HC Deb 15 December 1992 vol 216 cc295-311 3.31 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John MacGregor)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the financial support that the Government will give to local highway authorities in England in 1993–94 through the local roads capital provision.

Local authorities need to know now of the annual allocation of transport supplementary grant and capital approvals for their roads, and I know of the great interest which right hon. and hon. Members take in these schemes.

We are providing £1,047 million for capital expenditure on local roads in 1993–94. This is a substantial sum by any standards, and is particularly notable because it is a record despite being in a difficult year. It amply demonstrates the priority which the Government are giving to capital expenditure programmes.

This sum will enable 41 major new schemes to be started at a cost of £93 million in 1993–94–55 per cent. more than in 1992–93. The total cost of these projects will be £318 million spread over the next few years. I am arranging for a list of the schemes to be included in the Official Report and in the Vote Office.

The list strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of rural and of urban areas and provides a fair share-out between the counties. There are 24 new bypasses and relief roads. They range in value from the Blackwater valley route linking the M3 with the A31 at Farnham, costing a total of £57 million, to phase 1 of the Werrington to Glinton bypass near Peterborough at £1.3 million.

In London, six new major schemes have been approved for grant. They are Croydon, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Wimbledon, Newham and Waltham Forest.

I have accepted large new projects in the conurbations of the west midlands and Greater Manchester, and in Merseyside in support of local authorities' success in the city challenge competition. In addition to the named major schemes, there is £310 million for bridge works and structural maintenance of principal roads. Support for bridge works has increased by 24 per cent. compared with the current year.

Authority Scheme
East Sussex A22 Nightingale Farm to A27
Surrey A331 Blackwater Valley route (centre portion)
Hampshire A331 Blackwater Valley route (centre portion)
Oxfordshire A44 Woodstock bypass
West Sussex A24 Ashington bypass
Avon Weston-super-Mare primary distributor road stages 4B 5C & 6
Cornwall A388 Carkeel - Callington phases 1,2,3
Devon> B3199 Tiverton southern relief road
Dorset A350 Sterte Road/Hungerhill improvements
Somerset A39 Cannington southern bypass
Coventry A444 North-South Road phase 2
Wolverhampton A4124 Wednesfield bypass and industrial access
Staffordshire A527 Tunstall western bypass phases 1 & 2
Staffordshire A520 Stone bypass
Manchester Manchester/Salford inner relief road phase 2 - Chester Road roundabout
Liverpool Russell Street - Berry Street link
Wirral A5027 City challenge - Birkenhead Freeport route
Within the minor works programme., £50 million is being earmarked for local safety schemes. Money was first reserved for such schemes in 1991–92 to a total figure then of £31 million. So the £50 million allocated next year represents an increase of about 60 per cent. in three years. Since the average cost of a local safety scheme is about £15,000, this could mean the financing of up to a further 3,000 or so schemes. Assessment has shown that they give an excellent return for the money in terms of safety benefits, lives saved and injuries prevented.

There is also an increase in the support given by borrowing approvals. This is for work which is either outside the scope of the TSG—town centre traffic management improvements, for example—or which provides help on the early expenditure of large schemes not due to start construction for a few years.

Earlier this year, at their suggestion, we invited seven west midlands authorities to submit a joint bid for their major projects for local roads, rail and buses: I have concluded that that "package" approach has some benefits for planning local authority transport expenditure in urban areas, and that there should be greater flexibility, within the constraints of existing legislation, to switch resources between different forms of transport. We shall now consult the local authority associations in detail about that, and aim to introduce new arrangements for 1994–95.

Funding for measures to encourage use of the bus will total £15 million. Schemes will include "park and ride" schemes in Chester, Norwich, Bristol and York, experiments on innovative bus projects in Leeds and Bradford, and measures costing approximately £3 million in London. The bus priority measures represent a threefold increase on the present year and demonstrate our commitment to improving bus use in our urban areas. I intend to announce the allocation of resources for public transport schemes, other than buses, in January.

This is a very good TSG settlement in the circumstances. It clearly demonstrates the Government's priority of maintaining strong capital investment, and it will bring welcome new road and safety improvements to many areas around the country.

[Following are the schemes:

Cheshire Chester park and ride phase 2
Lancashire Squires Gate link road phase 2
Newcastle A1058 Cradlewell bypass
Cumbria A689 High and Low Crosby bypass
Durham A6072 Bishop Auckland/Shildon link
Northumberland A1061 South Newsham diversion
Sheffield A61 Penistone Road/Middlewood Road junction improvement
Bradford A650 Canal Road stage 1
Leeds City centre loop road phase 2
Humberside A16 Grimsby Peakes Parkway
Leicestershire A563 Braunstone Way underpasses
Lincolnshire A52 Grantham inner relief road
Northamptonshire A45 Nene Valley Way " widening
Nottinghamshire A6009 Mansfield inner ring road
Buckinghamshire A421 Buckingham - Milton Keynes various improvements
Cambridgeshire A15 Werrington to Clinton bypass - phase 1
Essex A133 Little Clacron bypass and Corse Lane link stage 2
Hertfordshire A414 Cole Green bypass
Norfolk A143 Scole/Stuston bypass
Suffolk A143 Scole/Stuston bypass
Croydon A 232 Chepstow Road - Fairfield Road - Barclay Road widening
Hillingdon A437 Bournes Bridge Hayes
Hounslow A315 Hounslow town centre - Urban relief road
Merton A219 Wimbledon town centre - Alexandra Road junction improvement
Newham A11 Stratford gyratory modifications
Waltham Forest A503 Forest Road/Blackhorse road junction.]
Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

The House will be surprised to note that the annual TSG statement, which normally comes in a written reply, is now to be treated with the full authority of an oral statement by the Secretary of State. I suspect that that has much more to do with the possible replacement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than with transport. The statement clearly proves that the Secretary of State has that ability to create an illusion which is so essential in a Tory Chancellor, and which we have come to expect from a Secretary of State who is a distinguished member of the Magic Circle.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the extra £60 million in TSG first announced in the autumn statement represents not new money for local authorities but a transfer from the revenues in the highway standard spending assessment for structural maintenance, and that it will thus force local authorities to spend less on local and residential roads, which will lead to poorer standards?

Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that that policy will undermine, through poorer maintenance in our local road programmes, the welcome statement about the extra £7 million to be made available for safety schemes? Is not a more integrated approach to urban transport problems needed? It is all very well to offer resources to improve road systems—as no doubt the scheme for the Sheffield supertram will do—but the right hon. Gentleman should notice that, in the centre of Sheffield, bus deregulation has increased the number of buses per hour from 180 to 320, producing considerable congestion, environmental damage, and an unsafe city centre, where the Department's traffic commissioner has had to intervene to regulate the transport system.

The House will welcome the limited increase in resources for yet another Labour idea—bus priority schemes. But the red routes are not a good example of bus priorities. I welcome, too, the Secretary of State's endorsement of the Birmingham integrated balanced transport package. I note that no resources are yet available, although the right hon. Gentleman says that he now intends to conduct discussions with the authorities —perhaps it would have been better had he made a statement about the money available for the Birmingham metro, as was promised before the election. The announcements seem to reflect a U-turn in Government thinking on transport, which I welcome, because they now recognise that we need to plan and integrate urban transport policy—an idea which the Government have rejected for the past 10 years.

Finally, does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that, although planting trees next to roads is important, like his statement it does not constitute a transport policy or deal with the real and growing transport crisis facing many of our cities? Would it not be better to increase local authorities' powers and resources to control their urban transport expenditure, because, as the Secretary of State has acknowledged by adopting the Birmingham package, they have shown the drive and imagination which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department clearly lack?

Mr. MacGregor

Once again, the hon. Gentleman is grudging, and on many of the issues, he has got it plain wrong. The reason for making the statement is that expenditure next year of more than £1 billion is clearly a matter of great interest to the House. I know from the many representations that I and my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic receive that there is acute interest in many of the schemes among colleagues in the House and among their constituents—hence the statement.

The figure of £1,047 million is not an illusion—it is actual money—and when people see the benefits on the ground and the bypasses that have been built, they will not think that it is an illusion. It is new money—

Mr. Prescott

It is not.

Mr. MacGregor

Of course it is new money, which will produce new schemes next year.

Mr. Prescott

It is an illusion.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman has an extraordinary idea of what an illusion is when we are spending over £1 billion and when we have 41 major new schemes. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, when my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic and I go around the country opening bypasses, nobody thinks that they are illusions. People are extremely grateful for them, even if the hon. Gentleman is grudging.

The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong on the question of the transfer of funds from the highway maintenance account. Although some funds are being transferred across to the figure, it is money from central Government, which was meant to be spent on bridges and on principal roads anyway. All we are doing is ensuring that the money is being spent on the bridges and on the principal roads. It is very necessary to do so. In addition, local authorities will be spending about £1.7 billion on highway maintenance next year, in addition to the figures that I have given today.

I believe that, as deregulation in Sheffield settles down —we have a traffic commissioner there to enable that to happen—the benefits will come through clearly for the population of Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman referred to the number of extra buses on the streets there. He will see that there is a bus priority measure for Sheffield in the proposals.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong on red routes, which are an excellent example of improved transport measures in urban areas. The scheme has been successful so far in improving traffic flow and in a number of other ways, which is why we are bringing it in formally across London.

The hon. Gentleman has again got it wrong on the package for the west midlands. There are two schemes, totalling some £38 million for the west midlands authorities in Coventry and in Wolverhampton, which are the two top priority schemes. Those schemes are in the figures.

The whole purpose of the package is not to take the hon. Gentleman's approach. He believes that the right way in which to tackle transport matters is for them to be planned from the centre in the socialist way. The schemes are designed to enable the seven authorities to look at their area as a whole and to come up with their idea of priorities, instead of dealing with them one by one. That is the sensible way forward, and that is why we shall develop it further next year.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

In contradistinction to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), may I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has decided to make an oral statement in the House, because it gives us the opportunity to ask him questions? The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East thinks that an "illusion" is a Russian aeroplane.

May I ask my right hon. Friend a specific question about his phrase "different forms of transport"? Is he aware that there is growing concern about the effects of road transport on the creation of pollution? Would it be possible at some stage to require either his Department or local authorities to provide at least a couple of sentences on the likely effects on air pollution of any new schemes that are produced?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who talks about an important aspect of the schemes. Bypasses in themselves will substantially reduce air pollution in the towns and villages that they go round. Improved traffic flow also substantially improves pollution.

My hon. Friend will know that we are introducing compulsory catalytic converters in a fortnight's time. That will also have a major effect. Overall, I believe that it is essential to go on with a substantial road building programme as living standards improve. More and more people own more cars and wish to move around the country in them, and we have to cope with that. Nevertheless, the kind of schemes we are talking about today, and the other measures that we are taking, will undoubtedly help to deal with the roads pollution aspect.

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon)

I welcome the 41 new starts that will be made as a result of today's announcement, and the emphasis on safety in the Minister's statement. Is it not a fact that, although the funds for structural maintenance are real, by the time allowance has been made for them, there will be little new money over what was announced a year ago? Does the Minister agree that small projects which are ready to go represent a main way of trying to bring the country out of recession, because of their effect on the construction industry?

While I also welcome the new packaging of funding for urban transport, the Minister's comment that his statement amply demonstrates the priorities that the Government are giving to capital programmes is something of an irony, for while they are going ahead, too many public transport projects have had to be shelved as a result of the autumn statement.

Mr. MacGregor

They have not had to be shelved, because we are spending the same amount, or rather more, on public transport schemes next year than we are spending this year, and I shall be making a further statement about that. Equally, there is substantial capital investment in British Rail and in London Underground.

The hon. Gentleman is right in what he said about the effects on the construction industry. Not only the major new schemes, and many of the minor ones that I have announced today, but also the schemes that will be in the national roads programme, which is now at record levels, will be of considerable assistance to the construction industry.

I also welcome what the hon. Gentleman said about road safety schemes. I am impressed by the impact that such schemes can have on road safety, and in particular on helping people in urban areas. Their considerable expansion will be widely welcomed all over the country.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the financial arrangements for the county of Kent will enable proper regard to be had for the needs of a new and improved roads infrastructure in relation to the channel tunnel? On the other hand, will it enable many of the urgent, non-tunnel-related projects to go ahead in the county of Kent?

Mr. MacGregor

There continues to be substantial expenditure in the county of Kent. Indeed, about £75 million overall will be spent next year. In particular, in relation to the Medway tunnel, we have included ir the special supplementary credit approval nearly £8 million for the Wainscott northern bypass, the Gillingham northern link and the Si ttingbourne industrial route stage 4.

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

I am disappointed that the Witton Gilbert bypass scheme in my constituency has not been included. That project has been a priority for about five years. If funding is not forthcoming in the near future, that scheme could fall because of the complications of compulsory purchase orders and so on. I have written to the right hon. Gentleman about the matter and am wondering whether it is still possible for that project to be included in the scheme. I urge him to re-examine the matter.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think it would be possible to include it among the major new schemes for the coming year, because we have decided those. A large number of bypass and other schemes that all counties desire are included in the TSG, but we must set priorities. That is why, as far as possible, we try to abide by the individual highway authorities' priorities. But I shall look at the scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers, although I must advise him that we have already decided on the projects for major new schemes next year.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the extra money that he has announced for Buckinghamshire, and I am sure that my gratitude is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), who represents a congested town. My constituents in Tingewick will no doubt hope that the money will hasten the construction of their bypass, because at present in that village, when walking along the pavement, one is likely to be flicked by a lorry mirror. My constituents in Wing will greet the announcement with mixed feelings, because their bypass has resulted in a three-lane major route—

Madam Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Member that we are not dealing with a 10–minute rule Bill. He must ask a question.

Mr. Walden

I was explaining the background. I am anxious to encourage my right hon. Friend to examine the Wing bypass, which is in danger of wrecking a village.

Mr. MacGregor

There are, as I said earlier, many bypasses that constituents of most hon. Members would wish to see carried forward, which is why we have such a substantial road-building programme. This year, we can accept the Buckingham-Milton Keynes A421 scheme, which includes various improvements, and there is also, under the special SCA, a scheme for the Aylesbury inner relief road phase 2. There are opportunities sometimes for very much smaller schemes for local authorities to undertake under another part of the package that I am announcing today.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Does the Minister understand that many people outside the House will be very disappointed that less than 1.5 per cent. of the sum that he has announced is to be spent on bus priority measures? Does he not understand that there has to be a limit on the use of private motor cars in our cities; that there is a limit to the amount of pollution that we can continue to tolerate from it? We need from his Department a strategy for transferring traffic on to rail and environmentally friendly forms of transport, rather than this vast expenditure on roads, the money being transferred instead as far as possible to rail and public transport?

Mr. MacGregor

We announced in the autumn statement very substantial sums indeed for public expenditure, way ahead of what I am announcing today, for British Rail and London Underground, but that came out at a different time. I am concentrating today on local authority supplementary transport grant schemes. The figure for bus priority measures is a threefold increase on the figure that has been spent so far.

Many other things are being done to assist London public transport, so the hon. Gentleman cannot say that this is 1.5 per cent. of the total figure. I believe that what he says will be rejected by a very large number of people throughout the country because of the very big improvements that they will receive as a result of the expenditure that I am announcing today. Incidentally, that includes six major schemes in London.

I noted the hon. Gentleman's comment about congestion in London, and I take that very seriously. That is why we are undertaking the most extensive research that has ever been undertaken on road pricing, to see whether that can make a contribution in London. I intend that all the research, as its various stages are completed, should be published, to encourage public debate, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take part in that.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the announcement today, including the Tiverton inner relief road in my constituency, will be very much appreciated by my constituents, not least because it will enable the town of Tiverton to become more pedestrianised, thus making it much safer for people when they are shopping? It will be warmly welcomed by the Tiverton chamber of commerce.

Mr. MacGregor

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am delighted that we have been able to include that scheme this year, at a cost of £9 million. I am sure that she is quite right about the benefits that it will bring to Tiverton.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is the massive 24 per cent. increase in bridge works, from £111 to £137 million, simply because of old bridges, because of the effect of juggernauts, following the Government's policy of encouraging transfer of freight from rail to road, or is it in anticipation of the draft European Community directive to increase the maximum vehicle weight to 44 tonnes in this country when the derogation comes to an end? If it is not for the latter reason, will the Secretary of State assure the House that the Government will resist any attempt to increase goods vehicle weights?

Mr. MacGregor

It is for all those reasons, with one exception, which I will come to. It is a fact that many old bridges in this country need substantial structural maintenance and repair. Also, in this country, as in all countries, heavy goods vehicles are getting larger. That brings considerable benefits to consumers when they visit supermarkets, and so on; there are real cost benefits to be derived from that, and we have to take it into account.

The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that, in 1999, we have to meet the requirements of the EC directive to which we have signed up. We need to prepare for that, and it means a pretty substantial programme of work on bridges. Where I disagree with the hon. Gentleman is that it is no part of the Government's policy to encourage more transfer of freight from rail to road. We are trying to achieve the reverse.

Sir John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that today's statement, taken with the previous statement on expenditure on underground and other travel services in London, means that the capital city has an exceptionally good deal out of the Government? Will he also comment upon the state of London's bridges, some of which are very difficult to cross? Is any part of today's statement likely to lead to an improvement in the bridges, particularly in central London?

Mr. MacGregor

I would not want to comment on any particular bridge, but I agree with what my hon. Friend said and welcome his support for the considerable increase over the previous three-year period, and certainly previous decades, which is now taking place in capital investment in transport in London. As for bridges, it will be for local authorities to decide what precise use they make of the additional money, but I am sure that some of it will benefit London.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

Although I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement that the Newsham bypass in my constituency will go ahead, what news has he for the Al in Northumberland, which, as he is aware, is the scene of carnage and death? Has he any money for that road, will it be improved or what is going to happen to it?

Mr. MacGregor

That road is not part of today's announcement—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Oh, dear.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) once again demonstrates his ignorance by saying, "Oh dear." It is part of the national road network and the £2 billion to be spent on that, not part of today's local authority announcement. We are committed to dualling the A1, and we are proceeding with parts of it now.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that today's announcement that the Squires Gate link road phase 2 in my constituency is to go ahead will be welcomed by residents and businesses in my constituency, especially because it will enable further and better access to the business park which is already being developed on otherwise surplus land at Blackpool airport and to which it will be a very important feeder?

Does he also recognise the work done over many years by my predecessor, Sir Peter Blaker, and county councillors representing this party to get the road back at the top of the priority list where it was ten years ago, when this party was last in control of Lancashire county council, only to be put back to the bottom of the pile by the Opposition, who showed a lack of concern for my constituency's interests?

Mr. MacGregor

Yes, I agree with everything that my hon. Friend said, and I pay tribute to his work and that of his predecessor in drawing attention to the priority of this particular scheme. He has been successful in making it a priority for Lancashire, and I am pleased that we have been able to agree to it at a cost of nearly £9 million. All the benefits that he mentioned will certainly be brought about as a result of the scheme.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

I thank the Secretary of State for providing the money for the bypass at High and Low Crosby near my constituency, but does he agree it will put more traffic off the A69 into the north of the city? Does not that strengthen the case for the north-west bypass of Carlisle as opposed to the southern bypass? I have not found anyone who agrees that we need a southern bypass, but we shall need a north-west bypass more than ever if the bypass at Crosby goes ahead.

Mr. MacGregor

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's welcome for the bypass, which I know has been much demanded. Some of the other schemes he mentioned would be eligible for the national road programme rather than for this programme. I note what he said, but the important point is that we are going ahead with the bypass now.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when bus privatisation was first mooted, the Opposition told us that there would be hardly a single bus left on the road? Now, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) complains that there are too many. Is not that ridiculous criticism the final endorsement from the Opposition that our transport policies are on the right track?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and what he says applies not only to buses. I made a speech about aviation at lunch time today, drawing attention to the tremendous improvements in aviation, the huge increase in traffic and the much better services for air passengers brought about by the privatisation of British Airways and the British Airports Authority. My hon. Friend is correct to say that it is the right way to get better services for passengers.

Mr. Skinner

Will not the Secretary of State admit that he has been advised by his public relations people, who said, "Look here, Minister, you have got to improve your profile if you are going to become Chancellor of the Exchequer. Make a statement in the House of Commons. Go and speak about aviation." That is what the crack is all about. Will the Secretary of State now do something for people who ride bikes? Would it not be a great opportunity in the middle of this slump to have cycle routes all round Britain? That would be labour-intensive, and it would increase the Secretary of State's public profile. God knows what will happen when he is Chancellor of the Exchequer, though.

Mr. MacGregor

Once again, the hon. Gentleman has got it completely wrong. I have made the statement because there is a large number of projects which have been much requested by hon. Members and which I am sure they will be delighted to see happening. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bolsover would also agree with that.

On cycles, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has noticed my emphasis on local road safety schemes for which there has been a considerable increase in expenditure—up by about 60 per cent. since we began the emphasis on such schemes three years ago. That money will undoubtedly help cyclists. It is also possible to encourage cycle schemes in the minor works programme.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be considerable relief locally about the inclusion of the first three phases of the A388 Saltash-Callington road improvement? However, having raised expectations, will my right hon. Friend reassure me that on this occasion there will be no subsequent slippage as has unfortunately been the case in the past with similar schemes in my constituency?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's welcome for that scheme of nearly £8 million, which will also bring great benefits, as my hon. Friend said. I cannot give a guarantee about slippage; we will just have to see how the construction progresses. However, I very much hope that there will not be any slippage. Over recent years, we have seen not slippage but an acceleration of the completion of many such road projects, many of which are now being completed ahead of the original completion date.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

Does the Secretary of State accept that the package approach will be viewed with interest in coalfield areas like north Nottinghamshire? Does he also accept that the package on offer is very limited for the Nottinghamshire coalfield? Perhaps he will give an undertaking to talk to other Ministers and colleagues about a package of investment to bring new jobs, new investment and a new future to declining coalfield areas.

Mr. MacGregor

The package approach will be of great interest to many urban areas, and we will certainly be consulting the local authority associations and representatives in the west midlands—with whom I discussed the matter when I was in the west midlands recently—before we take any final decisions.

With regard to the coalfields, the hon. Member will be aware that the coal review is still in progress, and I clearly do not know what its outcome will be. However, the Mansfield inner relief road scheme is in the current set of projects. Of course other areas would have liked projects. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will notice that we have focused on that scheme because we are well aware of the need for it in the area.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

There will be a great welcome from highway authorities and from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety for the welcome increase in funds for local casualty reduction schemes. Will my right hon. Friend find some way of providing further publicity during the year for the effects of those schemes and how they can help to protect the vulnerable on foot or motorised or pedal-driven bikes and how they can integrate with priority schemes for buses? By having through roads, through traffic, other people and the majority of journeys would be better protected.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I am aware of the interest that he has shown in those schemes and the pressure that he and the council have applied on us. I hope that the council and my hon. Friend will believe that the statement is a very good response to their requests.

I am very impressed with the impact of those road safety schemes. I will certainly consider how we can provide a good deal more publicity of the effect of those schemes, because we are now talking about a substantial sum of money and a large number of schemes. The point that my hon. Friend raised about integration is a matter for the local highway authorities to work out.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

I welcome the inclusion of the Manchester-Salford inner relief road phase 2. However, before the Secretary of State goes off to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, will he consider further TSG-supported schemes within the Manchester-Salford conurbation, which would prevent the construction of the Greater Manchester western and northern relief road, which no one in the locality wants and which many of us feel is not needed? The problems of gridlock that we are experiencing now on the Worsley-Braided interchange have more to do with commuter traffic than traffic moving from Yorkshire, to Birmingham and to the south. If there were more concentration on TSG-supported schemes, I believe that £300 million could be saved on that route.

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly, one must examine the impact of schemes of the sort that the hon. Gentleman is talking about in relation to the national road network, not just in terms of the locality although there is often a big improvement for the locality in taking traffic out of their environment. We must also examine the matter from the point of view of improving traffic flows for business as well as passengers. That is an important contribution to easing congestion costs, and hence other costs for businesses.

I do not think that I can agree with the hon. Gentleman about the switch. However, I am glad that he has acknowledged the importance of the scheme which we have accepted at a cost of £14 million. Of course, there are similar schemes in the north-west.

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his announcement today. I hope that I do not sound too churlish when I say that it will receive a mixed reaction in my constituency. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be a warm welcome for the Scole-Stuston bypass, which he and I know well and which will do an enormous amount of good?

Sadly, there will be bitter disappointment in the villages of Rickinghall and Botesdale, which badly want a bypass. That bypass has been on the stocks for a long time, and the villagers thought that they would get it this year. Can I urge my right hon. Friend to give that bypass the most careful consideration for subsequent years?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's co-operation in helping to bring about the Scole-Stuston bypass, which affects his constituency as well as mine. It is an important bypass, which has been long awaited.

As far as the Rickinghall and Botesdale bypass is concerned, I know the problem well because I travel through Rickinghall and Botesdale on my way home to my constituency every weekend. The bypass is a high-cost scheme, and was the fourth priority for the county; hence it was not possible to accommodate the scheme this year. When my hon. Friend looks at the details of the special supplementary credit approval part of the package, he will perhaps note that phase 1 of the Haverhill bypass will receive £1.3 million.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

Although I am a little disappointed that the Secretary of State could not stretch the £50 million for the local safety schemes to, say, £55 million, I welcome the considerable increase from the previous figure of £31 million. In doing so, I ask the Minister whether he could have a word with the Secretary of State for Wales to see whether a local road safety scheme can be put in place from hypothecated money. Transport supplementary grant schemes in Wales must be a minimum of £5 million before they qualify.

Mr. MacGregor

That is true for major work schemes in England as well. Road safety schemes come from our minor works allocation.

Mr. Wardell

Not in Wales.

Mr. MacGregor

In England they certainly do. I notice that the hon. Gentleman would have liked more, and I am sure that that would he the case for many other hon. Members. However, we must bear in mind the fact that the taxpayers are funding those works. I hope that the hon. Member will agree that the fact that we have moved from £31 million to £43 million, and now to £50 million, shows that we are giving the matter considerable priority. The schemes are often small in terms of costs but big in impact.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I tell my right hon. Friend that, with good news of this sort, he runs the risk of being the longest-serving Secretary of State for Transport since 1979, although that is not too difficult to do.

I thank my right hon. Friend for coming to Hayes in September and opening the Hayes bypass. Contrary to the views of Opposition Members, the bypass has led to a great reduction in congestion in Hayes. Because the Minister has included the Bournes bridge in the programme, it will be a massive improvement to have the bridge at least straightened, if not improved and widened. My constituents and businesses in my area, especially Thorn EMI, will be grateful for that.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening remark. I certainly intend and hope to be the longest-serving Secretary of State for Transport since 1979. My hon. Friend is right about the Hayes scheme, which I opened in September. I am very much aware of the benefits to his constituents, as well as to the many people who can take advantage of the bypass when travelling around London. I am glad, and I am sure that my hon. Friend is delighted, that the A437 Bournes bridge/Hayes scheme has been accepted and is one of the schemes announced today.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

Is the Secretary of State aware of the acute problem of congestion in central Greenwich, a problem which the Minister for Transport in London saw at first hand during a visit earlier this year? Can the Secretary of State give a positive response to the applications of the London borough of Greenwich for transport supplementary grant to explore the feasibility of a bypass to get round the problem and, in the short term, measures to effect a ban on heavy goods vehicles in the area?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London is very much aware of that issue. The Woolwich road improvement scheme would have started too late to be included in this year's announcement. I do not know what will be possible for next year, but the scheme has been given some annual capital guideline to help with the design costs, of some £400,000. I hope that he will find that helpful. My hon. Friend the Minister is well aware of the importance of the town centre bypass feasibility scheme. He will continue his discussions with Greenwich borough council.

Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement, which will improve access to Wimbledon town centre and at the same time improve safety at a notoriously dangerous junction. Will he welcome the fact that this expenditure will complement the efforts of local residents, who have upgraded the area by a tree-planting exercise entirely from their own efforts, in conjunction with voluntary groups and with the co-operation of British Rail but without a single penny of help from the Labour-controlled Merton council?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with my hon. Friend. I too pay tribute to the work that the local residents in Wimbledon are doing. I am sure that it will be a good scheme, and I am glad that my hon. Friend has welcomed it.

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North)

Does the Secretary of State accept that Sunderland in particular and the north-eastern region in general probably have the worst road system to link it with other parts of the country that it is possible to imagine? Although the improvements on the A66 are welcome, two inferior roads go south—a two-lane motorway and the A 19 trunk road—a dangerous road goes to the west of Carlisle and a dangerous road goes north to the Al. Much more is needed to bring the region into line with what one would expect for other parts of the country with similar populations. What is going to be done to bring the region up to that level?

Mr. MacGregor

I was in and near Sunderland twice recently. I am aware of all the improvements that are currently taking place. Some parts of the country would look with envy on some of the road improvements that are taking place there. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that one of the keys is to improve routes to other parts of the country. Business men in the north-east tell me that one of their biggest obstacles in transporting their goods to their customers is the M25, which they must use to transport goods to major markets elsewhere. That is why there is heavy emphasis in the national roads programme on the motorway schemes.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the A66, which I know well. It has been substantially improved recently, and is very much a changed road. Those improvements will continue. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the massive investment that will take place to bring the Al up to motorway standard from London to well up into the north.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Harwich)

I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend has said this afternoon and thank him in particular for including the Little Clacton bypass. He will be aware that, with over 14 per cent. unemployment, Clacton has the highest unemployment in the south-east. Does he agree that the improved access via the Little Clacton bypass will he of great benefit and will generate more jobs and investment in the future? Will he also bear in mind for next year the dualling of the Al20 to Harwich?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot make promises about future schemes, but I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments about the Little Clacton bypass. That is a scheme costing some £6.7 million. I am sure that it will bring the benefits to which my hon. Friend referred. He will also be aware that the TSG for Essex as a whole this year will be some £16.6 million, compared with £13.7 million last year.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In a response to his hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) the Secretary of State asserted that compulsory catalytic converters would have a great effect. We wish that that were so, but remain unconvinced. Would he be prepared to give us the evidence that he has received from his Department or to put it in the Library? Is not the truth of the matter that, with the 140 per cent. increase in cars during the past 25 years—my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) assures me that those are departmental figures—the only way to combat pollution is to transfer much more traffic to rail? Is he satisfied that some catalytic converters are not merely the racket that we are told they may be?

Mr. MacGregor

The scientific advice that I have, which I am happy to put in the Library, shows that, while convertors do not deal with CO2, they deal with about 80 per cent. of the other pollutant effects of emissions, which is an important contribution.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

I readily acknowledge that my right hon. Friend has done outstandingly well to obtain major new investment for roads and rail. However, from the list of major new schemes it is noticeable that not a single project has been approved for the county of Kent next year. He will understand that there will be tremendous disappointment in many areas in my constituency and other parts of the county because many of them are desperately in need of bypass relief. Under the present TSG rules, there is virtually no prospect of a bypass being constructed for many environmental sensitive areas if a project is too expensive for the council but is not on a primary route.

My right hon. Friend will know that I sent him a list of 36 villages in the county which have no prospect of relief. Will he comment on that, with a view to re-examining the criteria for much-needed environmental schemes, especially for the relief of many villages in Kent and other shire counties? In Kent, the figures are totally distorted by channel tunnel-related expenditure.

Mr. MacGregor

I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks but, among the projects that I am announcing under the special supplementary credit approval list is a scheme costing nearly £8 million—the Wainscott northern bypass, the Gillingham northern link and stage 4 of the Sittingbourne industrial route. I have to take into account the fact that Kent gets the highest TSG of any county—£75 million this year. That is a high TSG figure and will obviously have some effect, although I acknowledge that the channel tunnel link is a factor.

I also take note of my hon. Friend's remark about large schemes. There is a problem, and we have to get the balance right. If one simply concentrates on a comparatively small number of large schemes, which carry on from one year to another, it will pre-empt the ability to deal with smaller bypass schemes, which are often needed in many other countries for environmental reasons. I am trying to strike a balance between large schemes that flow over a number of years and new schemes, which could take place in a single year and benefit many towns and villages.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision to go ahead with the A 16 Peakes parkway to Grimsby will be warmly received in my constituency? Does he acknowledge that the scheme has been on the stocks for far too long and that we are delighted that he has been able to agree the application from Humberside county council? Does that not put final seal on the excellent road network that we now have in my constituency, which started with the A180 dual carriageway about 10 years ago and the Al5 Ermine street link, and will it not be the completion of an excellent road package?

Mr. MacGregor

I note my hon. Friend's considerable efforts to bring about the improvements to which he has referred, including the Grimsby Peakes parkway. He will know that in TSG terms that is a major scheme costing £13–5 million. Like him, I am glad that our efforts and his —have been able to bring it about.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

May I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement that there will be additional funding to deal with traffic problems in Norwich? Having pressed, with the local councils, for "park and ride" and similar schemes, can I ask whether my right hon. Friend can give a little more detail of that help, which is so welcome in Norwich and the surrounding area?

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend will know, I understand the problems to which he refers, as I am frequently in Norwich. The Norwich "park and ride" scheme around the airport will come under the special supplementary credit approvals and will cost a total of £3 million. My hon. Friend will note that the scheme is in his part of Norwich, not mine, and I hope that he is pleased that we were able to bring it about.

Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)

Is my right hon. Friend aware how warmly the people of Hounslow will welcome the new proposals on the Hounslow centre urban relief road? It is a much-needed scheme in an area that is highly congested. Will my right hon. Friend get on with it and start the scheme as soon as possible?

Mr. MacGregor

Yes, indeed.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his overall statement, and I particularly thank him for making possible the new "park and ride" scheme in Chester. That is an invaluable initiative for historic cities such as ours, and will be welcomed by everyone in Chester—including, I suspect, the mother of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who is a treasured constituent of mine.

Mr. MacGregor

I am glad that there is some agreement across the House on that issue. As my hon. Friend knows, I visit Chester fairly frequently, and I am sure that the scheme will being great benefits.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of my constituents in Eastbourne and Polegate will be delighted that the A22 Nightingale farm scheme is on the list? Without wishing to seem churlish, I hope that my right hon. Friend will look kindly on other transport infrastructure projects in east Sussex.

Mr. MacGregor

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I hope that he will agree that the scheme—at a cost of £4 million—will bring big benefits in the coming year.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on extracting additional money from the Treasury. He knows that I have lobbied him and his colleagues before breakfast in Whitehall and before tea in Loddon in his constituency for a bypass around Stone, which is much needed due to the traffic congestion and the desire for pedestrianisation. Are we or are we not to have a bypass around Stone?

Mr. MacGregor

I remember my hon. Friend's lobbying, and I am pleased to tell him that the bypass around Stone is included in the programme. I am well aware of the special reasons why it is desirable. Its inclusion in the list means that Staffordshire has two major schemes in the programme for this year.