HC Deb 19 December 1994 vol 251 cc1382-4
6. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about the treatment by the Highways Agency and ,its agents of residents and other individuals along the route of the M11 link road.

Dr. Mawhinney

I am confident that the Highways Agency has treated residents with every consideration and everyone in accordance with the law.

Mr. Cohen

Has not the cost of policing and security on the M11 link road now reached £6 million, and is not the amount rising at a rate of more than £500,000 a month? During a recent week-long operation in Claremont road, which cost more than £2 million, were not many of my constituents bullied—including vulnerable people, and others whose only crime was living on the line of route? Should not the Minister give an early Christmas present to the long-suffering residents of Leyton, and many others in this country, by promising that there will never again be another rotten road scheme like this in Britain?

Dr. Mawhinney

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not stand up and say thank you to the police, who carried out an operation—on behalf of the people whom he represents—against those who decided unilaterally to break the law. May I remind him that three public inquiries about the route have taken place, and that what the Highways Agency did was entirely in line with statutory provisions that had been democratically confirmed three times?

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that £4 million of Highways Agency money—Department of Transport money—that could have been better used to provide safety schemes and bypasses has been used up in this operation, along with £2 million of police money, including hundreds of man hours, which could have been better used to provide security on the streets in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. And he has not even had the decency to say thank you to the police.

Mr. Cash

Although my right hon. Friend makes a good point about the M11, does he accept that the Highways Agency should deal with a national problem: the gridlock that is emerging in regions such as that covered by the M6 near my constituency of Stafford and that is causing massive congestion, not only in Stafford but on the M6? Does he agree that we should have electronically operated signs on approaches to motorways such as the M11 and M6 to ensure that people do not go on to motorways in the first place and proper diversionary roads in constituencies that are affected by people who wish to get off the motorway, as Michael Carey of Stafford borough council recommended recently?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has abused the question on the Order Paper. I allowed him to proceed because he mentioned the Highways Agency and he kept mentioning the M11. But it was a total abuse of today's Question Time. If the Secretary of State could answer the question in half the time that the hon. Gentleman took to ask it, I should be extremely grateful.

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is right to point out the need to provide drivers with more information than is available when they are in their cars and on motorways. I hope that he will be encouraged to know that I have increased the budget for that next year by about 20 per cent.

Ms Walley

Considering all the figures again—all the millions of pounds that have been spent on security—is not the real issue that the money for the roads programme is being spent on the basis of a formula that is rigged towards roads and that is not part of an integrated transport policy? Will the Secretary of State justify this road and all the other roads in the programme on the basis of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment report published today? Why does he not come to the House and allow us debate its contents with him?

Dr. Mawhinney

The hon. Lady will have to decide on which side of the road she wishes to walk. Last week, she condemned us because we did not spend £1.5 billion more on local road schemes. Today, she wants a moratorium on all road building. She has to make up her mind on which side of the street she wants to walk.