HC Deb 07 March 2000 vol 345 cc852-3
7. Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)

When he plans to de-trunk the A10. [112178]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Chris Mullin)

No firm date has been fixed for de-trunking the A10. However, the hon. Gentleman may be pleased to know that, during the next financial year, the Highways Agency proposes to install traffic lights at the junction with Butt lane, which I know has been of concern to him.

Mr. Paice

I thank the Minister for his answer and for the courtesy of contacting me to find out what I wanted to raise. However, that does not excuse the fact that, when the Government announced the de-trunking of the A10, they abandoned the two bypasses that were planned north of Cambridge going towards Ely—the Landbeach and the Stretham bypasses. Will he assure me and my constituents that, when the A10 is de-trunked, Cambridgeshire county council—the highways authority—will have the necessary resources to carry out the improvements that his Government abandoned?

Mr. Mullin

I find that extraordinary. The Tories cut road maintenance by 9 per cent. over four years; we have increased it by 10 per cent. In the short time that we have been in office, we have reversed the £200 million cut in local authority maintenance funding. After de-trunking, there will be a transitional funding arrangement; in due course, it will be integrated into the local transport plans. Funding will be available; it will be rather more generous than that provided by the Conservative Government.

Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

My hon. Friend will know that the A10 is the road from London to my constituency. We also anticipate the de-trunking of the A17, leaving only one trunk road—the A47—through North-West Norfolk. Does he therefore understand that my constituents are impatient for work to be done on improving the last remaining trunk road? They want not only work to be carried out in studies, but to see some progress in dualling the A47.

Mr. Mullin

I share my hon. Friend's concern, but he will know that we have a long backlog of repairs and new projects on which to engage. We have already started 37 of them, including 19 bypasses, and no doubt we shall get round to the one in his constituency in due course.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex)

Why will the Minister not answer the question asked by the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner)? When will the A47 be dualled? The Government have cut the roads programme and that has left the hon. Gentleman complaining from the Back Benches. When will we have another roads review to reflect other issues, such as the U-turn in the Government's policy for 44-tonne lorries? How is transport better integrated by off-loading trunk roads on to local authorities? Unless all the bypass programmes are restored, how can the Minister possibly come to the House with a policy that will allow 44-tonne lorries to trundle through our towns and villages?

Mr. Mullin

One thing that we shall certainly not return to is the wish list that the previous Government drew up. It did not produce any new roads; it just produced a lot of talk. We have a programme that covers 37 new roads, including 19 bypasses. We always listen with interest to the demands from those on the Tory Front Bench for more public spending. At least, my hon. Friends on the Back Benches have the advantage of being consistent, which is more than can be said for Tory Members.