HL Deb 10 February 1967 vol 279 cc1558-61

11.8 a.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will now provide information about the proposed expansion of the road programme in the 1970's announced by the Minister of Transport and whether they can state the years during which the new road schemes in London and the other major conurbations to the value of £1,000 million will be commenced.]


My Lords, the Minister of Transport has recently announced an extension of the local authority principal road programme to around 1971. She has also stated that she intends to publish shortly the first instalment of a £1,000 million list of principal road schemes to be put in preparation now for further extensions of the programme in the 1970's. The £1,000 million list is to cover other towns as well as London and the other major conurbations.

The starting dates of particular schemes will depend on decisions yet to be taken by the Government about the levels of expenditure for the road programme in the 1970's, as well as on the progress made between now and then with preparing the schemes. However, it is envisaged that the schemes will start within up to eight years from about 1970, together with such other schemes as it may be decided to include in the principal road programme within this period.

The Minister has also said in another place that she intends to announce later this month a very considerable list of trunk road schemes for preparation for the early 1970's programme. It will be seen, therefore, that a large volume of additional work is being put in hand in readiness for extensions of the 1970's road programme.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his careful and, in some ways, encouraging Answer? I would ask him, however, whether he is aware that he has in fact added little to the practically nothing already provided by the Minister. Is he aware that those of us who are interested in such matters are quite unable to judge the significance of these high-sounding figures, in view of the fact that the Minister has not yet announced the rolling programme to the years 1970–71 and 1971–72? Therefore, is he aware that we have no means of judging the significance of an increase to £650 million, or to £1,000 million, because we have no yardstick against which to judge it? It is even possible that it might be a diminution, for all we can tell.


My Lords, in the first place I do not expect that there will be any diminution. Also the figure I have given is a rough guide line to the local authorities and others responsible for planning. It is not the final figure. I appreciate that I have not added to the noble Lord's information, but as he will have noted in my original Answer, the Minister intends to make a statement shortly. I hope the noble Lord will then be provided with the information he now seeks.


My Lords, would the noble Lord convey to his right honourable friend the fact that the revenue now raised from the road-using community as a whole each year is in excess of this figure of £1,000 million? It is well over that figure per year. Is the noble Lord aware that his right honourable friend herself has assessed that traffic will double by the years we are talking about, and the revenues by that time will be huge? May I ask that this point will he fully taken into consideration in allocating adequate funds?


My Lords, in regard to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question, my right honour able friend is well aware of that fact. I think this is a matter that has been in existence ever since the Road Fund was brought into being. In regard to the second part of the question, I am well aware, and so is my right honourable friend, of the growing congestion which arises from the increased number of vehicles on our roads. The noble Lord will appreciate that this is a matter which goes beyond the question of the finances available. One has to take into account the physical resources that are available for a large programme. I will convey what the noble Lord has said to my right honourable friend.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that the Malthusian law of population, whose implications we discussed yesterday evening, also applies to road traffic, in that motor traffic tends to increase up to and beyond the roads and parking places available for its accommodation, and that therefore car control must accompany road betterment?


My Lords, my noble friend does not need to remind me of a difficulty from which I suffer every day when I drive to your Lord ships' House.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that we note the safeguard in his Answer, that these schemes depend on the time taken in preparation of these schemes?

Further, is he aware that 31 different steps are needed from first approving the line for a road before the road can be commenced; and in this preparation to which my noble friend has referred, could he say whether his right honourable friend the Minister is taking any action at all to concertina some of these 31 steps, at the same time safeguarding to the full the rights of the public in so far as their objections are concerned? Furthermore, can we be assured that the rolling programme referred to will be a real consideration; and that, instead of certain mileages of road being completed and then reverting to narrow strips again, every effort will be made to see that the capital equipment and everything assembled for these jobs will not be left idle, but will continue in use and serve a useful purpose to us all?


My Lords with regard to the first part of my noble friend's supplementary question, this is a very great problem of which we are all aware. Of course, one needs to protect the public to whom road building causes damage. With regard to the second part of the question, here again this is a matter for consideration. I should not like to answer the noble Lord now, because it does not strictly arise out of the Question on the Order Paper.

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