HL Deb 28 January 1976 vol 367 cc911-5

2.42 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what motorways will be started, completed or extended in the next five year period 1976–1981.


My Lords, 18 motorway schemes are under construction; on present plans, and subject to the satisfactory completion of statutory procedures and availability of funds at the time, a further 23 schemes should be started and completed by about 1981; 11 more schemes should be started but not completed during the period. The ultimate design standards for these 34 schemes are dependent on the assessment of traffic flows nearer the date of construction. With permission, I will arrange for the detailed information on individual schemes to be circulated in the Official Report.

Following is the information referred to:

a. Motorways under construction
North West
M62 Queens Drive to Tarbock.
M66 Bury Easterly By-Pass (Northern Section.)
M67 Hyde By-Pass.
North East
M18 Armthorpe to Hatfield.
M62 Rawcliffe to Balkholme-Ouse Bridge.
M62 Balkholme to Caves By-Pass.
M180 Brigg By-Pass.
M42 Solihull Section of the Birmingham-Nottingham motorway.
M69 Coventry-Leicester.
South East
M20 Swanley to West Kingsdown.
M25 Reigate to Godstone.
M25 Egham to Thorpe.
M27 Parkgate to Portsbridge.
South West
M5 Chelston to Willard.
M5 Sandy Gate to Pearce's Hill.
Ml Staples Corner.
M11 Redbridge to South Harlow.
M25 Hunton Bridge to Maple Cross.
b. Motorways which should be started and completed by about 1981
North West
M56 Hapsford to Lee-By-Backford.
M58 Aintree to Skelmersdale.
M63 Stockport East West By-Pass.
M65 Calder Valley (Whitebirk to Burnley).
M67 Denton Relief Road, Stage 1.
North East
M18 Wadsworth to Armthorpe.
Ml80 Thorne to Scunthorpe (including Trent Bridge.
M180 Scunthorpe Southern By-Pass.
M42 Tamworth Section of the Birmingham-Nottingham motorway.
M54 Telford to M6.
South East
M3 Popham to Compton.
M20 Maidstone-Folkestone.
M20 West Kingsdown to Addington.
M25 Godstone to Sevenoaks.
M25 Thorpe to Reigate.
M25 Egham to Heathrow.
M26 Sevenoaks to Wrotham.
M27 Chilworth to Wendhover.
A3(M) Horndean to Bedhampton.
Ml Widening between Breakspears and Berrygrove.
M11 Bishops Stortford to Stump Cross.
M11 Cambridge Western By-Pass.
M25 A10-A13.
A1(M) Cecil Road to Roestock.
c. Motorways which should be started but not completed until after 1981
North West
M63 Bredbury By-Pass.
M65 Calder Valley M6/M61 to Whitebirk.
M67 Denton Relief Road Stage 2.
M42 Bromsgrove and Castle Donington Sections of the Birmingham-Notting-ham motorway.
South East
M25 Sevenoaks to Swanley.
M27 Havant to Chichester.
M11 Hackney to Woodford.
M25 M4-Maple Cross.
M25 Hunton Bridge to South Mimms.
A1(M) Roestock to Stanborough.
M40 Oxford to Birmingham Motorway.

My Lords, in thanking the noble Baroness for that Answer, and agreeing that no doubt it would be for the convenience of the House for that list to be put in the Official Report, may I ask two supplementary questions? First, would the noble Baroness agree that the completion of our motorway system in Great Britain is of vital importance to our economic existence and future survival? Secondly, would she agree that a sustained and long-term programme will greatly assist in reducing unemployment in the construction industry?

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords.


My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that there is a growing body of opinion in the country which believes that Government efforts should be concentrated on improving or dualing the existing trunk road system, rather than building expensive new motorways which use up to 40 acres a mile of much needed agricultural land?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, the Government have to take a balance between the different needs of traffic congestion and environmental effect. It is perfectly true that an increasing proportion of the programme is going on such schemes as by-passes and other roads. Nevertheless, in many cases, not only from the point of view of speed but in reducing accidents, motorways have been found most effective. I can assure the noble Lord that the amount spent on motorways and road construction has gone down and is going down.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness agree that, bearing in mind the expense of building motorways —and we have to have a national network—tolls on motorways might be the answer?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, that is a further question and I could not possibly answer it without notice.


My Lords, will my noble friend ask her honourable friend to have another look at this matter? A large amount of land is going to be taken from agriculture for this purpose in order to save a few minutes additional travel time and there is already a network of other A1 roads and a rail network capable of carrying long-distance traffic. In view of the financial stringency that the nation is now facing, and the serious financial difficulties railways are now in, will the Government consider this?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, at the present moment, as my noble friend is aware, my Department are preparing a policy review on the whole of transport. All the points raised by my noble friend are under consideration. We should await that report before taking matters any further.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain whether any conclusion has been reached regarding the Winchester by-pass?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, that is a different question. It is a rather detailed matter, and the question of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was on motorways.


My Lords, will the noble Baroness say something about agricultural land, which has been mentioned specifically but has been omitted from her answers? Will she agree that some of the earlier motorway construction was very extravagant in the amount of agricultural land taken for unnecessarily wide verges? Will she stress to her colleagues the importance of seeing that the minimum agricultural land is taken when, on balance, it is deemed necessary to use such land to construct a motorway?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, it is always a specific policy to try to avoid taking good agricultural land for new roads. Wherever possible land of a lower grade is used. I can tell the noble Lord that the remainder of the trunk road programme up to 1985 will take only 0.05 per cent. of the total land in rural areas. We are very aware of this.


My Lords, regarding the use of agricultural land for the highway system of this country—which seems to he the topic in question at the moment—is my noble friend aware that the compensation paid by Her Majesty's Government is adequate and nobody from the agricultural industry who owns the land can offer any form of objection to the compensation paid?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, my noble friend is probably correct, but I think that is a different question.


Yes, my Lords, but does wheat grow out of compensation?

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, in the light of that intervention, may I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are some 30 speakers who wish to take part in our debate. The Question in front of us is: what motorways will be started, completed and extended? I hope the House will agree with me that we have gone very wide of that Question.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she can tell us what the figure she quoted means in terms of acres of agricultural land?

Several Noble Lords