HC Deb 15 June 1999 vol 333 cc152-4
16. Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

If he will make a statement on his policy for reducing noise from motorways and other trunk roads. [85794]

The Minister for Transport (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

We have established a policy of using quieter surfaces where appropriate in resurfacing trunk roads. We have set up an annual budget of £5 million to deal with some of the most serious cases of noise from existing roads. Sift criteria to identify cases meriting further study were announced on 22 March.

Mr. Hunter

Will the Minister confirm that when the M3 in the vicinity of Basingstoke requires resurfacing the most effective noise-reducing surface will be used, and that that stretch of road also qualifies for spending under the Government's £5 million a year ring-fenced budget for noise reduction?

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue on many occasions over a number of years, and I commend him for that. As he will know, a study is being undertaken into noise along the M3. I expect the results of that study probably before the end of July, which will allow me to make a decision on what further action may be necessary. The sift criteria have been eased so that it is more likely that more noise-limiting measures can be introduced, but it is really a matter for technical evaluation.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the interest that she has taken in this matter, especially in relation to the area of Upton St. Leonards on the M5 in my constituency, where there is a particular problem. Will she consider publishing the sift analysis so that we know exactly what the problems are and can consider the pecking order in which they should be dealt with?

Mrs. Liddell

The announcement on Monday 22 March 1999 set out many of the criteria on noise levels immediately adjacent to the road. The 1998 level is an average 80 decibels. We need an idea of the scale of the problems throughout the country so that we can prioritise how to spend the ring-fenced money to ensure that people's lives are made easier by reducing the worst road noise and its effects on local communities.

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford)

Is the Minister aware that major road improvements lead to an increase in traffic which often spills over into other local roads? Last week I was at a well-attended meeting in the village of Compton in my constituency. People told me about the problems that had been caused by the vast increase in the volume of traffic resulting from the building of the connection with the M3 up the road. Is she aware that noise reduction measures in such villages can make a major improvement in people's lives? Given the extra £10 billion in taxation being extracted by the Government from the British motorist, cannot she increase the size of the fund for noise reduction measures?

Mrs. Liddell

Considering that the amount available for noise reduction measures is much more than was made available by the previous Government, and that the criteria have been changed to ensure that more roads are eligible for such assistance, that comment is rather rich coming from the hon. Gentleman. I do not underestimate the inconvenience caused by noise on roads. Local authority roads are not a matter for me directly, but the Government are aware of the difficulties that people can experience, and indeed of the measures that can be taken to mitigate noise. That is why we have ring-fenced the money and taken an especial interest in the matter.