment in which he was brought up, where whole communities were broken up by the wide-scale demolition of buildings, and this proposal, where only one house is to be demolished and where satisfactory settlement has been made for the occupant affected?
§ Mr. Martin
The plans for motorways in Glasgow were drawn up in 1964. Some of the plans which were still on the drawing board in 1964 have suddenly been resurrected now, and there is still motorway building in Glasgow. In fact, there have been several inquiries in my constituency.
I am trying to explain to hon. Members that the proposal could mean the beginning of a motorway system in Edinburgh. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, who knows Edinburgh better than I do, will realise that when this relief road reaches the approach road there will be heavy traffic going right to the foot of the castle, the most important tourist attraction in the country. He should think very carefully about what might happen.
I am glad the hon. Gentleman accepts that a Joint Committee of both Houses should consider this matter. I took the word of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian, who had taken the word of the local authority, that the inquiry would last about three and a half weeks. In fact, I could not come to the House for three and a half months. If the House instructs a Member to do something in another part of the country, he must accept that duty, and I make no complaint about it. I object, however, to a Queen's counsel who has nothing to do with the House advising a client—I do not blame the regional council, because it had to take advice—to lump the road and the railway together to obtain a parliamentary inquiry.
Because the scheme was opposed, the House had to find two commissioners from this House and two from another place. As no one in the other place bothered to put any names forward, we had to have two people from outside the parliamentary system. I strongly object to the fact that for three and a half months I could not represent my constituents here. In a Parliament in which the Government had a very small majority, or no overall majority at all, as occurred under the Labour Government, it would be absurd to deprive the House of attendance by Members because of private legislation instigated by people outside. In my view, parliamentary commissions should not be set up until the petitioners have been through every other statutory procedure at their disposal.
Finally, I urge the House to consider seriously, not just the terms of the legislation, but the damage that could be done to a very beautiful city. In my three and a half months in Edinburgh, I came to know the Mound, the old town and the university area well. To me, it is a lovely thing to see people living in the centre of one of our cities. It reminded me of the Glasgow of my childhood, when people lived in the city centre. I believe that if we allow a road system of this kind to go through the city of Edinburgh we shall risk losing something that other major cities in the United Kingdom are striving very hard to retain.
§ 8.3 pm
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Ancram)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene briefly at this stage to explain the 368 position of the Government and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 in relation to this confirmation Bill.
Where a provisional order made under the provisions of the 1936 Act is opposed, arrangements are made for an inquiry to be held before parliamentary commissioners. Counsel for the promoters of the order and objectors to it appear before the commissioners and lead evidence. Following the hearing, the commissioners submit a report to the Secretary of State in which they recommend that the order should be issued, or should be rejected, or should be issued with modifications. That was the procedure adopted in this instance. In the case of the Western Relief road order, following an inquiry which sat on no fewer than 52 days over a period of three months, the commissioners found in favour of the council, but with such qualifications as to require the deposit of a modified order under the private legislation procedure. The plans for the road also had to be cleared by the Department of Transport railways inspectorate because of the close proximity of the proposed road to the Edinburgh to Glasgow and Dundee railway.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not, therefore, in a position to introduce the Bill in the House until the end of June. He took the view that introduction at that stage of the Session would not be for the convenience of the House as it seemed unlikely that there would be adequate time for the important issues at stake to be fully discussed. The Government have presented the Bill in the new Session so that it can be fully and properly discussed.
It would, in theory, have been open to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to refuse to accept the recommendations of the parliamentary commissioners, but successive Secretaries of State have honoured the undertaking given during the passage of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1933, which was consolidated in the 1936 Act, that the Secretary of State would treat such recommendations with the fullest respect and would not set them aside other than in exceptional circumstances. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend has submitted the order to Parliament in the form of the confirmation Bill which is now before the House.
The role of the Secretary of State in introducing the Bill is essentially formal. In particular, my right hon. Friend's decision to introduce the Bill is not to be taken as implying any view on his part on the merits of the order, but merely as enabling the appropriate parliamentary procedure to take place. I therefore see my role today as that of a catalyst, and I do not propose to utter any view for or against the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
The Minister sets great store by the authority, standing and status of the parliamentary commissioners. For the record, will he tell the House who the commissioners were and who appointed those who were not members of either House?
§ Mr. Ancram
The commissioners are appointed by the House authorities, and that is what happened in this case.
§ Mr. Ancram
I have listened with care and attention to the comments that have been made about the way in 369 which the procedure was followed in this instance, and I suspect that there will be more comments to come. I have taken careful note of the the points made today. Extensive consultation, especially with the Chairman of Ways and Means, would be necessary if any review of the procedure were to take place, but I believe —I think that there is support from historical precedent for this —that the circumstances surrounding this provisional order were exceptional. A wide range of business has been conducted under these procedures in the past 49 years, but so far as I am aware those other instances did not reveal anything particularly defective about the procedures themselves.
§ Mr. Martin
On previous occasions the petitioners were careful to restrict this type of legislation to bridges and railways. In no circumstances were roads involved, except in the case of approach roads —for instance, the approach road to the Kingston bridge. I agree that in more than 40 years no difficulties have arisen, but no previous legislation has involved a major stretch of road going through an urban area.
§ Mr. Ancram
I listened to the hon. Gentleman. He is as aware as I am that the regional council would have required parliamentary powers to divert the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway if the road were to be built. The regional council was entitled to decide to promote a wider provisional order. When the order was deposited, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was obliged under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 to make appropriate arrangements for the order to be considered. The provisional order may have been wider than is sometimes the case, but in the circumstances the procedures were carried out properly.
All hon. Members involved in Edinburgh welcome the construction of the outer city bypass, which should improve traffic conditions in Edinburgh and provide a fast and convenient route for traffic wishing to avoid the city centre. I take full account of the planned works on the bypass in determining Lothian region's capital allocation each year, and our arrangements to give grant assistance for the remaining sections of the bypass will also have the benefit of significantly relieving the burden on Lothian ratepayers.
Where, as in this case, a petition against an order comprised in the confirmation Bill is presented timeously, there is also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) correctly pointed out, provision under section 9 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 for the matter to be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The motion before the House, which we shall consider together with the main motion, is clearly competent. The House must decide whether a sufficient case has been made for it. The Government's position on that, as on the question of the principle of the Bill, is neutral. I trust that the House will accept that the Government have fulfilled the responsibilities expected of them regarding the provisional order.
§ Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)
As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) said, the Minister, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram), will not bat an eyelid that may suggest that he is anything other than neutral. My hon. Friend the Member 370 for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and I, representing the Labour Front Bench, believe that we should not express an opinion. However, unlike the Minister, at the end of my remarks I shall say how I intend to vote on a personal basis. It might have been for the convenience of the House if the Minister, as an Edinburgh Member, had told the House how he intended to vote as the Bill affects his constituency. Some of his hon. Friends will watch with interest to see how he casts his vote, if he votes.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) will agree that even among his hon. Friends he comes from a privileged background. It appears that he is a highly privileged. hon. Member because twice within seven days the House has debated Bills designed to protect his small 500 majority. Last week, when we debated the Housing (Scotland) Bill, some hon. Members said that it was designed to protect him, and his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central said the same this evening.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that people living in Gorgie and Etalry are in no way from an advantaged or privileged background, and that the Bill will alleviate the intolerable circumstances in which they live, which can only get worse when the outer city bypass is built? [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Gentleman received a great deal of support for his intervention, but his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central did not take part in it. Clearly, the House cannot be divided along party lines on this matter. There are divisions within the Conservative party, and, without going into last week's politics, that is not wholly uncommon in the Scottish Conservative party.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) is one of my constituents, and I should have mixed feelings if he lost his job. The hon. Gentleman lives in my constituency and, presumably, goes to his constituency occasionally. If the western relief road were built, he would probably go straight through the centre of Edinburgh to get from his home in East Lothian to his constituency in west Edinburgh, whereas it would be much more appropriate for him to go round the city on a completed outer city bypass.
§ Mr. Maxton
I shall not become involved with my hon. Friend's constituents, as I am sure that he looks after their interests, and perhaps even those of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West.
Conservative Members are divided on the matter, and their party's two House of Commons parliamentary commissioners also take opposite sides. There are no divisions in the Labour party's ranks on this issue. Although the alliance parties hold the balance of power on Lothian regional council, which is promoting the Bill, none is present to say where the alliance stands on the issue.
As a Glaswegian, I am loth to take too large a part in the controversy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) investigated the matter for three months, he is entitled to intervene, although he is a Glaswegian too. Although all Glaswegians reluctantly must go to Edinburgh on occasions, we do not know the geography of the city as well as Edinburgh Members.
371 Obviously, there are traffic congestion problems. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West argued cogently why the congestion in his constituency should be relieved. However, his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central argued equally cogently why the relief road should not be built until we see whether Edinburgh traffic is relieved by the bypasses around Edinburgh. Each of my hon. Friends must decide how to vote, and they will have received a great deal of advice. They must pay attention to what the majority of the parliamentary commissioners recommended, but equally they should pay careful attention to the valid points of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn, the chairman of that commission. My hon. Friends have listened to the arguments of their friends within Edinburgh and Lothian region, and all Labour Members pay high regard to the views of those in Edinburgh whom they know best.
I intend to vote against the Bill. However, if the Bill is passed, I warmly welcome the disclosure that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West is prepared to accept the procedure of a Joint Committee of both Houses because at least that will allow the matter to be considered in more detail before the proposal is passed. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friends to weigh their decision carefully before they cast their votes.
§ Mr. Michael Hirst (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)
I was amused to hear my colleague, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin), say that his Whip approached him smiling and asked him to go to Edinburgh as a parliamentary commissioner, and that his Whip believed that the inquiry would last about three and a half weeks. That was not my experience. My Whip did not smile, but merely said, "There is a job to be done in Edinburgh. It may take three weeks or it may take slightly longer, but you should be back well and truly before Christmas."
I sympathise with some of the hon. Gentleman's views, because, like him, I always find it frustrating to be away from Parliament for a long time. I do not complain about that, because I recognise that it is a duty which from time to time falls on hon. Members. I hope that I can honestly look all hon. Members straight in the eye when I say that I endeavoured to do my duty as a commissioner to the best of my ability.
It has not been easy to cope with all the demands of one's constituents, and my colleagues on the commission recognised and readily acknowledged that I had a substantial amount of work to do, but I do not believe that any of my constituents suffered because I had to be away from the House for three and a half months. That should be borne in mind by any other hon. Member who finds himself similarly dispatched to a parliamentary commission in future.
Having kept fairly silent on the matter for the nine months in which the commission was completing its work, I must say now that it sat for an unnecessarily long time, and criticism that is made of the procedure and the time in which two Members of Parliament were involved must be tempered by the fact that there were ways in which the proceedings could have been truncated. There need not have been such lengthy bouts of evidence as we received. I think that the chairman of the commission will 372 acknowledge that some of the objectors indulged in flights of fancy. I remind him of the Cowgate boulevard, a preposterous suggestion which wasted two and a half days of evidence.
While I am sensitive to what the hon. Member for Springburn has said about the cumbersome nature of a parliamentary commission, I believe that, if the commission had been run in a much more businesslike way, it would have been possible to sit for a much shorter period and still to give all the objectors and the promoters adequate opportunity to put their points of view.
§ Mr. Martin
Surely the hon. Member will recall that the proposers took longer in giving evidence than the objectors. A witness gave evidence that the Cowgate was to be extended into a dual carriageway, and we, the commissioners, asked for more evidence. Therefore, it was to satisfy the commissioners that the matter of the Cowgate was considered for an extra two and a half days.
§ Mr. Hirst
I am sure that it would be to the amusement and edification of the House if we indulged in a re-run of some of our spirited discussions, but it is fair to say that the promoters, who are putting forward such a major scheme, must inevitably spend time in justifying their proposal. The function of the commissioners was to examine and take a decision on the merits of the scheme, and that necessarily involved an exhaustive examination of the merits of the case.
There was indeed an exhaustive and painstaking examination of the merits of the scheme. Having approached my duties initially in an entirely neutral way, I found myself, as the scheme unfolded, attracted to the logic and merits of the scheme. I believe that the case was conclusively proved. The significant point is not that I found it conclusively proved but that a majority of the commissioners came to that conclusion.
As some hon. Members may know, the other two commissioners were people with no party affiliation and with no preconceived notion about the matter. They were entirely independent in regard to their appointment and the way in which they made their decision. It is significant that, after 53 days of painstaking consideration, the two independent lay commissioners and myself found the merits of the scheme conclusively proved. Not only were the merits of the scheme conclusively proved, but every available opportunity was afforded to objectors to come before the commission to state their case and to have it tested under the most rigorous cross-examination. The two lay commissioners and myself came to the conclusion that the objectors' contentions and fears could not be established in evidence and under cross-examination.
§ Mr. Martin
The hon. Member will surely recall that a motion was moved by me, the wording of which was not disputed, that in view of the strong legal advice being given by Queen's counsel, the commissioners should reject the legislation. Therefore, the hon. Member is not telling the full story, because he knows full well that there was strong legal advice in favour of rejecting the legislation.
§ Mr. Hirst
I do not mind the hon. Member doing me an injustice, but in making that statement he does a significant injustice to the non-parliamentary commissioners, who exercised their duties as commissioners with great diligence and pondered all the points put to them with a great deal of care and principle.
373 We have heard this evening a reiteration of many of the fears that were expressed by objectors who came before the commission. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) has reiterated many of the fears in his speech. I accept that for the past five and a half years my hon. Friend has been trammelled with ministerial duties, and that in addition, as a result of changes in his boundary, he suddenly found that his constituency included an area that he previously had not known. But I have to say to him, with all the kindness in my heart, that clearly he has not examined carefully the evidence that was laid before the commission, and which is available to him to inspect in the Library if he is so minded this evening. Many of the points that he has made were made in the course of the commission's proceedings. They were repeated by objectors and subjected to careful cross-examination so that the facts could be established. If the fears that he has expressed this evening had been substantiated at the commission, the commissioners might very well have taken a different view.
§ Mr. Fletcher
My hon. Friend has an advantage over me as to much of the detail, because he spent 52 days in listening to it. He did his job as a commissioner and I did mine as a Member of Parliament. While he was sitting on the commission, I was taking advice and sounding opinion in my constituency. I did that not just for 52 days but for about 5,052 days before reaching my conclusions, which I have expressed in the debate.
§ Mr. Hirst
I greatly respect my hon. Friend, and I respect his right to come to a view based on his perception of the facts and on the views expressed to him by his constituents. But the points that he made in his speech received the most rigorous examination in the course of the commission's proceedings, and a full transcript of the evidence is available for all to see in the Library of the House of Commons. That transcript is helpful to any hon. Member who is genuinely confused by the claims and counter-claims and wishes to see what the professional witnesses and the objectors said about the matter, and the conclusions expressed by counsel appearing at the commission.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am marginally older than my hon. Friend and I have read and listened to expert advice. I think that I am able to judge as well as anybody else the views of professional experts and their ability to forecast what traffic congestion may be.
§ Mr. Hirst
I understand that point of view, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend could find more esteemed or distinguished witnesses anywhere else in Britain. When the objectors brought forward similar professional witnesses to argue against the points that had been made, their evidence could not be sustained under the rigorous cross-examination which ensued.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central referred to the number of bodies associated with the objections to the proposals, in particular the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust, to which both bodies I belong in one or other capacity. Neither of those bodies invited their members, in Edinburgh or more widely in Scotland, to express an opinion on those points. I do not presume to say, as a result, that their association with the objections should be disregarded, but one tends to get a knee-jerk reaction when a proposal is made which 374 has not been exhaustively examined in public. Frankly, I wonder whether those involved in the National Trust for Scotland now would, if they studied the proposal and the safeguards imported into it, reach the view today which they reached when they associated themselves with the objections.
Various points have been made about the character of the road. It is not my function, nor do I want, to get down to the nitty-gritty points of the proposal, but I must remind my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central that his contention that the road would be a motorway is not the case. The analogy with the Clydeside expressway is nearer the mark, although if the hon. Member for Springburn recalls the plans over which we pored for many days, he will remember that there was a hard shoulder element, so that the Clydeside expressway is a comparator, if not a strict one.
The road is not a motorway, nor does it have a direct link with the M8. There is a grade separated junction, and that is of vital importance. My hon. Friend and I travel extensively throughout central Scotland and frequently move from motorways to dual carriageways by means of grade separated junctions.
Indeed, recently I risked my life travelling with my hon. Friend, though I risked it without fear. He is a regular motorist and will know that drivers adjust to the speeds which can reasonably and safely be done on roads. It is clear from the design of the proposed road that it would not be driven on under motorway conditions.
§ Mr. Gerald Malone (Aberdeen, South)
I travel with my hon. Friend frequently, and I refuse to set a price on my life when I am a passenger in his vehicle. Will he comment on the safety aspect of this road? Hon. Members on both sides will have received representations from organisations about the safety aspect. It has been represented that if the development goes ahead, there will be a substantial increase in safety, with a probable reduction in road injuries.
§ Mr. Hirst
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Expert witnesses who gave evidence on road design, as well as the assistant chief constable, were categoric in their professional opinion that the road would enhance safety standards not just on the road but in the areas which would be relieved by having lower levels of traffic. There would, therefore, be less risk to pedestrians and other road users. The assistant chief constable of Lothians and Borders police was emphatic in his belief that the design would give the road a level of safety that could not exist on the roads that the project would relieve.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. Central asked whether the development would lead to other road schemes—whether, for example, there would be further developments in other parts of Edinburgh which might arouse the fears of local inhabitants. I remind him that officials of Lothian regional council who gave evidence were emphatic that their plans for the city of Edinburgh included no project that would lead to further developments in Edinburgh.
My hon. Friend can consult the structure plan for Lothian regional council, in which he will see set out clearly the priorities for the region's roads development programme for the next 10 years. His fear that this development could lead to further road developments is unfounded.
375 I regret that it is necessary for me to chide my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central on these points. I do so because he repeated some of the fears to which I listened for many days. Because I was satisfied at the end of the day that such fears had been laid to rest as a result of the evidence, it is only fair that I should bring such matters to the attention of the House.
I have made it clear that the police were firm in their evidence about the safety of the road. Evidence was also led by the director of passenger transport in Lothian making it clear that the creation of the road would help the smoother flow of traffic, in particular buses, in the city, with consequential benefits throughout the city.
As one who comes from the west and enjoys the transport system run by the Strathclyde passenger executive, I am envious of the record of Lothian Regional Transport, which is virtually unrivalled in the rest of Britain for punctuality and quality of service. I am entitled, therefore, to attach considerable importance to the evidence that was led by the director of Lothian Regional Transport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central should remember that residents appeared before the commission for the promoters and the objectors. Those who appeared for the promoters were prepared to talk of the noise and pollution and environmental disturbance as a result of the traffic volumes in their areas. They were residents not simply of Corstorphine and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton). They also came from GorgieDalry, where the proximity of the houses to the road makes matters of environmental pollution all the more nauseating for them.
The professional witnesses who appeared before the commission were of extremely high calibre, and the fact that they succeeded in convincing not just me but the other two lay commissioners speaks volumes for the quality of their advice and the opinions that we received and respected.
For the benefit of the House, I can do no better than quote from a recent letter from Professor Donald MacKay, who wears many hats. He has been an adviser to Labour and Conservative Secretaries of State and his professional expertise is widely respected throughout the country. In other words, his views on this matter must be taken on board.
The letter from which I quote was written not in the spirit of someone writing to his MP but rather in the spirit of a professional witness succinctly summarising the aspects of the project that appealed to him. As time in the debate is not pressing —there is not a plethora of speakers anxious to address the House —I trust that hon. Members will grant me the indulgence of quoting from the letter because it fairly summarises the position. Professor MacKay says that the western relief road is essentially a bypass for the residents of Corstorphine and GorgieDalry. He continues:All the studies indicate that the construction of the WRR would take a large volume of traffic out of existing residential and shopping areas and transfer that traffic to a purpose built road, saving lives and accidents, reducing traffic noise and improving the quality of life. All the expert evidence, including the traffic experts called for the opposition at the Parliamentary 376 Commission, accepted that the WRR would not increase the volume of traffic travelling along the radial routes in the western sector.That is vital to all those who assert that this road will bring massive quantities of traffic into the centre of Edinburgh. He also states:The exits from the WRR at the city end were deliberately designed to redistribute traffic at the western end of the route. All the expert evidence, including the traffic experts called for the opposition at the Parliamentary Commission, accepted the WRR would not increase the volume of traffic on Lothian road.Professor MacKay ends his letter by saying:In all my experience of dealing with road schemes"—he is an acknowledged road expert—I have not seen a more clear-cut case for construction than that for the WRR. The expert evidence was agreed on the main facts and it is a matter of everyday experience that existing traffic has substantial adverse effects on Corstorphine and Gorgie—Dalry. If the WRR was constructed it would not adversely affect Alex Fletcher's constituents. It would, however, be an appreciable benefit to thousands of households along the existing radial routes.Professor MacKay has made that point far more eloquently than I could have made it.
May I deal now with Opposition criticisms about certain aspects of the scheme. It is important to recognise that the stated sum of money does not cover just the construction of the road. It covers a substantial upgrading of the entire environment from Lothian road to the roundabout where it would join the outer city bypass. One of the happy byproducts of the project is that it would enable various measures to be undertaken on the existing radial routes which would make them much safer. That would be in the interests of pedestrians. These measures would reduce the volume of traffic, ease the flow of bus services and be of benefit to those who live close to the roads. The House ought to recognise that the project includes various traffic management and environmental improvement measures which can reasonably be associated with the scheme.
Those right hon. and hon. Members who have criticised the scheme tonight have said that the western relief road should not be built until the outer city bypass has been completed. That, however, flies in the face of the professional evidence which predicts, as has happened in virtually every other city in the United Kingdom, with reasonable certainty what the volume of traffic is expected to be.
§ Mr. Malone
My hon. Friend and I have great experience of what happened in Glasgow. There was a comprehensive scheme to route traffic through and round the city. That scheme went ahead, despite enormous local opposition. It has proved to be a success. It has relieved traffic congestion and has increased road safety. Although there may always be local opposition to schemes of that kind, does my hon. Friend agree that eventually they are seen to be exceptionally worthwhile?
§ Mr. Hirst
Yes, my hon. Friend is right. Furthermore, improved communications, as we have found in the west of Scotland, attract potential investors. The flow of traffic is speeded up. I freely acknowledge that Labour councillors in Glasgow had the foresight to recognise that their city would die if it did not have proper communications. It is very much to the credit of Tom Fulton and others in Glasgow that they had the wisdom and foresight to create in Glasgow a road system that enables one to get from one side of Glasgow to the other in a very short time.
377 I entertained recently a group of important American visitors to the west of Scotland. They were fulsome in their praise of Glasgow's excellent communications. After their visit to Edinburgh, they said that the city is beautiful but they wondered why the city fathers had not done anything about providing a road system that would enable travellers to get to Edinburgh in the same way as they are able to get to Glasgow. But relief is coming. There is to be an outer city bypass.
However, it would be fatal to imagine, based on the professional evidence that was laid before the commission, that the outer city bypass will divert traffic that needs to enter Edinburgh. The outer city bypass will enable traffic to flow quickly around the city of Edinburgh. It will not have to travel through the western sector or the city centre. However, that does not provide an answer to the volume of traffic that will still flow through the western sector after the outer city bypass has been constructed. The professional evidence suggested that Corstorphine would receive a measure of relief but that Gorgie-Dairy would not: the traffic volume there would be increased.
The Opposition say that no relief road should be constructed before the outer city bypass has been completed. However, the result would be that traffic would feed in through Gorgie-Dalry and would also go further round the ring road and start coming in via Bruntsfield. Although he is not in the Chamber, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland would quickly find that his constituents were very concerned about traffic that was seeking to get to the centre of Edinburgh passing unnecessarily through his constituency. That is the established pattern of traffic movement after similar bypass developments have been completed. The professional experts were able to satisfy the commission that the traffic volumes were of such a nature that relief had to be provided in the western sector.
The critics also say that the road will pile traffic into the city centre. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central was at pains to refer to the extra traffic that would be generated. I sat and listened for 52 days, expecting to hear where the extra traffic would come from. If traffic has to reach the centre of Edinburgh, it must be going there for a purpose. That applies to the traffic which passes along Queensferry road, or along the main roads through Corstorphine or Gorgie-Dalry. It may be using those roads for work, shopping, leisure or tourism. Can my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central tell me where the extra traffic will come from? The professional witnesses for both the promoters and objectors were united in acknowledging that experience shows that a new road does not generate additional traffic. I hope that my hon. Friend can tell me where the vast amounts of extra traffic that will pile into the centre of Edinburgh will come from.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Experience shows that new roads attract additional traffic. Those who visit the city of Edinburgh snake their way through its streets. If a new road like this were to be created, people would use it. However, the people of Edinburgh would be unable to use it. There are no means of entry to or exit from it other than at the extreme ends of the road. I am not surprised that an hon. Member who represents a Glasgow constituency applauds the building of this new road. Those who reach the centre of the city of Edinburgh faster than anybody else will be those who come to it from the west, not those who live in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Hirst
I can do no more than refer my hon. Friend to the evidence that was presented to the commission. It was tested under the most rigorous cross-examination and finally it convinced the commissioners. No traffic expert could be produced who was able to satisfy the commissioners that the construction of a new road would generate vast amounts of extra traffic coming to Edinburgh. It is the rat runs which cause such distress and environmental disturbance to my hon. Friend's constituents. It must be desirable that motor cars which currently use minor roads, where children are crossing to school and elderly people are going to the shops —necessary, non-local traffic —should be removed from the roads.
The commissioners were well aware of the regional council's intention to proceed with the construction of a multi-storey car park at the far end of the western relief road which would provide a place for people visiting Edinburgh for shopping, tourist or leisure purposes to park. That car park is an important element in what I perceive to be the whole scheme.
I could understand more readily my hon. Friend's fears if there were not to be such a car park. There is to be a car park, and I find it slightly strange, perverse and particularly saddening that the district council is not prepared to give it planning permission. However, I am confident that the justification for that will be established at the public inquiry into it.
Evidence was laid about the amount of green time, that vital element in any computer-controlled traffic management scheme, which allows the motor vehicles to leave the road and move into Lothian road, either northwards or southwards. The point about green time is that people simply will not use the road if they are not able to obtain egress at the far end. Voluminous evidence was laid on the green time issue, and I am happy to say that the majority of commissioners were satisfied on that point. I accept that it is a concept that may be difficult to understand. Indeed, one of my colleagues on the commission asked for the road expert to return to explain it to him again. That was important and necessary, because the fear was constantly expressed. It is sufficient for me to be able to reassure my hon. Friend that, in the light of the traffic expert's assurances and explanations, my fellow commissioner was prepared to agree to the scheme.
Edinburgh is singularly badly endowed with parking spaces. People will simply not use the motor car to travel if they cannot find a parking space. My hon. Friend will know that the issue of parking spaces is carefully considered in the structure plan and the modifications to it. He can be assured that the number of parking spaces will not rise so dramatically that it will encourage people to come into the centre of Edinburgh unnecessarily.
Frankly, it is a function of the black propaganda that has surrounded the proposal to make people feel that traffic will pour out of the western relief road into Lothian road and saturate the old arid new towns. Funnily enough, I share my hon. Friend's concern for the preservation of Edinburgh's historic buildings. My record on a civic trust involved in the preservation of old buildings testifies to my concern to protect our architectural heritage. But architectural heritage is not something that one cocoons in cotton wool. It is nothing if it cannot live with the contemporary world, providing that there are adequate safeguards to proect it, and there are adequate safeguards 379 to protect both the new and old towns of Edinburgh. I for one, having listened to all the black propaganda, am not minded to swallow it.
Finally, let me deal with the point made by the critics that the parliamentary inquiry was an inappropriate method of considering the scheme. The hon. Member for Springburn was at pains to point out that there was no precedent for a road scheme that involved a railway diversion. That matter occupied the commissioners' attention for the major part of one afternoon. I am surprised that he has overlooked the precedent of the Ross and Cromarty legislation under which a road was built which necessitated the diversion of a railway. Parliament then found it convenient to take the road construction scheme and the railway diversion in one measure. It was subject to the same investigative processes as the western relief road in Edinburgh by the parliamentary commission. I was at pains to ask the promoters' counsel to describe that precedent so that it was firmly on the record that there was a precedent which the commissioners could properly follow.
As the project aroused many fears and suspicions in Edinburgh, notwithstanding the extensive consultation embarked on by Lothian regional council in order to explain the process and the project to people and to allay their fears or answer them, and, indeed, at a formative stage in the project to take on board the worries that were being expressed, the regional council found itself in a position where the district council had given outline planning permission and there would have been no public inquiry because the Secretary of State was not prepared to call the matter in.
In view of all that, I cannot accept that it was inappropriate to have a parliamentary commission at which all the merits of the scheme were discussed at one time. There would have been a parliamentary commission for diverting the railway. There could certainly have been other inquiries about the compulsory purchase or the planning for the road. In fact, the district council was prepared to give planning permission and the Secretary of State was not prepared to call it in.
In those circumstances —I am sure the point will not be lost on the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East —the people would have had no opportunity to have had the merits of the scheme examined and tested under cross-examination. The fact that the commission lasted as long as it did is a testimony to the ability of the objectors to come before the commission to argue their case and to be heard. In the latter stages of the commission I asked objectors whether they felt that they had received a proper and fair hearing for the simple reason that, having gone to all the elaborate arrangements to provide a forum for examining the merits of the scheme, I did not want anyone to go away and say that the commissioners did not give them every opportunity to be heard and to have their point of view properly expressed.
As someone who has visited a number of cities, I believe that Edinburgh has a serious problem with its communications, but that problem has been recognised and it must surely be a tribute to the foresight of past Secretaries of State for Scotland that they have protected a route that would provide reasonable access from the western sector to the west end of Edinburgh. Usually, to put forward a scheme such as this would entail substantial 380 demolition and distress, the dislocation of small businesses, environmental pollution and many other things during the construction period. Amazingly, the scheme entails the destruction of one derelict bungalow and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West has said, the occupant of that house has already been rehoused.
I believe that the project is a major advance. It will confer on a wide area in the western and south-western section of Edinburgh substantial environmental benefits. Members of the golf course will have it substantially upgraded, and the derelict land beside the railway line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, which is currently a casual recreation area, will have facilities for children and young people that it does not have at the moment. The other people who will be displaced have adequate alternative arrangements.
I am certain that in years to come people in Edinburgh will welcome the road, and I am equally certain that they will ask what all the hoo-ha was about and say how much they value and are grateful for such a road. The trouble with change is that some people will welcome it and some will instinctively fear it. Those who fear it —there are many people who do so for perfectly honest reasons —will fall prey to those who, for one reason or another, are prepared to exaggerate the fears and excite suspicion about the scheme. In the course of 52 days of the commission, I heard a lobby articulate fears and complaints that were found not to have substance. The lobby was a curious coalition of people whose political philosophy made them antagonistic to car ownership and, therefore, the construction of roads, and conservationists who felt that the new town of Edinburgh, which is some distance from the western relief road, should be cocooned and preserved, and not made available to other people.
I believe that this is a worthwhile project. Having listened to the merits of the scheme being exhaustively examined during the commission's inquiry, I have no hesitation in recommending it to the House, and I hope that it will receive the vote of confidence that it deserves.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
I have listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst). I do not accept that the parliamentary commission was the appropriate way to handle the matter. It is essentially a planning issue, and in my opinion there should have been a full blown public inquiry to deal with the planning aspects of the road.
I cannot accept the strange argument of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden that all the opposition is based on fear of the unknown and that somehow it is a gut opposition to change regardless of the nature of the measure. One only has to look at what is currently happening in Edinburgh, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Fletcher) reminded us. We are in the middle of the construction of the Edinburgh outer city bypass. That road has not evoked enormous opposition. Therefore, it is not a matter of opposition to change for the sake of change. There is massive opposition to the road. One cannot run away from that. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central is opposing it in response to the views of his constituents. He made that clear.
§ Mr. Hirst
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. As I had ample time to speak, I do not intend to interrupt him again. As a democrat, he must respect the 381 fact that the true opinions of people can be obtained when the democratic process is exercised. Does he not find it significant that in a by-election in Edinburgh, in the seat formerly held by Ian Cramond —an area that is substantially affected by the western relief road —the one candidate whose political philosphy makes him opposed to the road raised 7 per cent. of the votes? Is it not a reasonable corollary to say that if that was the issue, 93 per cent. of the people supported the road?
§ Mr. Strang
The hon. Gentleman should study the history of the voting pattern of that area and look at some of the other issues in the election.
I was not going to be drawn on this issue, but there is a widespread view in Edinburgh that one of the factors that led Labour to take control of that council, for the first time ever, was opposition to the road. I do not wish to make too much of that because there is no way of knowing what particular issues determine how people vote in an election. I say to the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden that it will not wash to pretend that there is not substantial opposition to the road. There is opposition to the whole protracted process. Can anyone recall another road that has been built in Scotland in the past 20 years that has evoked so much public opposition, so much time of distinguished professional people and so much controversy? The nature of tonight's debate is, in itself, a reflection of just how controversial the road is. One has to face up to the fact that hundreds of roads are being built all the time throughout the country, and very few have evoked the controversy that this one has.
This is not a party issue. Indeed, hon. Members on both sides of the House are opposing the road. Although I am the only Labour Member representing the Lothian region who is speaking in the debate, all my hon. Friends who represent Lothian constituencies are opposed to the road. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) would have liked to participate in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Leith has an important interest in the issue, and his constituents oppose the road. He is also concerned about the future of the centre of Edinburgh. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston has a particular knowledge of the area because he represented the constituency there. It is interesting that the previous Labour Member and the sitting Conservative Member in the central area of Edinburgh are united in their opposition to the road.
The starting point for the debate is that Edinburgh is a beautiful city. It is one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. It could have been destroyed if we had allowed some of the roads to be built that were advocated by various groups in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) made that point effectively. It is not for me to comment on Glasgow. It is a much bigger industrial city and the need for roads is different.
We are talking about the central area of Edinburgh. We know that some housing schemes on the outskirts need improvement and investment, but the centre of Edinburgh is beautiful. Many people can walk to work and to the shops. We should cherish and protect the nature of the area. Among other things, that means seeking to allow car owners and other people to come into the centre, but we should minimise pollution, congestion and the amount of unnecessary traffic coming into the centre.
382 I remember a great controversy in Edinburgh about an inner motorway. It is great that that motorway was never built. I remember all the arguments and the advocates of the motorway, many of them Labour and some Conservative councillors, who wanted to build a major inner circular motorway system in Edinburgh. Thank goodness we defeated that. That was at a time when the idea of building more roads was seen as progress per se. We have moved a long way forward, just as we have moved beyond the idea of knocking down all the houses in the central area. We now realise that the best thing to do is to try to retain the housing stock if we can get another 20 or 30 years out of it.
We have also learnt that the last thing that we want to do is to allow the motor car to dominate our lives. I am all for people owning motor cars. I want more people to own them, but it does not mean that we should allow them to rule our lives or that we should build roads in the centre of beautiful cities such as Edinburgh just to cater for the needs of some people who want to bring their cars into the centre.
There is a powerful case to be made about protecting the beauty of Edinburgh's central area and reducing the traffic damage there, not building a major road that comes right into the centre. That cannot be disputed. It comes into Lothian road only a few yards from the west end.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central eloquently talked about the environmental damage. There is real opposition to the road in the area where it will be built. The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden knows where many of the local objectors come from. Those people know what they want. They are opposed to the road because it will mean environmental damage and loss of open space. Open spaces are precious in Edinburgh and London —they make them beautiful cities. The huge parks and open spaces are some of the great strengths of Edinburgh. We want more open space in my constituency.
§ Mr. Malone
I do not like to participate too much in a debate that has little to do with my constituency. However, I have considered the evidence with some care, and I believe that the road. will destroy precious little of the open space referred to by the hon. Gentleman. He is talking nonsense when he says that the road will destroy the open space in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Strang
The hon. Gentleman should consider both sides of the argument, the evidence that has been given to the inquiry and some of the arguments put forward by the Edinburgh district council. Anyone who tries to persuade me that everyone wants the road is obviously unaware of the nature of this debate.
§ Mr. Hirst
I am sorry that it is necessary for me to intervene. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would tell me precisely what open space and parkland w ill be destroyed. I referred earlier to the protected route, much of which comprises derelict land. I also said that other pieces of land were being made available in compensation. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House which areas of green parkland will be lost?
§ Mr. Strang
I will not be drawn into arguments about the relocation of the railway and the changes to the golf course. I make the simple point that if a major new road is constructed, it will take up land.
§ Mr. Strang
The road will last for 100 years. The land will not stay derelict for 100 years. It is no argument to say that the land is derelict.
Many years ago the Lothian region Labour party had a great debate about a road pattern for Edinburgh. Many people wished to build roads here and there, but the overwhelming consensus was for an outer Edinburgh city bypass. We have waited generations for that bypass. It is now going ahead and it will be an important road.
I do not dispute that the bulk of the traffic approaching Edinburgh wants to enter the city. The bypass will help to secure industrial development in my constituency. The only other road to which that Labour party agreed was one about which I did not feel as strongly as some of my colleagues. I accept that, on balance, it was right. It is a matter of whether the investment can be justified. That road is very different from the proposed road. It basically serves industrial traffic to Leith docks, to the freightliner depot, and takes the heavy traffic away from Portobello.
The proposed relief road is not a bypass in the usual sense. It is incredible that Professor MacKay seriously argued that he had never before come across a road that would bring so much benefit. That is an insult to our intelligence. Proper bypasses, in the usual sense, are the only roads that bring benefit. Real benefit is gained where roads bypass small towns and villages and relieve them of heavy traffic congestion. It is nonsense to compare the western relief road with those bypasses.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
What parts of green land will be used for the road? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is estimated that the Al from Musselburgh will have its traffic reduced from 25,000 vehicles to 11,000 vehicles a day when the relief road is opened? That will bring very great benefits. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the traffic using that road will be going to the centre of the city?
§ Mr. Strang
I have already discussed that point and I can see no benefit in going over it again.
My case is based not on west Edinburgh alone, but on the city of Edinburgh as a whole. I am opposed to the road for a number of reasons. Surely the prudent course would have been to have waited until the complete outer city bypass was completed so that its effect on the Edinburgh area could be evaluated. It is not good enough to claim that we can predict that effect. That outer city bypass will be an important distributor of traffic. Hon. Members must consider the issue from a more sensible base.
Let us take the volume of traffic going into central Edinburgh. The building of another road merely distributes some of the congestion from the other routes going into the centre. Of course, I accept that that road will have an effect on the traffic going through Corstorphine. However, there is a certain volume of traffic going into Edinburgh in the rush hour, and there are already three or four routes that it can take. All that the building of the proposed road will do is provide an additional route. For example, traffic coming from the airport to east or central Edinburgh can use three or four different routes in an attempt to avoid being delayed by traffic congestion. The building of an additional road will merely redistribute traffic between existing roads and the new road. The new road cannot be justified in terms of its impact on central Edinburgh, and it certainly cannot be justified in terms of cost.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
Is it not nonsense for the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) to compare the so-called western relief road with the Tranent-Musselburgh bypass, with which my hon. Friend and I are familiar? That bypass is part of the outer city bypass and takes traffic out of Edinburgh, whereas the western relief road will actually bring traffic into Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Strang
I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, that is such a basic point that I cannot understand why we have to argue it. I accept that there may be an argument for relieving the traffic congestion in Corstorphine, but there is no way in which the proposed road can be compared with a road that bypasses a whole community, such as the Tranent or Musselburgh bypasses.
We will have to wait to evaluate the effects of the outer city bypass in reducing the flow of traffic to Edinburgh. It depends on the extent to which some traffic chooses to go down Ferry road, although we hope that that will not happen. The vast bulk of the traffic, whether from Musselburgh or the west, will want to go into Edinburgh.
It has been argued that the western relief road will reduce accidents. That is a very strange argument. The same number of cars will be going into the city, so there will still be the same risk of accidents on those roads. I do not know how anyone can try to quantify the effect of that road on the number of accidents in that part of Edinburgh.
Another argument has been the possibility of job creation. If ever there was a pathetic argument, it must be that we should build a road simply for the sake of creating jobs. I am in favour of a massive expansion of investment in our infrastructure. I want a complete reversal of the Government's massive cuts in the public sector and in investment in housing, because that would benefit the construction industry. I should like to see the speeding up of the outer city bypass.
As to the argument that building the road can be justified on the ground that it will create jobs, to take it to its most absurd, one might as well argue that we should demolish Edinburgh castle and build flats there because it will create jobs. One cannot make a case for the road on the basis of jobs. We want jobs and we want more investment, but this is a planning issue and we have to consider the effect of the road on the communities, on Edinburgh and on the people who use the centre of Edinburgh.
With regard to the cost of the road, it is not enough to say that the arguments are evenly balanced. If they are evenly balanced those proposing the road have to make a case for the investment of £37 million. At this time, that is a colossal investment. It is an infrastructure which will bring no significant benefit. It will not benefit industry. Is somebody suggesting that it will attract more manufacturing industry to Edinburgh? Of course not. Is somebody suggesting that there are no other infrastructure investments to be made which would have a greater effect on economic growth? It is ridiculous to suggest that this is a particularly desirable infrastructure investment in terms of encouraging industrial expansion and promoting industrial efficiency. I do not think that any of the letters which we have received have sought to argue such a case.
Our position in the Labour party is that this money should be used for other purposes. We can think of a whole range of more desirable projects which would benefit from such investment. We support public transport, and I was 385 grateful to note the remarks made from the Conservative Benches about the public transport system. It was the Lothian regional council, then controlled by Labour, which brought about the major improvement in our public transport system. If we take control of the regional council again in May, we want to be in a position to put more money into public transport and to improve the public transport system in Edinburgh.
Why is Lothian regional council proceeding with such haste that it has even invited tenders and is going further down the road on the basis of a decision that it took last week in advance of Parliament's decision? It is because there is such a narrow base of support for the road. All shades of opinion in Edinburgh are against the road, but this narrow group on Lothian regional council is determined to force it through. Any objective planning official in Edinburgh would say that at this time at the very least we should wait to see the outcome of the elections to Lothian regional council. Maybe the Conservatives will take control and, if they do, fair enough. It is a scandal that they have invited tenders and are forcing it through to make sure that, if Labour later controls the region, it will have difficulty in stopping the road without incurring financial penalties.
The project is irresponsible on the most objective grounds, and I remind the House of the widespread nature of the opposition to the road. Is somebody telling me that the Cockburn Association does not have a splendid record in the defence of Edinburgh's beauty? It has made a tremendous contribution over the years to protecting the quality of life in central Edinburgh. Is somebody telling me that the National Trust for Scotland is an organisation whose views should not be given great weight and consideration? It will not wash to try to pretend that this is a small group of people who do not know what is good for them, people who are opposed to motor cars—
§ Mr. Strang
I shall not give way because I am winding up.
It is nonsense to suggest such things. These people are not fuddy-duddy conservationists. This road is being foisted on Edinburgh by a small group which happens to be in a dominating position on the council. The support tends to come from people outside the city rather than in the city. Opposition to the road is all-party, comes from all walks of life and in particular from the people who want to protect and develop the centre of Edinburgh as one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 82.387
|Division No. 17]||[9.25 pm|
|Arnold, Tom||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Ashby, David||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bright, Graham|
|Batiste, Spencer||Browne, John|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Bellingham, Henry||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Best, Keith||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Chapman, Sydney|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Churchill, W. S.|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Coombs, Simon||Mates, Michael|
|Cope, John||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Couchman, James||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Dover, Den||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Dunn, Robert||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Durant, Tony||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Farr, Sir John||Neale, Gerrard|
|Favell, Anthony||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Parris, Matthew|
|Fox, Marcus||Pawsey, James|
|Freeman, Roger||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Galley, Roy||Penhaligon, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Powley, John|
|Ground, Patrick||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Grylls, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Hawkins, C. (High Peak)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Hayes, J.||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Heddle, John||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Henderson, Barry||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Hicks, Robert||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Holt, Richard||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Howells, Geraint||Silvester, Fred|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Sims, Roger|
|Jackson, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Jessel, Toby||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Spence, John|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Stern, Michael|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Kennedy, Charles||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Key, Robert||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Thurnham, Peter|
|Knox, David||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Lang, Ian||Viggers, Peter|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Wcester)|
|Lightbown, David||Wallace, James|
|Livsey, Richard||Waller, Gary|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Ward, John|
|Lord, Michael||Watson, John|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Maclean, David John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Madel, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Malins, Humfrey||Lord James Douglas-Hamilton|
|Malone, Gerald||and Mr. Michael Hirst.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Barnett, Guy||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Bell, Stuart||Deakins, Eric|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Dewar, Donald|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Douglas, Dick|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Boyes, Roland||Eastham, Ken|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Ewing, Harry|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Buchan, Norman||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Foster, Derek|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Foulkes, George|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Clarke, Thomas||Golding, John|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Haynes, Frank|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Nellist, David|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Neubert, Michael|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Park, George|
|John, Brynmor||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Pike, Peter|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Radice, Giles|
|Lamond, James||Redmond, M.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Robertson, George|
|McCartney, Hugh||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Rowlands, Ted|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKelvey, William||Soley, Clive|
|McNamara, Kevin||Spearing, Nigel|
|McTaggart, Robert||Stott, Roger|
|McWilliam, John||Strang, Gavin|
|Madden, Max||Tinn, James|
|Marek, Dr John||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Martin, Michael||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Michie, William||Mr. John Home Robertson and|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Mr. Richard Page.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Joint Committee of both Houses.—[Mr. Fletcher.]