HC Deb 03 February 1998 vol 305 cc835-6
30. Dr. Tony Wright

If he will review his response to the inspector's report on the Birmingham northern relief road in respect of the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal. [24917]

The Minister of Transport (Dr. Gavin Strang)

The formal, legal decision has been taken and cannot now be reopened. That decision placed obligations on Midland Expressway Ltd. to carry out advance work and facilitate restoration of the Lichfield and Hatherton canals, if and when they are restored to a navigable state.

Dr. Wright

My right hon. Friend will know that the canal scheme is a major scheme for the entire west midlands canal network, with enormous potential for tourism, recreation and employment. When the inspector approved the Birmingham northern relief road, he insisted that the canal scheme was safeguarded. My right hon. Friend will know that there is enormous dismay at the Government's decision not to safeguard the scheme or ensure that the developers safeguard it. If a privately funded toll road does not safeguard major public schemes, will not many people consider the cost much too high?

Dr. Strang

I understand the potential benefits of the restoration of those and other canals, and I can well understand my hon. Friend's disappointment. I know that he and the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), along with members of the Lichfield and Hatherton canals restoration fund, met my noble friend Baroness Hayman to discuss the issues. I understand that it was a constructive meeting and that some useful suggestions were made.

Mrs. Spelman

Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will consider the impact of the Birmingham northern relief road on adjoining motorways, particularly the M42, which is subject to part of the review? Can he say when the review is likely to be completed?

Dr. Strang

I can give the hon. Lady the assurance she seeks. She will be aware that the BNRR was given the go-ahead because of the need for a new strategic route to serve the west midlands, the north-west of England and Scotland. On her specific point about the timetable for the conclusion of the review of our trunk roads programme and the subsequent announcements, I expect that to be later in the year, probably in the summer.