HL Deb 16 February 1966 vol 272 cc1065-115

3.25 p.m.

THE EARL OF SHANNON rose to call attention to the motorway, trunk and classified roads programme, its relationship to productivity, exports and access to ports and docks; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to draw your Lordships' attention to the subject of our roads—perhaps slightly less exciting, but no less controversial, than the subject which we have just been discussing. As is the tradition in your Lordships' House, I must declare my own interest as a road user. But I should also like to remind your Lordships of the interest not only of all your Lordships, but of every man, woman, and child in this country who has an interest in the economics of our country.

I am flattered that I am enabled to raise this subject in your Lordships' House, as well as by the number of noble Lords who have signified their intention to speak, either for or against my Motion. We are also especially honoured by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, who has chosen this subject upon which to make his maiden speech to the House. I wish him luck, and shall listen to it with great interest. I would remind him that, while this may be the first time that he has spoken in your Lordships' House, it is also the first time that I have moved a Motion here, so that we are probably both feeling much the same.

When, previously, your Lordships have discussed the roads, the subject has always been, rightly, somewhat overshadowed by concern about road safety and road accidents. Your Lordships will have a chance in the near future to debate fully the new road safety proposals, which I believe are already making their way through another place; so I intend, in moving my Motion, to confine myself entirely to the subject of the roads themselves, although I must agree that the subject of roads and road safety is heavily interdependent. Further, since I am no statistician, I shall not attempt to weary your Lordships with figures. Those may be left to the experts, and I have no doubt that among the speakers this afternoon we shall have some experts who can draw the right conclusions from the figures they give. Obviously, figures are not for amateurs. I am always reminded of the case of a few years ago, when two entirely opposing factions pounced on the same set of statistics, and both announced at the same time that those figures proved them to be conclusively right and their opponents wrong.

I shall base the whole of my speech on one, I think, universally agreed and tragic fact, that our roads are just not up to what we want of them to-day. We are, quite rightly, appalled at the magnitude of the problem, the programme and the immense sums involved. I shall attempt to illustrate the points which I shall make by referring to them in terms of a small manufacturing company, since that will perhaps make them more easily understood. The scale will be vastly different, but I think the principles involved will be exactly the same.

The company which I wish to describe was making products which were selling quite adequately in the market of their kind, and the board of directors of this company, in their prudence and wisdom, created a reserve fund for the maintenance and purchase of production machinery. As the years went by, the production machinery still appeared to be working satisfactorily, but overheads tended to go up; and rather than reduce dividends or raise prices the board of directors tended to remove small portions of this reserve fund which did not appear to be used and to apply them to balance the accounts. Finally, a new board of directors arrived and started on a gargantuan spending spree. With the remains of the fund they redecorated the canteen, increased the sick pay, raised the pension fund, increased dividends and gave higher bonuses to the workers—some of them good and worthy causes; but others perhaps slightly less worthy.

Everything appeared to be completely satisfactory, except that, with rising competition in the market, the machinery showed signs of being unable to compete with the volume and tempo of the modern production required of it. When the board of directors heard of this, although they were still exhorting the workers to justify their jobs with increased production, they introduced disciplinary measures against workers who attempted to overload production machinery in seeking to fulfil their targets. The board of directors were also committed to a no doubt necessary and good works welfare programme, and they increased the price of the products and called "Shame!" on the lazy sales force if they were unable to obtain orders at the inflated prices.

Furthermore, not only was the niggardly maintenance budget for the machinery not going to be increased; it was in fact going to be reduced, with the hope that the accrued profits from sales in, say, five years would pay for a further fund which could be used for replacement and maintenance of the machinery. It is quite obvious where that company is going. It is voluntarily driving itself into compulsory liquidation. I would say that senior members of Her Majesty's Government to-day would rightly speak with strong indignation of that board of directors, but that little illustration is exactly what we have done with our roads policy over the last decade.

I have tried unsuccessfully to fit into my little story some small examples of the policy of extortion which we have happily pursued with this vital tool of our export production in order to extract money out of it for other purposes. We are like a jolly little band of vampires gaily sucking the blood from our own necks. I am not much of an expert on the subject, but I doubt whether vampires could survive if they carried on that practice for long. Once, this great country of ours pioneered a new form of transport. It was difficult; it cost a great deal of money; there were objections. But through all those difficulties we persevered; we succeeded, and we led the world. Does anybody sensibly think that we could ever have had the railways that we had in the last century if we had tried to run them with a Ministry? How miserably we have failed with the next new form of transport that followed!

I know that nowadays it is fashionable to work into one's speech a reference to "Stop-go". This is quite impossible with the roads, for we have had "Stop", "Full-stop", and, under the last Administration, a short period of "Slightly less Stop". Although at present we are being exhorted, as we were many years ago, to close gaps, to be efficient, to sell hard, to go out and learn somebody else's language, all these wonderful exhortations come from exactly that same quarter in whose hands has rested the stewardship of one of our most vital production tools and in whose hands we were let down. Too long have we followed a policy dictated by the most regrettable fact that our roads produce a disproportionately large quantity of revenue for the vote-catching potential of investment in them.

That was the past; and it is also our miserable present. What can we do for the future? Personally, I must admit that as an amateur I am probably guilty of grave over-simplification, but perhaps that is the failing and the privilege of an amateur. The suggestion that I am going to make will, I am convinced, be the one that will come, whether we like it or not, and I only hope that we shall learn to like it before it is too late and we are forced to learn to "lump it". We have already tried to run our roads in one way. It has been proved wrong. Any other alternative stands a chance of being right. Should we not be foolish to continue backing the horse which we know comes in last? We might even get place money an another one.

Our roads must come right out of politics. We must have a Road Board, Commission, or whatever you like to: all it, staffed by highly paid executives —and I mean highly paid. To get the men we want, £25,000 to £30,000 would be nothing: they would be cheap at the price. They would stand or fall on what they did, on their achievements, and they could go to gaol if they "blued" the funds—which is something that I am afraid we do not seem to be able to do with Chancellors of the Exchequer!

How are we going to finance these people? I should like to suggest, as a wonderful pipe-dream, that they could have all the road revenue, but I am sufficient of a realist to understand that the Exchequer would never part with that much of their ill-gotten loot out of our roads. I would raise, without enlarging on it too much, the subject of private capital as is done in some other countries, although it might mean toll roads. Also, I do not think there would be quite so much opposition from road users to an increase in the vehicle tax —even so sharp an increase as was envisaged by, I believe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who mentioned £40. I do not think the road user will strongly object to that if he has some form of guarantee that that money is going into what he considers to be trustworthy, reliable hands; that it will be used on the roads, and will not just be at the beck and call, at the whim, of the Government to put into anything else that takes their fancy, however worthy that other cause may be.

Many noble Lords will perhaps remember—I think it was some fourteen years ago—the announcement over the B.B.C., purporting to have come from an official spokesman, that road users had no more right to expect that road revenue should be used for making roads, than a beer drinker should have the right to expect that the alcohol tax should be used for building more public houses. What a wonderfully slick, smart remark; but how tragic that that could be an official attitude towards this vital tool—I am sorry to go on repeating that, but I do regard it as such—of our export production line! If that is, and has been, the attitude, what right have we to expect anything other than the chaos which we have to-day?

As I see it, the new board would have the task of planning, building and main- taining the complete network of major roads in this country, with a known long-term budget in advance. I am sorry, but it would mean that local authorities would be relegated to little more than looking after by-ways. As further advantages, I would see organised continuous research and uniformity over our road network, and here I would just give one small example—lighting changes at the whim of local councillors, quite often from mile to mile, on some of our major roads.

Above all, I see continuity in the road building programme; continuity so that contractors can foresee ahead the use of their investments. This would mean a gain in experience and, eventually, a reduction in the price of roads built. So long as we play around with bits here and there, and quickly stop road building, of course our roads are going to cost a lot to build. Under the board, I would see a planned network of motorways covering the country. I would not see many more, if any, all-purpose roads. Surely, the network we have already is sufficient for most needs, provided that they can be relieved to a greater or lesser extent by the motorways.

I am assured that the difference in cost of a motorway and a large dual carriageway all-purpose road is rather marginal, and with continuous research and a continuous road-building programme it might, we hope, almost disappear altogether. I should like the Minister when he replies, to assure us that careful consideration is given to the balance of expenditure on roads within urban areas and those without. I would also see this board querying—perhaps it has already been done and, again, I should like an assurance on this—the present policy of building motorways parallel with the existing trunk roads. I know it could be argued that a great deal of traffic uses the trunk roads. It does—because they are there. But have we really been into the question of whether those trunk roads are going around two sides of a triangle, when the motorway can go across the other side? Also, these trunk roads are built on the sites of roads which were our lines of communication anything up to a thousand years ago. Are they still right to be parallel with motorways? Further—and this is most important—I would see motorways being driven into the development areas.

If I may, I will digress very slightly. If your Lordships take a plant which is not indigenous to the area in which you wish to put it, you have to nourish it, look after it very carefully, and even with the best care that plant will still have a doubtful viability if you keep it in a place where it does not want to be. History has always taught us that communications create trade. They have even created civilisations. When those communications go, very often trade and civilisation collapse. Even two camel tracks in a desert create an interesting potential, vastly greater than the area around, at the place where they cross. Why, therefore, do we now offer large cash bribes to industries to go to places where they do not want to be, and which, like the plant, we shall have to go on bribing to stay in places where they do not want to be? Would it not be better to invest those bribes in good communications in the desired area, creating a productive asset in the road which is put there? Industry would then go there of its own accord and be viable, without continual bribes.

The other end of this motorway, which I have suggested should be sent into a development area, will very probably go to some docks; but—please—to the docks, and not to the diametrically opposite side of a large town, so that a great outflow of traffic from the motorway must try hard to filter its way through the clogged streets of a large town before it can get beside a ship. A very large quantity of the traffic going between the London Docks and the centre of the South of England pounds straight past the front door of your Lordships' House, right in the middle of this Metropolis.

A further advantage of good roads, and one which we should not entirely lose sight of, is the tourist attraction. We have all seen posters saying, "Come to the open roads of France". If we are not to offend against what I think we are at present discussing—our own trade descriptions—our posters in Paris should read, "We advise you not to come to beautifully bunged-up Britain". While the roads are being built, the existing all-purpose roads will have to be rendered fit for an increase of speed. In this way they might, with minimum expense, be rendered fit to take an increased volume of traffic. This, of course, is contrary to what most road users believe has been the policy of the Ministry of Transport, which has been to bring traffic nearly to a halt.

In this respect, I think we must also get rid of, if not of a very large number, at least some of what I think are best described as pious hopes, legally known as speed limits. The bulk of these are still for a speed of 30 miles an hour. My Lords, is this still the correct speed for those areas? Many of the limits have remained unchanged since they were first put up, and we must remember that they reflect the mechanical efficiency and pedestrian intelligence of thirty years ago. In some areas they may now be too fast, in others too slow. How much research have we undertaken to find out? We also have very large stretches subject to a 40 miles an hour limit. So far as one can make out, these are put there merely to induce the 80 miles an hour driver to slow down to 55 or 60—and they are highly successful, because that is just about exactly what they do.

The exact proportion of offences recorded to offences committed is anyone's guess, but I would suggest for your Lordships' consideration that it is probably somewhere in the region of one in 10,000—and then it is probably only an instant spot check on the speed of some driver going at 44 miles an hour. I have often heard it said in your Lordships' House that legislation must not be introduced unless it can be enforced, and one in 10,000 (if that be the figure) is not very satisfactory. I do ask that we should give consideration to the right limits in the right places being properly enforced, instead of the wrong limits in the wrong places with very little enforcement even if it means goodbye to over 75 per cent, of the pious hopes.

As part of the process of speeding traffic, I would suggest that our road legislation needs examining. It appears to have been added to but not subtracted from—like our marriage laws, which were so beautifully and charmingly explained to your Lordships recently by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; except that I would suggest that our road legislation is infinitely more damaging, in causing fatal accidents, than our marriage laws. I should like to give two examples from among the many that come to mind of other aspects of road legislation which need looking at. We have these dear, antique roundabouts left over from before the war. Noble Lords who have been to North-West Europe will probably remember the signs that used to be put up there some twenty years ago saying, "Traffic on circle has right of way". This is quite simple, based on the obvious, intelligent fact that if you have a constriction then surely you must let the traffic off the constriction before you give any more the right to pile in. But we, with our Ministry, have pontifically sat back and announced that, in general, there is no right of way at roundabouts. There has to my certain knowledge been much pressure about this for twelve years, but I think it is over about the last three that we have started to see these "yield" signs sprouting up at roundabouts—and a very good idea it is. Could it not please be made general? And, if we are going to have a "yield" sign there, could we also not have an uncontrolled pedestrian crossing at exactly the same point? It means that the driver almost has to have eyes sticking out of his ears to see everything to which he has to give way.

There are many other topics about which I should have liked to talk on this subject. No doubt other noble Lords will raise them in the speeches that follow, and I shall listen to them with great interest. But in conclusion, my Lords, I should like to say that time is against us. We must take our roads out of politics and give them to a board with long-term research and planning facilities, with a continuity of building and with a budget provision well known in advance. No longer must we ask our manufacturers to enter the ring and fight for world markets hampered by a ball and chain, stamped "Roads by the Ministry of Transport", around their ankles. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, as I am sure noble Lords on all sides of the House are, for instigating this debate this afternoon, because it is a subject of vital national im- portance to the economic survival of the country, and as such it affects all of us. At the beginning of his speech the noble Earl referred to the efforts of the previous Administration in the road building field as, I think, "slightly less stop "—I think that was the phrase he used. I think this scarcely does justice to what the Government of which I had the honour to be a member did in this particular field, and just for the record I should very briefly like to give a few figures showing how much the last Conservative Government did achieve in this respect.

Expenditure on road construction increased from £6.2 million in 1951–52 to £147 million in 1963–64, while it was planned (o spend £172 million in the year 1964–65. It is against these figures that I read with very great interest that the right honourable Lady the Minister of Transport, in reply to a supplementary question in another place last week, said that it was intended to spend £145 million on roads in England alone in 1966–67. I was struck by this figure because I should be interested to know the total figure for Britain. I do not know how much it is planned to spend in Wales or Scotland—or, indeed, in Northern Ireland—but it may well be that £145 million will not compare very well with the £147 million of two years ago, and certainly very much less well with the £172 million which the Conservative Party planned to spend had they been re-elected. I should be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when replying to the debate, could enlarge on this figure and could tell us why it was that the right honourable Lady the Minister of Transport specified England alone.

To go back to the Conservative record, I think it is well worth remarking that the motorway programme was initiated and that, out of the 1,000 miles originally planned and still being built, over 300 miles of it was completed by October, 1964. Noble Lords may well say that still more is required, and certainly I for one would not dissent; but at least we can justifiably claim that a very substantial start was made and that never once—and this is a point I would emphasise with all the strength at my command—was it found necessary to cut back the road development programme throughout the thirteen years of Tory rule in this country. So much for the Conservative Government's record.

I will now turn to the present situation and to the needs for the future, and I will tackle the latter point first. There is overwhelming evidence on all sides that it is essential for the wellbeing of this country that there should be a great expansion in our road-building programme. In the recent past we have had a welter of Reports dealing with road and traffic problems that, owing to the enormous increase in motor vehicles— caused, incidentally, by the thirteen years of prosperity under Conservative rule—so bedevil the problem of travelling about this island. Now one of the things these Reports have in common is that they stress and stress again the need for a vast increase in new roads. The proposal published in 1962 by the County Surveyors' Society estimated the need at a further 1,700 miles of motorway and first-class trunk roads in addition to the existing plan for 1,000 miles of motorway. It is not without interest that the same Society, back in 1939, first put that figure of 1,000 miles of trunk roads as being necessary.

Then, the recently published Study on Roads and Resources by the British Road Federation demands that the present level of road construction should be increased three-fold; and the Morgan Report suggests that the figures put forward by the County Surveyors' Society (2,700 miles in all) are correct. But it makes the additional recommendation that there should be instituted the construction, for all large and medium-sized towns, of ring motorways and expressway networks of primary distributor roads on the lines envisaged by the Buchanan Report while, at the same time, they were emphasising that the existing expenditure on new construction and major improvement to other trunk and classified inter-urban roads should be maintained.

I should here like to make the point that the construction of motorways and fast trunk roads is not, of course, the only problem. The greatest congestion on our roads is in the towns; and whether the destination of a vehicle be a factory or a port or, indeed, a private house, it is very likely, though not virtually certain, that that vehicle would have to go through a town to get to its destination. So, in planning roads for the future, I urge the Government to give due weight to the proposals contained in the Buchanan Report about the need for ring roads and a network of primary distributors; otherwise, whatever is done by way of new motorways and trunk roads will largely be set at nought. The evidence for the need of a greatly expanded road programme is thus overwhelming.

The only body that does not appear to be convinced are the Government. I should like to examine for a few minutes their record in this field. Of course, it is true that while the present Government were in Opposition they criticised the then Government's road programme as inadequate, and promised, should they form an Administration, that they would expand it. But what, in point of fact, has happened since October 1964? In March 1965 the then Minister of Transport said: We are determined not to cut the programme ". But four months later, in July, due to curtailment of public expenditure announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we learned that the starting dates for schemes worth £30 million (well over half the motorway and trunk road schemes due to start during the following months), as well as an additional £25 million worth of classified road schemes, would be deferred for six months. That makes a total of £55 million.

Thus, within a year of taking office, the present Government saw fit to cut back in the vital field of road development—something its predecessors never contemplated during the thirteen years they were the Government of this country. I find it at least surprising that such action should come from the Party that, at the time of the last Election, boasted that it was the Party that would modernise Britain—for, surely, the modernisation of our road system, as much as anything else, has a vital role to play in any national plan to make this country efficient and able to pay its way in the world. Yet here we have, within months of their taking office, these disastrous cutbacks in the road programme.

However, last week in another place we had a further statement on the road programme from the right honourable Lady the Minister of Transport in reply to a series of Parliamentary Questions. If I may, I should like to quote what the right honourable Lady said, because I find it puzzling; and I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply for some enlightenment on it: The recent deferment measures will result in a reduction in Exchequer expenditure of about £7 million in the current financial year and £12 million in 1966–67. From now onwards the starting-dates of new schemes will be settled only by reference to the new financial allocation and will no longer be postponed for any fixed period. These arrangements will allow the schemes originally deferred to go ahead, together with most of the schemes originally programmed for 1966–67. Moreover, there will be an acceleration of the rate of expenditure after that year if the economic situation permits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 724 (No. 44), col. 385; 9/2/66.] I should like some enlightenment from the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when he winds-up, on the full meaning of these words.

While it is clear from the statement that Exchequer expenditure on roads will be cut by £7 million this year and by £12 million next year, I must confess—and I read again and again what the right honourable Lady said—that I am not clear how this statement ties in with the cuts on the road programme announced in July, 1965. Does the £55 million worth of cuts stand, or not? I think I am not the only one who is anxious for enlightenment on this point. However, arising from the right honourable Lady's statement, there is one thing of which I am virtually certain. It is this. In view of what was learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently and in view of yet another turn in the "stop" rather than the "go" spiral of our economy, and from all the evidence that is already too clear as to the country's general economic situation, it is highly unlikely that the last sentence in the right honourable Lady's statement—that there will be an acceleration of the rate of expenditure after 1967 if the economic situation permits—will ever come about under the present Government. I feel it is all too likely that the £55 million cut which was announced last July will be permanently lopped-off and lost forever from the road building programme.

It is clear from the recent Study by the British Roads Federation, to which I have already referred, that much can be done to increase the road programme. I think it is worth quoting the first conclusion of that Study. The first few words of the Study are: Over the next ten years a trebling of the road programme could be achieved without having to call for a larger share of the scarce resources available to this nation. Later, in elaboration, the Study stresses the need for an overall plan for new road building. It is clear that cuts in the road programme such as those announced by the Government have a disastrous effect on the road building industry. Again, I should like to quote from the Study: Throughout our inquiries we have become increasingly aware of the very serious disruptive effects caused by a discontinuous road programme. This often leads to alternative periods of shortage in the supply of plant, materials and men, followed by periods of under-utilisation. The remedy for this waste is of course to plan for the future. To plan for the future! This is exactly what I would ask Her Majesty's Government to do.

After all, as a Party, the present Government are wedded to planning, so let them, in this case at least, practise what they are so fond of preaching. So that this country can go ahead and get the roads it so desperately needs, so that export orders can be speeded to our ports; so that the economic costs of congestion, already estimated by Professor Morgan as running at £1,000 million a year and increasing by about 14 per cent, a year, can be substantially reduced, and so that, finally, the roads of Britain become a pleasure to drive on, rather than give drivers high blood pressure or duodenal ulcers from the worry and frustration of going about their daily business. It can be done, but it requires the will and the determination to tackle the problem in an energetic and far-sighted fashion. We have been presented with a number of extremely able and far-sighted Reports. The evidence is there; the means are there; all that is now required is drive from the Government. So let us have a forward-looking policy to do away with these disastrous conditions, which are cutting back the progress of Britain in the future. Let us, for once, "Go with Labour" and see what they can do towards building the roads this country so desperately needs.

Before I close, I would make one final subsidiary point on the 70 m.p.h. speed limit on motorways. I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will discontinue this after the initial experimental period ends at Easter. After all, what is the point of building roads, at vast cost to the taxpayer, so that high-speed driving can be undertaken at little risk, if a speed limit is then to be clamped on them? Motorways have a much better record, so far as road accidents are concerned, than other highways. Incidentally, surely this is an additional strengthening of the argument for the greatly expanding motorways programme of which I am in favour. We want to see traffic flowing freely on the roads and it will be a retrograde step to impose an unnecessary speed limit on roads specially constructed for high-speed driving.

I would ask the Government to take action, not to be dilatory and not to hang back in this vital part of our economy. We must have modern roads, so that we can use our modern inventions and carry our modern goods to their destinations. The time for reports has ended; the time for action must now begin. I would end, as I began, by thanking my noble friend Lord Shannon for his wisdom and foresight in initiating this afternoon's debate.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I would first join with the noble Duke in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, for initiating this important debate, and I congratulate him on stressing in his Motion the relation between the road programme and "productivity, exports and access to ports and docks". I do not think that one can overestimate the importance of roads to the industrial life of this country. It is for that reason that I regret the deferment of the road-construction programme. It may be argued that this deferment is necessary. I should be inclined to question that. I doubt whether the hold-up of the road building programme does, in fact, help the balance-of-payments problem.

Be that as it may, it is disturbing to find road construction classified as "non-industrial capital projects". That is my interpretation of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on July 27 last. That is not only my own view, because I have received the following comment from one of my correspondents on this subject: When it became clear that among the non-industrial capital projects' were items in the road programme, a feeling of incredulous bewilderment was caused in those concerned with this country's transport problems and their effect on the national economy. If vital communications, which link the major centres of production and facilitate the flow of traffic, are not considered as high priority industrial projects, it is hard to understand what would be. The noble Earl did not limit his comments to the present deferment, and in that respect he was right. If there is a lack of appreciation of the vital role which roads must play in industrial life in Britain, it is not peculiar to the present Government. I have been re-reading a document, published nearly thirty years ago, setting out Liberal policy for conquering unemployment in 1929, based on the famous Liberal Yellow Book. It contains a fascinating map showing the road construction which could and should have been carried out at that time of mass unemployment. I notice that it showed a proper appreciation of access to the ports. Incidentally, it is interesting to see that the total cost of this imaginative scheme of road construction was to have been £42 million—showing how the costs of road construction have gone up since then.

Unfortunately, this bold policy was not adopted. It was regarded by the other Parties as too radical. But I think that if it had been carried out, the position to-day might have been very different. In the intervening years, we have had the war, which, of course, made expansion of our road system impossible. We had the early post-war years, when things were very difficult. I remember in the early '50s serving on a sub-committee of the Select Committee on Estimates, dealing particularly with certain aspects of the work of the Ministry of Transport. At that time I got the impression that the most we were able to do, owing to lack of finance, was to deal with the day-to-day matters. Later, we made some expansion, but there were delays. There have been times when machinery has been lying idle, when specialist teams have been broken up and when expensive capital plant has been laid up. All this kind of thing adds to the difficulties. And it stresses the importance of the continuity to which the noble Earl referred.

Even where there has been an expansion of the road construction programme I do not think that enough attention has been paid to the need for adequate access to the ports. That is the reason we have bottlenecks on some of the approach roads to the ports. By contrast, the major and fast-developing ports of the European Economic Community have good road facilities for drive-on, drive-off ships. At Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, to mention only three, lorries can be speeding inland by fast motorways within a few minutes of leaving ship. If and when we enter the Common Market, and if, as a result, there is an increase in trade with Europe, as I hope there will be, I can foresee chaos on the approach roads to the ports unless there is in the meantime some drastic improvement in the construction of roads.

I would say this to the Government. I welcome the motorway plan for a thousand miles of motorways by the early 1970's, but I believe that even this will leave many gaps, so far as direct access to ports is concerned. Furthermore, it seems doubtful whether existing plans have taken sufficiently into consideration the possibility of a Channel Tunnel being operational in ten years' time. In view of this, and of the extensive motorway programme within the European Economic Community, it is essential for direct links to be forged between the industrial North and Midlands and the industrial Ruhr and cities such as Genoa, Turin and Milan.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, we shall all be dead by 1970.


I should not like to forecast as to whether or not I shall be dead by 1970. Time alone will show. The boldness of a number of the Continental transport plans for ports and their hinterlands compares all too favourably with some British planning. For example, the port of Hamburg, which is the centre of West German foreign trade, is now served by a main autobahn artery directly linking Hamburg with Frankfurt and Basle.

This idea of linking industrial centres with ports is not something that has just been thought of. I have already mentioned the Liberal Yellow Book and the proposals put forward in 1929. There was also the Royal Commission of 1930. The Royal Commission on Transport in 1930 recommended that in future road construction programmes, the requirements of harbour areas should receive a prominent place. Over thirty years later, in 1962, the Rochdale Report commented, rather sadly: It seems unlikely that this recommendation exercised any important influence in the road programme before and immediately following World War II. On the current road programme, the Report made this further comment: The instances where port traffic on its own appears to have been the decisive factor seem comparatively rare. To-day, therefore, there is a great deal of leeway to be made up. It is in the light of this that the present deferments must be judged. We cannot afford further delay. The Road Research Laboratory estimate that road congestion costs £700 million per year—that is for delays, accidents, loss of man hours and similar factors—and this represents 2.8 per cent, of the gross domestic product. I think this confirms the seriousness of the situation.

I do not want to trouble your Lordships with a great many statistics, but I understand that there are currently 375½ miles of motorway in use in England, with a further 53½ miles due for completion this year. By the beginning of 1968 there will be 532 miles of motorway in use in England and Wales. But in order to complete the promised 1,000 miles of motorway by the early 'seventies the completion rate will have to rise to 80 miles per year, against the present average of 50. There is, I am glad to say, a growing awareness of the need to step tip the road construction programme. For example, the plan put forward in 1962 by the County Surveyor's Society, and referred to by the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, for an additional 1,700 miles of motorways and express routes would bring all the major centres of population within 25 miles of a motorway or expressway, and link the fifteen major ports with one another by first-class road connections. But surely any deferment will make it more difficult to achieve anything of that magnitude.

There is one other serious criticism that I would put forward with reference to this latest deferment of road projects, and it is that land acquisition has been included in the deferment. This is most unfortunate, in view of the fact that one of the principal reasons given for delays in the commencement of road building schemes is the time taken to complete land acquisition procedures. This should surely have been included in the exemptions from deferment. Mr. A. C. Durie, the Director General of the Automobile Association, speaking at Bristol on October 25 last, said: What many people have overlooked is that the Government also placed a curb on the advance acquisition of land, and this is bound to delay the design and planning of highways far beyond the period of six months. Assuming that these criticisms are justified—and I believe they are—there are still two questions which I am often asked, and which I think I should attempt to answer. The first is: would an expansion of the road building programme have the effect of aggravating the losses on the railways? Secondly, in view of the financial situation of the country, is not some cutting back inevitable? I believe that the answer to both these questions is, No. We are not discussing the railways this afternoon, but there is, of course, a close link between the problems of road and rail. As a motorist, I see any amount of freight traffic on the road and my first reaction, like that of other motorists, is to say: "Why on earth cannot we get this on the railways?" I have no doubt that more could be taken by rail. But this is not going to solve the problem of the roads, because the increase in vehicles is continuing all the time and will continue,

If I may digress for one moment here, I would say that, on the whole, the professional drivers, the lorry drivers, maintain a pretty high standard, and that generally it is a better standard than that of the private motorist. I noticed in past years that they were quite good at spacing out and helping faster traffic to pass. I do not know whether it is just my own impression, but recently I have found many cases of what I would call "bunching"; that is, a number of heavy lorries and other commercial traffic being driven close together, making it extremely difficult for the ordinary motorist to pass. He has either to try to pass the whole lot, and thereby take some risk, or to wait patiently at the back of the queue, until the road widens or there is a dual carriageway. Obviously, the second course is the right one, but it is frustrating for a motorist who wants to get to a particular destination at a particular time; and a frustrated motorist is a danger to the public. I believe that the only long-term solution to that kind of problem is to be found in better roads and more motorways. Even assuming that a higher percentage of freight traffic is taken by rail—for example, if liner-trains are put into operation, and businessmen can be sure that goods sent by train will arrive at a particular time— the total traffic will continue to rise, so that a substantial improvement in the roads is absolutely essential.

Furthermore, while I am all in favour of a co-ordinated policy for road and rail, I believe that there must be as much freedom of choice as possible. If alternative means of transport are available, only the individual user knows which is the more convenient for his purposes. This is due to the fact that a large number of considerations are relevant: how much the journey costs; how long it takes; how much it costs to pack goods; how fragile they are, and so on. The permutations are so numerous that only the user of transport facilities can know enough of the details to make a rational judgment as to the best means of transport in each particular case. Therefore, so far as practicable, there should be freedom of choice for the individual or the firm requiring transport facilities. And for various reasons many will choose the roads, unless, of course, the roads are completely blocked. To avoid that state of affairs, a great deal of planning at regional and national level will be required. I welcome the recent appointment of a Director General of Economic Planning at the Ministry of Transport, but I am doubtful about the sufficiency of transport planning staffs to serve regional economic planning councils and boards. Do regional councils and boards possess adequate resources for long-term transport planning? I shall be interested to know the answer.

Finally, turning to finance, is it not time for a new look at the whole system of road financing? After all, other countries can raise the money on the open market. Cannot we do likewise? The Italians came to London to raise money here on our market for the building of their roads in Italy. Surely something along those lines could be adopted here. There are several possibilities. We could have a road fund loan which could be raised and secured by a charge on income from taxation. A specific allocation could be made from taxation to be used solely for road construction. Again, tolls could be introduced on the motorways. I do not think there are any insuperable difficulties about such a scheme, and I should not object, so long as it was clear that that was not going to be just another tax on top of all the other taxes. The important point to recognise is that investment in roads is profitable. There is no question here of pouring capital into a declining industry. It is the failure to spend money on roads that is wasteful.

I would sum up in this way. It is exasperating for the motoring public to feel that they pay all these taxes, and that they just go into the common pot, and are lost sight of somewhere in the Treasury. If only to remove the sense of injustice, I would favour some specific allocation. But, of course, that is not the only problem—there is more to it than that. I would suggest that three conditions must be satisfied. First, there must be continuity. It is uncertainty about the future of the road construction programme that: can have such unfortunate consequences; some way must be found to preventing the disruption caused by periodic economic crises. Secondly, there must be long-term planning, both at national and at regional level, carried out by those who really understand traffic problems. There has been far too little of this in the past. Thirdly, there should be some kind of fund specifically allocated to road construction which will not be raided. Only in that way can we meet the challenge of the roads—and it certainly is a challenge. At the beginning of my remarks I referred to the Liberal Report published in 1929, and I do not think I can do better than conclude by quoting from it. The quotation is as relevant to-day as it was then. It is as follows: Time saved on the roads is money saved for the nation.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, when I was quivering on the brink of my Introduction to your Lordships' House less than three weeks ago, to get me through the ordeal one of my sponsors said, "Cheer up, it isn't nearly as bad as making your maiden speech." I now see what he meant, although I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, for the encouragement which he gave me at the beginning of his speech. I only hope that your Lordships will forgive my shortcomings, as a speaker and otherwise. I think I need not apologise for the comparative brevity of what I am going to say. I must, however, apologise for the fact that I shall have to leave the House at 6 o'clock owing to an official engagement from which I cannot extricate myself.

I am speaking in this debate in the light of my experience as Chairman of the Economic Development Committee for Civil Engineering but I must emphasise that I am what is called an independent chairman, which means that I am what the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, claims to be, an amateur in this field. The road programme is the largest single sector of the civil engineering industry. It accounts for about a quarter of the whole, and it is still expanding fast. Rises in prices for new construction of 30 per cent, between 1960 and 1962, and of 9 per cent, from 1962 to 1964, were brought to the notice of the Economic Development Committee. Moreover, it occurred to us that road construction should be treated as a microcosm of the civil engineering industry, and would be the sector through which influence on the industry as a whole could be brought to bear most quickly and effectively.

Accordingly, a strong Working Party on road construction was set up under the chairmanship of Mr. J. A. Lofthouse, Engineering Director of the Nobel Division of I.C.I. This Working Party includes all those directly concerned with road construction, both central and local government, contractors, unions, consulting engineers, materials suppliers, and independent members. The job of this Working Party is to study how productivity in this relatively new and fast-expanding industry can be increased. As it represents all the interests concerned, it is in a unique position to assess what needs to be done, and how best to get it done.

In the subject of this debate, road construction, Government, both central and local, is in a particularly strong position to influence matters, because it is, in one form or another, the only client. The main fields of study for the Working Party are: first, the structure of the industry, including the problem of the continuity of work and utilisation of plant; secondly, planning and contract procedures; thirdly, standards of management and construction; fourthly, the relationship between the various parties involved, the Ministry of Transport, local authorities, consulting engineers, and contractors; and, fifthly, the feedback to designers from experience, including, I hope, foreign experience.

At the early meetings of the Working Party it emerged that, while a great deal was known about prices, little or nothing was known about actual costs. So ten firms of contractors have agreed to help the Working Party by throwing open their books, on a confidential basis, for examination by a leading firm of quantity surveyors which has been commissioned to study the trends in costs and will report before the end of March. It is too early to say what conclusions will be reached, but the Working Party's first report should be a significant document which is likely to affect all sides of industry.

If, when the Working Party and the Economic Development Committee have considered all this, the Government and all other parties concerned are prepared to approach their recommendation with open minds, there should be real promise of more productive relations, less dealing at arm's length between the Government and the contractors, and of much better future performance, and so of better value and more and better roads for our money, whatever the level of the road programme may be.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to be given the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on the occasion of his maiden speech. If this is his performance as an amateur, I am certain that we are all looking forward to the occasion when he speaks as a professional on a subject, which I presume will be the economics of the emergent countries.

Like the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, I declare an interest. I have no expert knowledge on the subject of roads, but as a road user I have strong views. In particular, these strong views are reinforced by the fact that I have had some experience of travelling on the motorway networks of, I suppose, the only three countries that have a true network— namely, Italy, the United States, and Germany. The first impression that I gained on going to the United States—the first thing which really struck me as being essentially different from this country of ours—was to see a large truck backing into a factory in Rhode Island to be loaded up with textiles for transport to California. Knowing our own regional system, I am reasonably certain that none of us would start loading textiles into a truck to take them across a continent. We should think of doing it another way, simply because our road network is not up to the needs of our present industrial development.

Within the last month, I have travelled across Germany from Frankfurt to the Czechoslovakian border in two hours on a new motorway which when laid down was going nowhere in particular. It so happened that the time for development had come when it was decided to put a motorway across the centre of Germany. Yet the existence of this motorway at once opens up new economic possibilities for what is, at the moment, the underdeveloped area in Germany. I think that is the factor that we must bear in mind when we debate this subject. We cannot underestimate the economic significance of a motorway network in a highly industrialised country such as ours. The noble Earl, Lord Shannon, introducing the debate, eschewed statistics, but I should like to give two figures from the Ministry of Transport's most recent Report. Of all goods moved in this country, seven tons out of ten are moved on the roads; nine people out of ten are also moved on the roads. This, surely, puts the size of the problem in perspective. Perhaps it also puts the recent dispute within the railway system in perspective.

The Government are urging us to modernise our industry. We must never forget that road transport is an integral part of the industrial process. If we are to modernise industry, we must also modernise the communications between the various industrial units of the country, and in particular between those units and the ports from whence the products are to be sent overseas. It is an essential part of the process of renovation of our economy to get the infrastructure of our industry right; and the main element of that infrastructure is a modern road system.

Another point to be borne in mind is that modernising the road system of this country will not be as effective as it should be if the people who use it (and by that I mean the long distance road haulage drivers) do not permit the system to be used as economically as possible. What I have found most encouraging recently is the agreement which is being negotiated between the Esso Company and its long-distance road haulage drivers for a new productivity-linked wages agreement. This is of the first importance. I am delighted to think that some of these long distance drivers will earn up to £2,000 a year driving these great vehicles along the roads of our country if, as a result, we are to get cheaper transport for the goods we are sending abroad and for those within our own boundaries. This is one of the reasons why we should be grateful to the American companies which are coming to settle here, because they are introducing the change of mind which is so essential if we are to get the great benefits which can come from a modern industrial basis.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, made a point about the importance of driving motor roads to developing areas. That, of course, has been the function of the great southern autostrada in Italy. The Italians have a problem similar to ours. We have an underdeveloped north, they have an underdeveloped south, and the first thing they have done is to drive a motorway southwards. I believe that we should be doing the same thing in this country. Do not let us underestimate the importance of linking the industrial centres. I should also like to see a motorway driven northwards into the Highlands of Scotland, because unless this happens we shall still remain two nations, divided by some hills and some history. I would suggest to my noble friend who is to wind up this debate, that it would not be an uneconomic process if we were now to consider planning a motorway to Inverness. I have here the Ministry of Transport's Annual Report. There is no planning for a motorway north of Carlisle or north of Newcastle, and I think this is complete nonsense. If we are to use the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain as an industrial and an economic and social unit, then we must be able to communicate; and at the moment we cannot communicate because the planning of good roads stops somewhere on the Carlisle-Newcastle level. This is not irrelevant. We are talking about developing the Highlands, and I am strongly in favour of it. We are talking about constructing a major experimental nuclear power plant next to the present reactor at Dounreay, which will produce 250 MW. That, I believe, is more power than the North of Scotland can use at the moment. If we are to do this then, for heaven's sake! let us get a road up there so that this new development in the Highlands can be used.

To deal with another small point, I was doing some simple arithmetic at the week-end. I personally average 75 m.p.h. on a motorway, whatever the existing legislation lays down. Three hours' driving from Manchester or Newcastle would get one to the Cairngorms for a week-end's skiing. I drove across Germany in three hours, and two hours' driving in this country would get us into beautiful, unspoilt country, where we could bring new prosperity to an area which needs it. So it is economically and socially of the first importance.

For these reasons, I regret that the Government have found it necessary to make minor cutbacks on our existing road programme. The object of the cutbacks (which I believe are to be £7 million this year, and £12 million next year, or something under 10 per cent.) was to slow down the rate of expenditure on capital projects, in order to help eliminate the balance-of-payments deficit and maintain the strength of sterling. I believe this is an irrelevancy. The building of roads is part of the modernisation of the British economy, and a £12 million cut in road building, which does not involve a substantial volume of new imports, must, I believe, be a retrograde step.


Before the noble Lord leaves the question of the main roads, with which, I may say, I entirely agree, would he also support the proposal I have made for years, without any success, namely, to have a major roadway from the north to the south in Wales, thus developing mid-Wales, which is becoming depopulated?


I think the noble Lord has made the same point that I was making. This is entirely essential. If there is a remote farm, and you want to make it economic, you build a road to it, and what is true of a farm is true of a nation like Wales. To illustrate the point, the M.6 now goes into the Lake District, and suddenly at week-ends the Lake District is filled with people trying to escape from our nineteenth century conurbations into the fresh air. It is a pity that they all decant into the Lake District; I should like to see them decanting into all the magnificent, unspoilt parts of the United Kingdom, where they can recreate themselves. Compared with the gross national product and the other irrelevant things upon which we spend money, I suggest that this is something which we should reconsider immediately.

In conclusion, I am pressing my noble friend to try to impress the views of the House upon the Government to give to road building the significance that it should have and, in particular, to do what I think the noble Lord, Lord Wade, stressed: Let us get on with the business of advance acquisition of land for road building, so that we can get a rolling programme going, so that contractors do not have to have "stop-go" in their own industrial planning, and so that the maximum use of the existing labour forces can be achieved for creating a road network which we urgently require.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, for initiating this debate this afternoon on the important subject of the future roads of this country. I should like to support the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, who referred to the record of the Conservative Government over the last thirteen years, because I think it is no mean record; indeed, it is one of which I believe the whole nation should be proud. We know it was not enough, but we had to start practically from scratch, and under the very able drive of Mr. Ernest Marples, the late Minister of Transport, and the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, a tremendous amount was done.

In a few moments for which I shall address your Lordships I wish to plead for a larger share of available funds of the existing road programme to be allocated to East Anglia, which in the next ten years will be greatly increased in population. For instance, the population of the County Borough of Ipswich will, I understand, increase by some 70,000; and the dock area there and at Felixstowe will be greatly expanded. The City of Norwich, too, is to be greatly expanded. I should like to put forward some estimates, which I believe are approximately correct, for the four-year rolling programme. I think the House will agree that if East Anglia is to grow in population to a considerable extent in the next few years the figures in the estimates are completely inadequate.

The population of East Anglia, which comprises Norfolk, the City of Norwich, Great Yarmouth, East Suffolk, the County Borough of Ipswich, West Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, and Cambridge City, is about 1,378,000. The next four-year rolling programme, estimated on schemes of over £50,000, is to cost approximately £1,587,000. For the Record, I will give your Lordships the breakdown of these figures. Norfolk, approximately £287,000 in the next four years; East Suffolk, £495,000; West Suffolk, £80,000; Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, £278,000; the City of Cambridge, £447,000. Breaking these figures down a little more, they show an estimated expenditure on road works of something like 29s. per head of the population for the four-year period, or 7s. 3d. a head per year. If this area, with its vastly expanding ports, is to have that sort of allocation in the next four or five years, with the cities greatly expanding, I do not know what is going to happen to the traffic, because some of our trunk roads, especially the A.45 and the A.11, are already extremely overloaded.

We have been promised (and I hope it will not be many years before it is done) a bypass around Huntingdon, which is a link from the North, via the A.l, and there will also be a link from the South Midlands to East Anglia; and also a bypass around Cambridge, which has not been done. With regard to the bypass around Newmarket, I was sorry to see that the other day the honourable Member for Bury St. Edmunds was told by the Minister that although the draft proposals will be laid this summer, and although the trial boreholes have been a success, the scheme is a long-term one, because of other urgent priorities, and we cannot look forward to an early start being made. At the moment, Newmarket has two major roads through the High Street, the A.11, to Thetford and Norwich, and the A.45, to Ipswich, and Felixstowe and Harwich Docks. There are also no immediate plans—though long-term plans have been made—for bypasses around Bury St. Edmunds and Stowmarket, on the A.45. I hope that the Minister will give this matter his serious consideration.

I am very pleased that the new Regional Board which has been set up by Her Majesty's Government has been given, as one of its most urgent tasks, the study of communications to ports in East Anglia. I hope that when the Board has made that study and presented its report, it will suggest to Her Majesty's Government—I am sure it will —that the roads from the South Midlands to East Anglia must be improved if we are to develop further these ports, which are very good ports, as an alternative to London for the Continent. The existing roads must be improved, first by the construction of bypasses around the towns, and then by the building of dual-carriageway roads. I hope that we shall do the bypasses first, because if we do the dual-carriageways first that will make the congestion in the towns worse than it is now. Nearly all the major towns and cities on the Great North Road have now been bypassed, but there are still these other areas to be tackled, and I hope I have shown your Lordships the very insignificant sum of money allocated to East Anglia in the next four-year rolling programme. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this matter serious consideration and will try to give a good deal more money to East Anglia to enable these great schemes of expansion to be carried out.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I would, if I may, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on his maiden speech. Two points particularly appealed to me: first its brevity and, secondly, the fact that he spoke from knowledge, and I hope that we may have many other similar speeches from him in the years to come.

Nearly two years ago, when I was privileged to address your Lordships for the first time, I pointed out that expenditure on communications ought to be of the highest priority because good communications were a major cornerstone in our future economic progress. Ministers, economists and industrialists have again and again emphasised the necessity for the nation to increase productivity and improve efficiency. It seems to me that one way to do this is to speed up and not to slow down the road programme, as this Government have done, contrary to their Election promises. It is perhaps another example of that false prospectus. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, is going to reply to this debate. He has transport matters very much at heart. He is very knowledgeable. He is always so courteous and kind in the very full way he replies to Questions or answers debates of this kind, and I feel he must have a very sad heart at having to reply to this debate, in view of what his Government have done and are doing.

As productivity and industrial activity increase so does the movement of goods and people, and unless the improvement in communications is made more rapid than the increase in vehicle movement, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, knows very well, these congestions and delays will get worse instead of improving. That is obviously a platitude, but it cannot be stated too often in view of what is happening in the country to-day. The seriousness of traffic congestion is the adverse effect it has on efficiency of vehicles. If vehicles are standing still, or moving only slowly, then there is inadequate utilisation of those vehicles and of their drivers. This means that the costs of transportation go up. Furthermore, if a vehicle takes twice as long to deliver goods because of traffic congestion, that means that there are twice as many vehicles with twice as many drivers on the roads as need be.

We are in a vicious circle and by its actions the Government are worsening that vicious circle. What a sorry state of affairs, when it is known what a tremendous gain in national productivity there would be if our communications could be so improved that fewer vehicles could carry a greatly increased amount of goods and more passengers, thereby reducing traffic congestion, which again would enable greater vehicle utilisation, with a reduction instead of increase in transport costs.

Like many other noble Lords, I am a director of firms that use commercial vehicles for the movement of products manufactured in their factories, and I know from personal experience how dreadfully our costs go up when the goods have to be moved through congested places. I am also a director of a company that manufactures heavy vehicles. What can be done to reduce congestion within the present financial Budget of the country, and remove some of the bottlenecks rather more rapidly than at present?

I think that the Government ought to take another careful look at the priorities on road expenditure. Your Lordships are all familiar with the same bottlenecks which go on year after year in various parts of the country, and little or nothing appears to be done in far too many instances. Take, for instance, the case of Kendal in Westmorland. This town is the southern gateway to the Lake District, as well as being on the main West Coast route to Scotland, and the traffic congestion in that town is really quite dreadful. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on road improvements to the North and to the South, outside of the town. If this expenditure had been on a by-pass of the town, then a great deal of the present delay and frustration could have been avoided. As it is, it will still be some years before that by-pass is built and the extension of the M.6 up the Lune Valley constructed.

By getting the priorities all wrong there is a shocking waste of money because of traffic congestion. But this is not the end of the matter. At the southern end of the town the main bottleneck is caused by a narrow bridge over the river. About 300 yards down the river to the south a footbridge across the river joins the two road dead-ends. All that is needed is a vehicle bridge to replace that footbridge, combined with a one-way roundabout system over the two bridges, and much of the present congestion of the southern part of Kendal could be avoided. I have explained this case in detail, because at peak times—and there are many of these peak times—it now costs the operator of a vehicle 10s., instead of 2s., to get his vehicle through Kendal. This kind of unnecessary and costly delay upsets industrialists, who are continually being told about the need to increase production and how inefficient they are, when they see such glaring examples, as at Kendal, of sloth and incompetence in improving communications.

The former Minister of Transport, Mr. Ernest Marples, who did such a wonderful job during his tenure of office, told me that the first thing he found he had to do to get a move on was to take wider powers. The Government have these wider powers now. He told me that, either through ignorance or prejudice, or because of petty jealousies, schemes were held up by local authorities who were looking at the problem through the wrong end of the telescope. Invariably when the improvement was done everybody was highly delighted. I do not know where the fault lies at Kendal, but I know that if that footbridge had been a vehicular bridge and had been washed away by a flood, a Bailey bridge would have been erected in a few days, as happened some time ago near Keswick. Cannot the Government and the local authority stop "passing the buck" and get a Bailey bridge erected at once as a temporary measure, in place of the footbridge, until that by-pass is built? The cost would be recovered in a few weeks. I hope, with the example which I have just given, I have made the point about the urgent need to look at priorities in road expenditure.

I should like for a moment to turn now to London. As your Lordships know, the Government have the responsibility for building the motorways right into London through a large area where the Greater London Council has responsibility for other roads. Are the Government satisfied that there is sufficiently close co-operation in the planning now being done to insure that these motorways do not end up in the wrong place? I know that there is a Working Party supposed to be watching questions of this kind, but mistakes have been made in the past, and when mistakes are made, as the noble Lord knows, they are costly. It really is essential that these motorways make contact with the proposed new inner ring road at the right places, otherwise there will be a gluepot continued from now indefinitely into the future.

I wonder whether the Government could give the House any information about the progress of this inner ring road. Much talking about it has been going on for a long time. When is something going to happen? Has any work started? If so, where? It really is frightening to realise that this inner ring road, which could do so much to relieve congestion in Central London, will not be in operation until the 1980s. We here in London seem to be lagging so badly behind the other capitals of Europe in improving our communications at a satisfactory rate.

Before I conclude, I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell me what progress has been made with alternate offset double white lines on lengths of three-lane roads? He will recall that I asked him a Question on this matter some time ago. Shortly after I first raised this matter in your Lordships' House some two years ago, an experiment was carried out on a stretch of road with which I am familiar. This road is on the Lancashire-Westmorland border, between Carnforth and Milnthorpe. I have spoken to many people who use this road regularly. Every single person to whom I have spoken considers what has been done at that place to be a great improvement. Uncertainty about overtaking is removed, thus making driving safer, and traffic appears to be speeded up. People ask me why this sensible and practical marking of three-lane roads is not far more widely done. I am unable to tell them. Can the Government tell the House why something which costs so little to do is still not in general use? Why the delay? What is stopping the greater progress of this valuable marking of the roads from being carried out all over the country?

Finally, I wish to support the proposals put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, for raising finance. Our programme of extending our roads would appear to be restricted and confined in money terms. I cannot see why it should not be possible to raise money on the market, the money so raised being serviced and amortised by tolls on roads, as is done on the Continent, or by tolls on bridges, as is done on the Mersey. People are quite willing to pay if they can save time and if costs can thereby be reduced. I should have thought that if this system advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Wade, were introduced and extended in this country, we should in the next ten years see a much more rapid construction of roads and development of communications. If that were done straight away, our productivity would go up and our inefficiency would decline. I conclude where I started, by saying that that is what the Government economists and industrialists have been urging on us. It is up to the Government to show an example in this manner.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, disclosed to me at lunchtime that I was the only speaker in this debate who was, so to speak, against his Motion. I must say that I would feel less nervous if I were not alone, because there is a safer feeling in numbers. Nevertheless, no argument that I have heard this afternoon has changed my outlook, and I hope I shall be able to convince at any rate some of your Lordships that there is a lot more than just something in what I am going to say. I shall not try directly to dispute any noble Lord's point, for at the present stage of my Parliamentary experience I may get myself into a muddle. However, I would point out to the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, that the design speed of our motorways is 70 m.p.h. I should like to see the 70 m.p.h. limit experiment completed, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when he comes to reply, will give us some indication of how the results are going.

I myself drive 20,000 miles a year, some of which, lately, has been for the pleasure and edification of attending your Lordships' House. To drive the 145 miles from my home to London takes me, on average, five minutes less than it did ten years ago. So it seems that on the route, mostly over the A.40, improvements have kept pace with the increase in traffic. I know that there are other routes where the state of affairs is not so good, but I get about a good deal and in my experience our roads are nothing like as bad, or as badly congested, as is often made out. It has been demonstrated in other countries that there is no remedy for congestion. If you relieve it in one place it pops up in another; for new roads generate more traffic than was carried by the roads they replace, and so on, until the environment is altered or, perhaps, destroyed. The ultimate in this sort of experiment is probably the Los Angeles area which, as a Times correspondent observed some years ago, is an area of about 70 miles long and 50 miles wide, with no town to go into. The inhabitants of that area are experimenting with building a city centre to try to show that there is a town there, but, meanwhile, they find that they are being stifled by their own exhaust poisons. Such are the problems of the motor age, and we must somehow learn to cope with them.

In this country there are advocates of a massive increase in road spending. They are quite powerful, and certainly vociferous. They are led by the British Road Federation, and others, including, of course, the motoring organisations and large numbers of top people, like some Members of Parliament and journalists, who regularly use their cars during the day and, just as regularly, get stuck in traffic jams. They emerge giving off as much fumes and smoke as the badly maintained lorries they rightly deplore. Their propaganda has been so continuous, and so pervasive, that it is thought by many a heresy to question the wisdom of an expanded and speeded-up road programme. But, my Lords, I think we should question it. Motorways are grandiose, glamorous and dramatic, but at a cost of £500,000 per mile of rural motorway it is not known whether they are actually a good investment. Estimates conflict and, indeed, I fail to see how one can accurately cost the use of a motorway, but it seems that, on the balance of evidence at the moment, it would be wise to treat motorways as luxuries.

Highway engineers are very gay in their assumption that it would pay to build more motorways, but road-building is their life and their hobby—and a very fascinating hobby, too. But if they would turn their ingenuity to thinking up ways of building new roads more cheaply, they might produce a better case. As it is, motorways and road improvements are built to the very highest and most expensive standard of engineering that it is possible to think up. Much less expensive expedients bring relief, and an example is the Bailey-type of bridge thrown in a hurry over the River Monnow at Monmouth during the last war which, with a very small amount of maintenance, has comfortably carried all the traffic on that very busy industrial road ever since. There is a very posh bridge being built there now as part of a dual carriageway scheme, and I hate to think what it is going to cost. Another Bailey bridge for the other carriageway would be perfectly satisfactory if engineers were concerned about economical communications. But they are not. They build as if they were building the Pyramids. Yet, at the rate things change nowadays, we do not know whether that bridge will be needed in 50 years' time, let alone 5,000, and meanwhile we have to pay for it immediately.

One reason why motorways have been shown to be only marginally productive and, at present costs, very likely wasteful, is that the motor vehicle is the most marvellously flexible land transport implement yet invented. It can be driven long distances in nearly all weathers without great fatigue, and can adjust its pace quickly to suit any circumstances. Its great virtue is that, in conception and design, it springs directly from the horse and cart that it has all but replaced. Our roads have, for the most part, become easily adapted to take something which is much the same creature, only bigger and faster. In my experience, it is the car driver who has occasion to get frustrated, not the lorry driver. I do not know how many of your Lordships have driven a lorry. I have often, and a very pleasant experience it is. You are perched high up, with a pleasant view of the surrounding countryside, which you have time to appreciate and, except for a few passing cars, you motor in a sort of vacuum, because most of the traffic is travelling at about the same speed as yourself. It is the towns which are congested and slow the traffic up, and I think that our efforts should be concentrated on providing bypasses—and the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, put his finger on this point. That would help the towns, which should be given as much, if not more, consideration as the through-traffic.

It is my belief that our roads are not so much overloaded as inefficiently used, because they are far too casually and unmindfully allowed to be obstructed. In spite of so much that one hears and reads, I myself see very little bad driving, and our accident rate compared with that of other countries supports this view. But I see a lot of bad parking. When a vehicle is parked on the road it reduces the width of that road by one lane. In most cases this means half the road, and everything going in one direction has to go round it and, perhaps, stop for it.

Parking on the highway is a reprehensible, anti-social practice, and if drivers cannot be persuaded not to do so it should be legally forbidden. Besides the inefficiency and danger caused by bad parking, the various authorities concerned are far too casual about digging up the road, and lackadaisical about putting it back again. In the United States there are some road repair companies which work only at night and who pay high rates in order to get the job done quickly. We use our men inefficiently, plan the jobs badly, and pay almost no attention to the interruption to free flow which is caused. I should like to recommend to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, that this modern brand of "stick-'em-up-highwaymen" be very strictly controlled by the Ministry of Transport.

Last, but not least, of the common obstructions is the underpowered lorry, which is probably the chief cause of congestion and frustration on the open road. Perhaps there we have a clue why the British Road Federation are so keen on the provision of new roads with their shallower inclines. I am afraid I may now get a little technical. The power-weight ratio of the average family car is about 50 brake horsepower per ton. The power-weight ratio of the average laden lorry that one comes up behind is not much more than 6 horsepower per ton. For those of your Lordships who do not know the jargon, this means that most laden lorries develop only a little more power in relation to their weight than a pony and trap, and not as much as a moderately fit man on a bicycle.

This is why the driver would so often get to the top of the hill more quickly if he walked, and why we have the long weary queues building up behind these crawling obstructions which are often even more difficult to get round than stationary ones. Presumably, a complete system of new roads would go a long way towards saving the British Road Federation members, and other owners, the trouble and expense of buying reasonably efficient vehicles, because one does not notice their present incapacity so much on dual-carriageways. But if it really is the swift passage of goods which so concerns them, and if this is so vital to the well-being of the economy, a very quick solution is to give their vehicles a sensible powerweight ratio, which will move them from one place to the other at a sociable pace and leave more room on the road for others.

There is one more problem, and it has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. That is that, although the lorry drivers themselves are some of the best drivers in the world, their union does not recognise the 40 m.p.h. limit, and my information is that, because of this, the men deliberately waste time in cafes. The only exception to this are the so-called "copperbottoms". These are the piece-rate drivers who, while keeping vaguely within the law, drive long hours and distances, often in indifferently maintained lorries, at speeds which are a menace to everyone including themselves.

My Lords, I am sorry if I have been rather long, but I will sum up. First, in spite of all the urging that we should build more roads, we do not know whether they would pay, especially new rural roads. Secondly, we make not nearly efficient enough use of existing roads, because we allow them to be cluttered with obstructions. Thirdly, where we do make new roads we build them far more expensively than is necessary. Finally, there are the environmental considerations. Though I have mentioned them only briefly, because they are not strictly within the terms of the Motion, they must never be out of our thoughts.

Vehicles are our servants, and we are their masters. They are the tools, and we are the users, or abusers, to do with them what we like, within their and our limitations. Their limitations are technical and would, in my opinion, amply repay much more study than they are being encouraged to get at the moment. Our limitations are environmental no less than they are economic. Ants, lucky things! have their comings and goings regulated for them by instinct. We have to regulate ours by laws, directions and fiscal devices. It is not for us to come to terms with the motor vehicle; we must make it come to terms with us. And unless we are to be overrun and smothered by our own clever invention, we must, I believe, approach the problem from a different angle from that adopted by the noble Earl who introduced this Motion.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first of all, if I may, to add my congratulations to those which have been extended to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on his maiden speech. I had the good fortune to work in close co-operation with the noble Lord for some three years when I was at the Ministry of Food, and I think that not only this country but also the Commonwealth producers of sugar, at any rate, owe a great deal to his experience, his wisdom and his knowledge of the problems, which were freely given to the Administration of the day. I am perfectly certain, from my knowledge of him and his work in the past, that he will be a very useful contributor to our debates in the future.

I had not intended to take part in this debate at all, and whilst I am extremely grateful, as we all are, to the noble Earl who moved this Motion, it was one or two things he said which decided me to make a speech. He referred to two matters in particular. The first point he made was that roads are not up to the standard we want to-day. Then he traced the history of the past, and asked: What of the future? When he talked about the history he rang a bell in my mind, if I may put it that way, and I remembered 57 years ago when my father was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He produced a Budget which I can say, without exaggeration, was not universally acclaimed in this country, and there is one part of his speech which I remembered very well. I am sorry to say that it was before the noble Earl was born and I was only a boy, so to refresh my memory I went into the Library. After some searching I found the right volume of Hansard, and I should like to read a few extracts from that speech. I remind your Lordships, again, that it was 57 years ago when the speech was made. He said: I deal first with a source of revenue from which "— and note this very carefully, my Lords— I, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, shall derive no advantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 4, c. 502; 29/4/09.] That was the new road tax, which has been in operation since that day.

He then went on to say that there would be an estimated yield that year of £410,000, and in those days there were, he told us, 55,000 private cars on the road and about 40,000 motor-cycles. The latest figure I have seen is that there are 7,635,000 private cars to-day and 1,400,000 motor-cycles. He then went on to say: the appalling list of casualties to innocent pedestrians, especially to children …demands immediate attention at the hands of the Central Government. I do not know what he would think of the figures of casualties to-day compared with those of the time when he was speaking. He went on: The question of road construction, which was at one time deemed to be part of the essential development of the country, seemed to have been almost finally disposed of by the railways, but the advent of the motor has once more brought it to the front. It is quite clear that our present system of roads and of road-making is inadequate for the demands which are increasingly made upon it by the new form of traction." (col. 496.) He continued—and this I think will amuse your Lordships— The brunt of the expense at the beginning must be borne by motorists…they are willing and even anxious, to subscribe handsomely towards such a purpose, so long as a guarantee is given…that the funds so raised will not merely be devoted exclusively to the improvement of the roads, but they will be well and wisely spent for that end." (col. 497.) I do not expect the noble Lord to remember this figure, but I should very much like to have it if it is possible. How much money has, in fact, been raised since that date by the road tax and petrol tax, and how much has gone back to the roads, to which it was going to be exclusively devoted? Then an even better remark my father made was that: The expenditure will be strictly limited by the revenue we succeed in raising." (col. 498.) The noble Earl who moved this Motion said that this matter ought to be out of politics, but despite what was almost the bitterness of Party politics in those days, the late Austen Chamberlain, who was Chancellor in the previous Conservative Administration, asked this question in the course of his speech: If the money is going to support of the roads, we think it is a very fair proposition, but if it is intended to take it for the general revenue then we shall oppose it. The answer given was: The whole of the money raised should go to the improvement of the roads. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for reading that to you.

To-day, our roads are carrying 1,400,000 tons of goods per annum, as opposed to the 240,000 being carried on the railways—that is, 80 per cent, on the road and 14 per cent, on the railways. We have heard a lot about guarantees even to-day, and my purpose in reading those extracts was this. I remember once reading that what experience and history teach is that people and Governments never learn from history or act on the principles deduced from it. In view of past history, it is quite ridiculuous to suggest for a moment now, I am sorry to say—I am not going to remind noble Lords who started the raid, but I remember the time very well—that the vast sums that were going to be devoted exclusively to the making of new roads and to the improvement of the old ones would be available to-day; but guarantees for the future are extremely important. First of all, we must learn from the past, and we must apply to the future whatever lesson we learn.

We have heard to-day, I think from the noble Earl himself, that motorists would not mind paying even higher duties, and other noble Lords have suggested that they would not mind paying tolls. I think that is probably true, but I think they would insist on a guarantee that, if that were done, that money would be devoted exclusively to the construction of new roads and the maintenance of old roads; and I hope that, in future, whatever Administration is responsible, they will see that that guarantee is fulfilled.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I would join with every other noble Lord who has spoken in expressing appreciation to the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, for giving us the opportunity to have this debate to-day. It has been an historic occasion, because my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger has to-day become the first woman to sit on the Woolsack. Then I should like most sincerely to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on his maiden speech to-day. He was very modest, because, in addition to being chairman of the committee on civil engineering of the Economic Development Council, he has also taken on the onerous task of serving the building industry in the same capacity—and I should not like to say which is going to be the more difficult for him.

But because, as the noble Lord has said, they have set up a Working Party which is going into the whole of the question of the road programme in all its aspects, including costs, his speech to-day has made one section of my reply redundant. We shall await his Report with very great interest, and I am certain that it will mean some quite revolutionary changes in the attitudes, in the outlook and in operation, both of the civil engineering industry on road construction and, equally, of Governments and Government Departments in their approach to this work. This is an extremely important job because, expensive as it is (as the noble Lord has said, over the last five years the costs have gone up tremendously), we all have a duty to get the greatest value for the money that is spent. I will try, so far as I can, to deal with the various points which have been raised, but if I miss any point I shall not object if any noble Lord interjects; and to-morrow I will go through the debate and get the Department to reply to any point I may have missed.

First of all, inspired, perhaps, by the slightly political tinge which the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, put on his introductory speech (I do not mind that; in fact, I am often guilty of it myself, and I ought to be the last one to object to others doing the same) I must make the point that the rapid expansion of the road programme is of comparatively recent origin. In 1955–56, Exchequer expenditure in Great Britain on major improvements and new construction was only £8.7 million, and it did not exceed £50 million until 1959–60. Now, despite this very slow start, we have the biggest road programme in the history of this country. Let me emphasise this: the road programme now in progress is the biggest road programme the country has ever seen. One would not have quite imagined that from the noble Duke's speech.

It is true that the previous Government, knowing full well that they would not have to implement them, announced in July, 1964, plans for the expenditure of £1,060 million on the road programme in England and Wales for the five years from 1965 to 1970. In November, 1965, the then Minister of Transport, Mr. Tom Fraser, announced that the financial provision for public expenditure on the road programme had been increased to meet rising prices. This would bring Exchequer expenditure in England to a planned level of £238 million in 1969–70, as compared with the figure, which was included within the previous Government's estimates, of £215 million envisaged for the year 1969–70. Local authorities were expected to find a further £42 million in that year from their own resources. The total planned public investment in the road programme for England in 1969–70 would thus be £280 million. This compares with £146 million public expenditure in 1964–65. The noble Duke raised the question as to why that was the figure, and why the Minister, speaking in another place, had referred only to England. For better or for worse, the Scots and the Welsh are a little sensitive in regard to some form of Government of their own country, and we have both a Secretary of State for Scotland, who is responsible for Scotland, and a Secretary of State for Wales, who is responsible for Wales. But the £148 million of Exchequer expenditure for England in 1966–67 would have been just over £180 million had it been for Great Britain—including England, Wales and Scotland.

This summer, in announcing expenditure on the road programme for 1970–71, it is planned to introduce a new procedure whereby the figures for road expenditure announced each year will cover the following four financial years instead of five years, as in the past, but they will be coupled with planning indications for a further spread of years. This will fit in with the four-year period used for the National Plan, and it will at the same time enable local authorities, the road construction industry, and so on, to plan and prepare even further ahead than is possible at the present time. I think it is fair to comment that this will, in fact, mean that we are getting very near to the ten-year programme to which the noble Earl referred in his opening speech: a four-year definite programme always in the pipe-line, and beyond that the programme under consideration by local authorities and the Ministry, ready to come into the pipe-line if and when it is due.

Both the noble Duke and my noble friend Lord Winterbottom referred to the question of the effects of the deferment which took place last year. The effects of deferment on the road programme must, of course, be seen in perspective against the programme as a whole, bearing in mind that the measures were in any case necessary to help eliminate the balance-of-payments deficit and to maintain the strength of sterling. It is no good talking about a road programme if the economy of the country and sterling are weak.

Following the Chancellor's announcement on July 27, the start of £55 million worth of road schemes (£48 million from the national Exchequer, and £7 million from local authority expenditure) was postponed for six months. I want to emphasise, however, that there was no postponement of any schemes which had importance in regard to the access to docks; there was no postponement in the development districts, which are, of course, the districts of high unemployment; and there was not, I suggest, postponement of any work needed to avoid frustration of work already in hand. If I may, I will quote my right honourable friend speaking in another place on February 9. She then said: The recent deferment measures will result in a reduction in Exchequer expenditure of about £7 million in the current financial year and £12 million in 1966–67. From now onwards the starting dates of new schemes will be settled only after reference to the new financial allocation and will no longer be postponed for any fixed period. The arrangements will allow the schemes originally deferred to go ahead, together with most of the schemes originally programmed for 1966–67. Moreover there will be an acceleration of the rate of expenditure after that year if the economic situation permits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons) Vol. 724 (No. 44), col. 385.] The noble Duke wanted to know what that really meant. I do not know that he will be much wiser after I have tried to help him, but I will do my best to make it clearer. Capital expenditure of this nature is not incurred in one year. Of the £48 million referred to, only £7 million would have been spent in 1965–66. The rest would have been spent in the following years. But by reducing expenditure in 1966–67 by only £12 million, we are, as the Minister said last week, beginning to catch up about one-third of the deferred schemes in 1966–67. We are helped to do that by the fact that land acquisition is going ahead.

Here, I would correct the noble Lord, Lord Wade, who, when referring to development schemes and quoting Mr. Durie, of the Automobile Association, said that in deferred schemes the land acquisition was also deferred. That is untrue. In all schemes that are approved, and have been approved, the land development and general procedures of acquisition go ahead. Some of that work has been carried out during the six months and this will enable us in the next few years to speed up some of the work. The economic situation permitting, we hope to make a catch-up each year; so by 1969–70 it will be all clear, so far as those developments are concerned.

A number of noble Lords asked why the programme could not be bigger. Some of them quoted people who felt that it ought to be bigger. I would just support the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, in his reference to the fact that some of those quotations came from very interested parties in road construction. But up to 1970, the size of the programme is fixed within the National Plan. The large back-log reflects failure to start a significant programme of work on the roads until the late 1950s. Any further expansion of the road programme up to 1970 could therefore be done only at the expense of some other programme. Even in this House, let alone the other place, we know of the pressure for expenditure on education, on schools and on housing. Even a Labour Government cannot spend money twice.

In any case, the road programme is already planned to expand at a higher rate than the average for all public expenditure. Expenditure on the roads will rise from £146 million in 1964–65 to £280 million by 1969–70. Under this programme, 1,000 miles of motorway will be completed by the early 1970s, and some 370 miles of new or improved trunk roads by 1970. Expenditure on classified road schemes, most of them urban, will increase from about £60 million in 1964–65 to £160 million in 1969–70. This programme represents an annual average increase of 15 per cent., as compared with the 4¼ per cent, annual rise for all public expenditure in the same period as forecast in the National Plan.

Beyond 1970—and any road or transport programme must look beyond 1970 —the Ministry is assessing what needs to be done to the inter-urban road system by 1980. This is being done with the advice of the Regional Planning Councils and other planning bodies, such as the National Ports Council. The Roads plan will be ready by the second half of this year. In addition, a similar study is being made of urban roads, a fact to which other noble Lords have referred in this debate. The noble Earl, Lord Shannon, the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, referred to the part that must be played by the Roads programme in so far as access to the docks is concerned.

I want to emphasise again, particularly in view of what my noble friend Lord Winterbottom and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, have said, that the roads to-day carry 89 per cent, of all passenger movement and 70 per cent, of the total inland movement of goods. For the future, it is difficult to forecast the relative shares of road and rail in the traffic of 1970 and beyond. But this must depend on the outcome of the studies on transport co-ordination. However, the present preponderance of road goods traffic over rail reflects the local or short-haul character of land-borne traffic. The average haul by road is 25 miles. As a rule, the railways cannot offer a comprehensive freight service over short distances. All the indications are that the volume of traffic on inter-urban and urban roads will continue to increase rapidly from now until 1980.

Reference was made to the work of the E.D.C. for the movement of exports. I would agree that an adequate road system is vital to speeding the flow of exports and priority has always been given to the improvement of roads of particular importance to industry and commerce. As so much reference has been made to-day to the E.D.C. for the movement of exports, which the Government have set up, perhaps your Lordships would not mind if I reminded you that the chairman is the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. Its terms of reference are: to examine the present movement of goods for export and to make proposals to improve and speed it. Transport users, transport providers, independent experts, trade unionists and Government Departments are all represented on the Committee. The Committee has taken a preliminary look at the problem of road access to the docks and it will return to the subject for a fuller discussion at a later date. Such evidence as the Committee have available suggests that the main delays to export traffic take place within the docks and not on the way to the docks.

The improvement of access roads to the main ports has always held a prominent position in the Ministry's programme. Traffic management schemes in London have also paid much attention to dock traffic. Last year the Ministry sent a letter to local highway authorities inviting them to keep in close touch with port authorities about road access problems. The plans for port development contained in the National Ports Council's publication Port Development: An Interim Plan have been, and will continue to be, of great assistance to the Ministry in formulating its plan for the 'seventies for the development of inter-urban road systems.

During the debate reference has been made to the possibility of the raising of money from the public by the institution of tolls. The experience of other countries, which was brought forward, can hardly be compared with the conditions in this country, which are not on the same basis. All our motorways have a good number of intersections. I wonder whether noble Lords have thought of the cost of collecting tolls, if every intersection has to be manned 24 hours a day. It is all very well to quote the Mersey Tunnel and the Forth Bridge, but these have only two ends to be manned. I would suggest that manning the motorways at every intersection would not be practicable.

The noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, asked me if I could give the total amount collected in motor tax since the Road Fund was set up by his illustrious father in 1909. I cannot tell him, but I can say that while in 1909 it was estimated to be £400,000, the amount collected in 1964 was £887 million. The expenditure on roads was £212 million. I would suggest that many motorists and many of those talking on behalf of motorists exaggerate the difference between the amount of money collected and the amount expended on new construction, because we have also to take into account the maintenance of the roads, their policing and the fire and ambulance services which are provided. Motorists also talk about the amount collected in petrol tax, but I do not think that that is really relevant.

Several noble Lords have referred to the 70 m.p.h. experimental speed limit; but as we are going to have a debate on the Question put down by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in a short time, I suggest, with respect, that we should leave this question until then, but in case I forget it when I come to reply to the Question I would say now that the 70 m.p.h. speed limit is an experiment which is being studied by the Road Research Laboratory and by the police. We have also asked the A.A. and R.A.C. to give us reports of the observations of their road patrols on driver behaviour, and these will be taken into consideration by my right honourable friend in making decisions for the future.

My noble friend Lord Winterbottom referred to Scotland and said that there was no motorway north of Carlisle. I would remind him that there is a Secretary of State who looks after Scotland, and that the Road Report is for England and Wales only. But I am informed that, under the Scottish road programme, by the mid-1970s about 290 miles of dual carriage motorways and all-purpose route roads will have been completed, connecting the industrial areas of the central belt to one another and to the motorways network in England and Wales. I can assure my noble friend from my experience that the Secretary of State for Scotland sees that Scotland gets a fair share of whatever cake is going. In that respect, he is second only to my noble friend the Secretary of State for Wales.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that answer, but would he not agree that it is essential that the two networks should be linked so that there are motorways from the northern end of Scotland to the southern end of England?


I do, my Lords, but the Scots seem to get here whether there is a link or not—and most of them seem to have only a single ticket.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, asked me definite questions in regard to East Anglia. I hope that he will take it in the right spirit when I say that it is a question of investment returns on the money spent on roads. We must operate the road programme on the basis of national priorities. If East Anglia is getting less than other parts of the country, this is only a reflection of the greater needs of other parts of the country and not because the Ministry does not realise the claims of East Anglia. Money has to be spent where the benefit arising from it is the greatest.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, asked me a question in regard to the situation in Kendal. Frankly, I cannot tell him the answer, but I will have it looked at and write to him on the matter. The noble Lord also asked about the off-set white lines. This experiment is still going on. So far as I understand, it is successful up to the present time; but there are complaints in some areas that bunching arises where the double off-set lines finish and the single line begins; and it is suggested sometimes that the advantage in regard to getting traffic moving is not so great as is claimed for it. But in other cases the scheme is claimed to be very successful. As I say, the experiment is still going on.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say that in conditions and places where the experi- ment is successful that particular type of experiment will be rapidly extended all over the country, even if in some types and conditions of trials further examination is needed?


At the Ministry of Transport we have to be careful when we make recommendations to local authorities. When you get local authorities—as, say, in the case of the A.1.— not only willing but anxious to undertake the experiment, we are only too pleased to help. But if you once give guidance to local authorities to implement certain suggestions, you have to be fairly certain that they will be successful when they are undertaken. I have attempted to answer most of the points your Lordships have raised, but if I have missed any, I will try to reply to them by correspondence.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate, and I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. Were it possible, I should like to mention all the immensely interesting points which were raised by noble Lords in their speeches but, in view of the time, and also the fact that we have an Un-starred Question to follow this debate, I hope that I may be forgiven if I mention only a few. On the whole, I was pleased that most of the speakers seemed to agree with me, as also, it appeared, did all the reports to which they referred, although we have heard that some of the Reports were perhaps slightly biased. I should like to add my now belated congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, on what was a most professional "amateur" speech.

In some of its points I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan a little difficult to follow, and although he claimed to disagree with me, I thought that we were in unison on a number of points. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, very ably defined my "less slow", and although I am prepared to upgrade the term, I am afraid that I still cannot let it go up to "go". The noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, was also most kind in defining what I termed the prudence and foresight of the early Board of Directors, and I hope he will forgive me for referring to his father by that description.

We seem to agree that proper planning, a budget, and a continuous programme is essential, and that any further revenue should go into trustworthy hands for guaranteed purposes. I am afraid that, in the view of road users, the Exchequer no longer measures up to this standard. We must also thank the Minister for his assurances. We should have liked some more, but I would merely suggest that to carry on that discussion would be one of how "stop" is "stop". I did my best, along with many other noble Lords, to try to get the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, into an impossible position, but I think a hardened campaigner such as he is relishes that kind of thing, and he extricated himself admirably, although not to our complete satisfaction. I would once again thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.