HC Deb 14 November 1996 vol 285 cc477-8
6. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with Commissioner Kinnock about transport links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. [2515]

Mr. Moss


Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister confirm that the Stranraer to Larne route is vital and is part of the trans-European network designated by the Commission? Will he join his colleague the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), and travel from Belfast to the right hon. Gentleman's ancestral home? If he did, he would find two bottlenecks, one at Girvan and one at Maybole. That would be especially true this afternoon as the heavy lorries will be joined by the buses carrying Celtic and Rangers supporters to the match in Glasgow. After that, will the hon. Gentleman stop off in Edinburgh and tell the Secretary of State for Scotland that it is far beyond time for Girvan and Maybole to have the bypasses that they deserve?

Mr. Moss

I shall be happy to accept the hon. Gentleman's invitation to visit his constituency, and to pass on his comments to the Scottish Office Minister with whom those responsibilities lie.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Minister accept that if we are to maximise the use of the ferry services between Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, we must have good-quality approach roads and cross-city links to our ports in the Province? Will he undertake that when discussing the trans-European networks with the Commissioner, he will seek to maximise support for the upgrading of those roads? Can he tell us today when we shall see the completion of the A26 and the west link, and when and if he will advance the start date for dualling the A8 between Con's corner and Larne, and for improving the A2 from Belfast to Carrickfergus?

Mr. Moss

I am happy to confirm that the next stage of the A26 dualling is to start virtually in the next week or so. The A8 Belfast to Larne road is a priority road for us. It is also a trans-European network project, as agreed at the December 1994 European Council in Essen. It is in our 15-year programme to improve the A8, and I take on board the hon. Gentleman's comments about the importance of our main roads to the ports in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Dowd

As we are talking about the vital transport links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has the Minister seen the press reports suggesting that the future of the British Airways service between Heathrow and Belfast may be jeopardised by conditions attached to the proposed alliance between BA and American Airlines? Is he also aware that in a letter to me, although denying such an overt threat, the chief executive of BA refused to guarantee the future of that vital service? What steps is the Minister taking to make it plain to BA and to his colleagues at the Department of Transport that whatever the merits of the proposed alliance with American Airlines, the future of one of the principal links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland must not be compromised?

Mr. Moss

The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important matter. I give him an assurance that members of my Department will discuss those issues at the appropriate level with British Airways.