HL Deb 18 May 1965 vol 266 cc363-5

2.46 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask her Majesty's Government whether the technical grounds advanced by the consulting engineers, for discarding the alternative routes for the M.4 Motorway previously projected by the Ministry of Transport through Berkshire and proposing yet another route, can now be published to satisfy local opinion that there are good reasons for the Minister of Transport's current proposals.]


My Lords, my right honourable friend has explained in another place that a re-examination became necessary because of certain important developments arising in particular from the South-East England Study and the Channel Tunnel project. I cannot at present add to my right honourable friend's statement, but when his proposals are published they will as usual be accompanied by an explanatory statement.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask him whether, as there have been no fewer than five different routes projected by the Ministry of Transport for the M.4 motorway through Berkshire, we may now have the pros and cons set out clearly, for the County Council and the public generally to be able to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of one route as against another? Failing that, must we expect that there will be still further projections and further alternatives, and that we shall go on for ever like that without getting the route settled?


My Lords, this is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and any route is going to be open to objection from an æsthetic point of view. The noble Lord has mentioned five routes, but in actual fact six routes have already been suggested. Discussions have been going on since 1950, so no one can accuse us or previous Administrations of being hasty. Discussions are now taking place with the Berkshire County Council, and when those are finalised the proposed route will be published. There will be an opportunity for objections, and if those objections are weighty there will be a public inquiry.


My Lords, may I take it that the reasons why the Minister has chosen a particular route will be given?


Yes, my Lords. One has to take into account the fact that there is this new development in the South-East. One has also to take into account the fact that the new route, or any route, should at least give service to Reading, to Newbury, to Hungerford, to Didcot and to Swindon, and that is another of the problems.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord.


My Lords, is the Minister aware—I am sure that he is—that it is the towns in the South of England from, say, Plymouth to Southampton and eastwards which will benefit most from this motorway and not the towns to the North which are served by the M.5 or the Ross Spur? Therefore, the farther South this road is, the more beneficial it will be to the people for whom it is intended. In view of the fact that the decision is still open, would the Minister still consider a route which is South of the one he is contemplating at present?


My Lords, this, again, is one of the difficulties. The proposed route which has already been announced in the Press, but not by the Minister, does go South of Reading. If, in fact, it went farther South it would not serve the purpose which the Minister feels it should of serving Newbury, Hungerford and Swindon.


My Lords, will the Minister please confirm that the route is in any case going to Bath, so that however far South of Reading it goes it will not very much help Plymouth?