§ Lord Clinton-Davis
asked Her Majesty's Government:
In the light of the report of the National Audit Office criticising the fact that the Government's motorway main bridge and upgrading programme has fallen behind schedule, coupled with deterioration in the bridges, whether they accept this criticism, what reasons they give for this position and what action they propose to take to remedy it.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen)
The National Audit Office report,Highways Agency: The Bridge Programme (HC 282), reports factually on the amount of work that has been completed in the bridge 50WA programme and its various subprogrammes, in relation both to the planned 15-year overall programme which was launched in November 1987, and to the target of January 1999 for completion of the assessment and strengthening subprogrammes. The report also deals with the levels of defects of various kinds and the reasons for them, and contains a great deal of background information. For example, the report notes that the age profile of the agency's bridge stock means that, during the period of the comparison, there was an increase in the number of structures requiring their first full maintenance. By convention, reports of the National Audit Office are agreed with the department concerned before publication, and the Government's response to issues raised is given first by the Accounting Officer in reply to questions put by the Public Accounts Committee. There is no question that any bridges are unsafe.