HL Deb 27 July 1979 vol 401 cc2155-7

11.24 a.m.

Lord O'NEILL of the MAINE

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it would not be better and much cheaper to complete the dual carriageway from the northern end of the Winchester by-pass to the southern end of the M.3 rather than go on waiting for agreement on an eventual line for continuing the M.3 to Southampton.


My Lords, I am glad to say that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has just received the inspector's Report of the public inquiry into proposals for the Popham to Compton section of the M.3. I hope the noble Lord will understand that it would not be proper for me to comment at this stage on a possible alternative to the proposals which were discussed at the inquiry, or on the merits of these proposals.

Lord O'NEILL of the MAINE

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord is aware that this question has been going on now for many years. This is the main road from London to Southampton. Vast articulated lorries go hurtling down what was originally a Roman road, the A.33. All that is required is about 3½ miles of dual carriageway to join the end of the M.3 to the northern end of the Winchester by-pass.


My Lords, as I said before to the noble Lord, in another debate, it was a very long inquiry and many contentious issues were raised. I must remind the House that the Inspector was taken ill at the end of last year. Considering that, I should like at this stage to pay tribute to the Inspector for the way that he has published the report so quickly. Regarding the last remarks of my noble friend, I think that what I said originally still applies: it would be improper for me to comment.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there is an excellent precedent for what the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, has suggested in the shape of the A1 trunk road where stretches of pure motorway, notably the Baldock and Stevenage by-passes and the Doncaster by-pass, alternate with stretches of ordinary dual carriageway? This works very well. Will the noble Lord agree that this way of doing things prevents undue burdens being heaped on the taxpayer, prevents the dislocation of ordinary people's lives that the construction of new motorways implies, and, above all, prevents further desecration of what is left of English countryside?


My Lords, I appreciate all the points. The Doncaster by-pass was an M road, part of the link-up with the M.1 for the rest of Northern England. All these matters are very important. It is a sign of the importance that both Governments—that of noble Lords opposite and our Government—attach to this matter that when we do it we want to get it right.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, can the noble Lord give an indication whether we are likely to know what is the Minister's decision on the Inspector's report when we return in October? I accept that it would be foolish to go ahead and build this stretch of road if we are going to be in a position at long last to go ahead with the proper M.3 motorway. Secondly, can the noble Lord say whether the present Government are endorsing and continuing the view of the previous Government, whereby it is not necessary to cut great swathes from the countryside for new motorways but we can alleviate the situation, where possible, by by-passes?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that both my right honourable friends the Minister of Transport and the Secretary of State for the Environment wish to reach the decision as soon as possible. The noble Baroness and noble Lords will appreciate that it will take some time to consider the report on such a long and complex inquiry. Regarding the noble Baroness's last question, I am happy to tell her and the House that the document I referred to the other day when answering the Question of my noble friend Lord Caithness on our policy on trunk roads was placed in the Library by me this morning. It has been published today. So noble Lords will see that we do take action as soon as possible.