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Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Column 154O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Pike, Peter L.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Reid, Dr John
Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Wareing, Robert N
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Young, David (Bolton SE)
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Jon Owen Jones and
Mr. Keith Hill.
Question accordingly agreed to .
That the draft Railways Pension Scheme Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved.
That the draft Railway Pensions (Protection and Designation of Schemes) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 102(9) (European Standing Committees),
-- That this House takes note of the European Community Document No. 4715/94 and the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Department of Education on 9th May 1994, relating to education and training (SOCRATES programme) ; supports the Government's view that the SOCRATES programme will offer helpful opportunities for schools, colleges and universities in the United Kingdom to develop the European dimension in particular through support for language learning ; and welcomes the Government's efforts to secure a progamme which respects the principle of subsidiarity and which offers value for money.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Question agreed to.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.). That the draft International Transport Conventions Act 1983 (Amendment) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 26th January, be approved.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Question agreed to.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.). That the draft Education (National Curriculum) (Foundation Subjects at Key Stage 4) Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 9th May, be approved.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Question agreed to.
That Mr. Terry Davis be discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts and Mr. Alan Milburn be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Lightbown.]
Mr. Malcolm Moss (Cambridgeshire, North-East) : I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the important matter of the A47 trunk road improvements. I thank colleagues and particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) and for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Carttiss), who both have a keen constituency interest in the road, for being here at this late hour for the debate. I also thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his attendance to reply to the debate.
I have to declare an interest and I do so with some ambivalence because if the road is dualled it is likely to take half of my front garden. However, the road is important for my constituency and is vital to the long-term economic interests of my constituents. My speech will contain no criticism of the Minister, who has always been extremely courteous and helpful and I have brought deputations to see him on the matter. But, of course, Departments of State get matters wrong and Governments make mistakes. The thrust of my argument will be to show that the Minister and the Department have got it wrong in their proposals for the A47.
We need to set aside emotion. Bypasses and roads are very often the subject of great emotion. I propose to set down the argument tonight, because I believe that the case can be won on its own merits. I would argue for a co- ordinated policy, where Government Departments worked together with an integrated policy for regional development. Improved transport links have as critical an influence on economic development in sparsely populated and relatively isolated peripheral areas as any other single issue. Conversely, to deny regions adequate transport links is to confine them in economic terms to the second division. The A47 in Cambridgeshire came out very badly in the recent trunk road review of the Department of Transport, which set out "the Government's proposals for a revised and prioritised programme".
The 1989 White Paper entitled "Roads for Prosperity" gave as a stated aim
"a greatly expanded motorway and trunk road programme to relieve congestion".
The A47 was designated for dualling along the whole of its length, from Peterborough to Norwich, a total of some 54 miles. There was further endorsement of that policy in the paper "Trunk Roads, England into the 1990s", which confirmed that
"the A47 will become a dual carriageway from the A1 to the west of Peterborough to Norwich."
Schemes in preparation in my constituency on 1 January 1990 included the Peterborough to Thorney improvement--we were promised the preferred route by 1992--and the Thorney bypass, where we were told to expect orders in the winter of 1990-91.
It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the 1994 review decimates those programmes. Lengthy sections of the A47 in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk were withdrawn altogether, including the section between Thorney and Guyhirn. Others were placed in the category of "longer-term improvements". In that category came Peterborough to the west of Thorney, and the Guyhirn to
Column 157Wisbech section, including the Wisbech bypass. As priority 3 schemes, design work will not even start on them for some 10 years, and construction is therefore most unlikely to begin much before 2015. I suppose that I should seek some consolation in that in the sense that my garden will not be lost for another 20 years, but from my constituency point of view, that time lag is quite unacceptable. Although the A47 Walpole to Tilney bypass in west Norfolk was given the go-ahead recently, the only scheme in Cambridgeshire to go into the active programme, and then only as a priority 2, was the Thorney bypass.
The Government's stated objectives for their roads programme, as set out in the 1989 White Paper, and unchanged by this year's trunk road review, is first to assist economic growth by reducing transport costs ; secondly, to improve the environment by removing through traffic from unsuitable roads in towns and villages ; and, thirdly, to enhance road safety. Those objectives would certainly attract universal support, and it is against them that the case for the A47 should be measured.
Let us start with the region's economy. Heavy traffic flows, delays, accidents and over-capacity all put up transport costs and are a serious deterrent to attracting businesses to locate in the region. The design capacity for the single-carriageway A47 is 13,000 vehicles per day. Although the average along the whole of its length is below that at just over 10,000 vehicles per day, that hides significant variations : for example, more than 22,500 vehicles per day on the Eye bypass ; 17,000 vehicles per day between Guyhirn and Wisbech ; and 11,800 vehicles per day between Thorney and Guyhirn. That vehicular flow is seriously exacerbated by the heavy use of the road by agricultural implements at particular times of the year. Overall traffic flow has grown by some 60 per cent. over the past 10 years, equal to an annual growth rate of 5 per cent. per annum. That compares with the national growth in traffic of 40 per cent. over the same period. Forecast increased traffic growth throughout Cambridgeshire is in the order of 45 per cent. to 60 per cent. in the years 1991 to 2006. That compares with a target range of some 30 per cent. to 50 per cent. nationally.
The upgrading of the A47 was a cornerstone of regional development strategy for East Anglia. Regional planning guidance note 6 for East Anglia in 1991, although acknowledging the spectacular success of parts of the region, drew attention to areas of slower growth and higher unemployment in the northern and eastern peripheries and the more remote rural areas--for example, north Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, which are served by the A47.
Wisbech is specifically mentioned in RPG6 as still to attract its share of the economic growth and prosperity enjoyed by the rest of Cambridgeshire. Paragraph 28 states :
"Generally the effect of the trunk road programme . . . will be to reduce the remoteness of the less prosperous areas and assist in providing more opportunities for economic development in them." Paragraph 29, however, goes on to say that the development framework for the region is expected to provide for
"some dispersal of investment in jobs from the more prosperous and congested areas in the west and Cambridge in particular, to those areas to the east and north, where the improvement in trunk roads is expected to increase their attractiveness for economic
Column 158development and growth."
It is debatable whether the issue could be stated more clearly and unequivocally.
The strategy was fully endorsed by the Standing Conference of East Anglian Local Authorities, which concluded that
"investment in the A11/A47 will enhance the prospects for Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Wisbech, and the Rural Development Areas." Although the A11 is scheduled for improvements, a failure to improve the road network in the northern and eastern parts of the region will threaten the prospects for growth and investment in the most economically disadvantaged part of East Anglia."
Support for the strategy does not stop with SCEALA, however. Cambridgeshire county council, Peterborough city council, Fenland district council and Kings Lynn and West Norfolk borough council are all very supportive of the dualling of the A47. In its structure plan review--deposit plan 1993-- Cambridgeshire county council indicated that, where investment in roads was necessary, priority would be given to schemes that stimulated economic development and employment growth in the north and east of the county, and both Peterborough and Wisbech are identified target centre locations for generating employment. The unemployment statistics for Wisbech underline the point. In 1989, the unemployment rate in Cambridgeshire as a whole was 2.7 per cent. ; in the Wisbech travel-to-work area, it was 4.5 per cent. In 1991, the rate in Cambridgeshire as a whole was 6.2 per cent. ; it was 8.7 per cent. in Wisbech. In 1993, it was 7.6 per cent. and a substantial 11.4 per cent. in the Wisbech travel-to-work area. Through its scrutiny and acceptance of the Cambridgeshire structure plan and RPG6, the Department of the Environment has accepted the logic of the case for development and road improvements to go hand in hand ; but another Department--the Department of Trade and Industry--has had an even more direct involvement in the economy of the region. In 1993, after successful lobbying, several areas in East Anglia were designated intermediate assisted areas. It will come as no surprise to hon. Members that two of those areas were the Wisbech and Great Yarmouth travel-to-work areas. The single ingredient that those areas have in common is their dependence on the A47. Separately, but at about the same time, a case was submitted to the European Commission in Brussels--strongly supported by both the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment--for parts of East Anglia to qualify for EC structural funds under objective 5b status, the category dealing with areas suffering from significant unemployment in agriculture. In recognition of the relative economic disadvantage of the region, four areas were designated under objective 5b, two of which straddle the A47. Again, the Wisbech travel-to-work area and part of west Norfolk featured strongly, together with mid-Norfolk--based on Swaffham--and Lowestoft.
The other European dimension is the lobby to include the A47 in the trans- European road network, on the basis of its potential importance as a strategic route linking mainland Europe with the rest of the United Kingdom. It is understood that the Department of Transport sought the inclusion of the A47 in that network, but that that was not
Column 159accepted by the Commission because of the absence of a roll-on, roll-off link from Great Yarmouth to mainland Europe.
Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth) : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Mannin line roll on/roll off ferry from Great Yarmouth to Ijmuiden has doubled its sailings since the loss of the Norfolk line connection with Schevenigen in Holland two years ago ? With the addition to the European Union, which we shall shortly welcome, of Sweden, Norway and Finland, the route through Ijmuiden into northern Europe and Scandinavia becomes even more important. The need for the A47 not only to be dualled beyond Norwich to Great Yarmouth--what we call the Acle straight--but its designation, with the support of the Government, as a trans-European network becomes more important with the expansion of the European Union than it was before, and it was important before.