HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc601-2
4. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is his response to the proposals for improving and accelerating trunk road inquiry procedures contained in the recent report on the subject by the National Economic Development Council.

Mrs. Chalker

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment are considering the Civil Engineering Economic Development Committee's report and hope to give their response by the spring.

Mr. Hughes

Should not the findings of all public inquiries be published at the earliest possible moment? Why is the Secretary of State sitting on the report on the Severn bridge relating to the proposal to increase tolls by 150 per cent.? Will the Minister take note of the Prime Minister's recent assertion that direct questions need direct answers?

Mrs. Chalker

I shall do my best to give the hon. Gentleman a direct reply. He clearly does not understand the system of or legal background applying to public inquiries; otherwise, he would not ask for the publication of reports at the earliest opportunity. They are often weighty tomes, as we have seen in recent years, and all the elements with which the inspectors deal in them need careful consideration, and that we certainly give to them.

My right hon. Friend is not sitting on any report, and nor am I. The inspector's report on the Severn bridge tolls increase was received in November. We are working on it. When we are ready to make a decision, a decision letter will be issued, followed by the matter being advertised in the local press and the laying of the necessary order signed by the Minister and subject to the negative resolution procedure in this House.

Mr. Higgins

Any move to improve and accelerate trunk road inquiries procedures is to be welcomed. Does my hon. Friend agree that a sufficient number of inquiries need to be completed so that, if additional resources become available, work can go ahead without being held up by planning considerations?

Mrs. Chalker

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In addition to the 55 schemes currently under construction and two at public inquiry, 273 schemes are in preparation, so creating a shelf of schemes which can be brought forward when resources permit.

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