Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Dr. Reid: There is never a greater exercise in circumlocution than a Conservative with good news from a Labour Government trying to make out that it is all the product of the previous Conservative Government. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt welcome the fact that the Clapham bypass and the Great Barford A421 bypass, which he supports, are in our targeted programme. The Tempsford junction improvements, which he supports, have been given the go-ahead following a positive recommendation by the inspector who held the public inquiry in February. I should have thought that it would be sufficient just to give plaudits to the Government for their wise decisions without demanding the exact day on which the schemes will start.

Mr. John McWilliam (Blaydon): I congratulate my right hon. Friend both on his statement and promotion; mind you, it is the first time that he has been PC in his life. Will he confirm that the improvements, which are being designed with the local authority, to the A1 bypass in my constituency in the vicinity of the Metro centre are in the programme, because I have not received my letter yet, and whether the necessary safety improvements to the A1 north of Morpeth, which is an extremely dangerous road, are in the programme as well?

Dr. Reid: I thank my hon. Friend for his politically correct remarks. I have to admit my ignorance on that particular scheme. I will see him immediately afterwards. I have not, in the three days that I have been at the Department, been able to remember all 137 decisions, but I shall ensure that the answer is communicated to him as quickly as possible.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): I warmly welcome the Minister's commitment to build the Stonehenge project within seven years. He knows that he can rely on me to give him every encouragement to ensure that it actually happens. Will he join me in thanking the National Trust for its constructive and helpful attitude in abandoning its objections to the building of a road on inalienable property? Will he ensure, however, that a grade separated

31 Jul 1998 : Column 663

junction is built at the western end, and that not only the Winterbourne Stoke bypass, for which we are very grateful, but the Chicklade bypass is built? Perhaps more important, will he explain how the one third of funding for the project is going to come out of the budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and whether that will mean national lottery money, or money that is taken directly from the Department's budget?

Dr. Reid: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for the scheme. On its funding, the details of which I shall communicate to him, I think that he is mistaken, but I shall want to clarify the exact technical details of it and write to him. The scheme does include the bypass of Winterbourne Stoke, as he said. I have noted his comments on the other matters that he has raised.

In general terms, today's decision on Stonehenge is very good news for the House. It shows that we have moved away from the days when we regarded trunk roads or other roads in an isolated fashion, just as concrete and as the only solution on every occasion. We have been able to highlight today our integrated approach by cross-departmental agreement, for which I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, but we have also been able to illustrate that transport is much more than just a link between areas: it is a method of access to elements of our history and heritage and therefore makes a major contribution to the quality of life. We have been able to do that today with the Stonehenge announcement, which is welcome news for the House as well as for the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley): May I express my delight at the fantastic, magnificent and far-sighted announcement that the A650 Bingley relief road has been given the go ahead by a Labour Government--something which the Tories failed to do over such a long period? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that scheme will improve the health and environment of my constituents and bring improvements for integrated public transport?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that plans are already in the offing in Bingley to commemorate the local heroes from the ministerial team at the Department? St. John of Bingley is one suggestion that has been made.

Dr. Reid: Because of my hon. Friend's work, this, perhaps of all the announcements, will give greater delight throughout the House than any other. I know that we traditionally have a Father of the House; I do not know whether we have a Child of the House. However, the rational but active and dynamic campaign that my hon. Friend has run on this issue has been a credit to him. Although he has been in the House for only a short period, it bodes extremely well for his future.

The Bingley relief road, of which my hon. Friend has been the most serious and effective advocate, is in our targeted investment programme. It will improve safety and the environment, and I am very glad that we were able to announce the scheme in our statement. Had it been on the list of the previous Government, he may have got it somewhere around his 74th birthday. I am glad that we shall be able to deliver that somewhat earlier.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his promotion.

31 Jul 1998 : Column 664

With regard to the A46 Lincoln to Newark road, I think that the Minister will understand the concern in the county of Lincolnshire. Would he be good enough to tell the House whether he can guarantee that the bypass will be started before the end of the seven-year period, and can he in particular tell us when it will start?

The right hon. Gentleman will also know that three Lincoln roads have been detruncked: the A17 to King's Lynn, the A15 to the M180 and the A57 to Sheffield. They now become the responsibility of the local authority. Is he proposing to transfer to the local authority money to maintain those roads equivalent to what is currently spent under the national responsibility?

Dr. Reid: On the general decision, I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his comments. The A46 Newark to Lincoln improvement is in the targeted programme for a number of reasons. Rational decision making is assisted by the five criteria: accessibility, safety, environment, economic development and integration. This scheme will improve safety, and journey reliability and assist in the regeneration of Lincolnshire, so it was very important that it went through.

On the start date, if we did not believe that the bypass would start within seven years, it would not have been in the target list. We have made hard decisions and schemes were excluded, not because we thought that they were not worthy schemes, but because we had to set a reasonable time frame for the start of schemes before we gave concrete promises. Therefore, I cannot give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the exact date when it will start, but I can assure him that it will be in the programme.

On local authorities, there will be methods of ensuring that a fair amount of money is transferred for maintenance. That will be dealt with in further documentation.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): While joining in the congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on the decisions he has taken, I want also to congratulate him on listening to the earnest pleas of Hull Members of Parliament for the Hedon road improvements, which are important to the economic integrity of Yorkshire, to the full opening of the port to ensure better facilities for our trade with northern Europe, and to the development of land in the area to improve employment prospects. It is a good decision.

When the Minister comes to consider the main motorways, I urge him to promote a campaign for lane discipline. So often on the M1 and the M6, the inside lane is empty while motorists are hogging the central lane, which not only causes great delays but encourages dangerous driving, with people trying to overtake on the inside. It also encourages road rage. A campaign for lane discipline on motorways would go a great way towards solving some of the problems.

Dr. Reid: I have noted my hon. Friend's thanks to our right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The scheme is included in the programme because it met the criteria. It is a good and important scheme which will relieve congestion and create jobs and prosperity. I am glad that the Hedon road scheme on the A1033 is part of our targeted list.

On my hon. Friend's point about the M6, the problems that he identified are important matters of management, which we will be looking at carefully. In a more general

31 Jul 1998 : Column 665

sense, it is precisely one reason why we are shifting the Highways Agency from simply being a road building agency to being an agency that will have to look at and give effect to much wider considerations, including management. It will have to deploy a tool kit of ideas and practical proposals that span a much wider area than just road building. Management, maintenance, upkeep and rational use of our resources have been ignored for years.

The M6 exemplifies the problem. A railway line that is underused runs almost parallel, for miles and miles, to a road that is greatly overused. Surely it is a matter of common sense and balance to consider the two together and determine how to make best use of present resources, as well as considering future road building, rather than exhibiting a knee-jerk reaction to everything and saying, "Let's build a new road." To do that would leave many of our roads in the mess that so many of them were left in when the previous Government left office.

Next Section

IndexHome Page