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Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): I wish the Minister Godspeed in dealing with all the studies to which he has committed himself today. There is no time scale for the west midlands area study. For how long will business commuters and home owners continue to suffer from the uncertainty over proposals for motorways in their area?

Dr. Reid: I am aware that the hon. Lady is concerned about blight in her area. The widening of the M42 has been remitted to the west midlands area study, which will address congestion and environmental problems in and around Birmingham and the black country. It will consider the wide range of measures to which I referred earlier, including those that have already been included in the metropolitan transport package.

The hon. Lady need not doubt my capacity for study. I have always taken the simple view that it is better to think before acting--although I understand that that has not always been regarded in every quarter as rational.

Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness): I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on his appointment and I wish him well for the future. I strongly welcome the strategies and principles that underpin the roads review that he has announced today. At long last, the Government are getting a grip on the shambles we inherited from the Conservative Government.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Government have today announced that they will not be proceeding with the immediate construction of the Low High Newton bypass on the A590, which is near my constituency--even though the existing plans were endorsed and approved by a full planning inspector's report two years ago. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the review of the environmental impact of the road on the Lake District national park--a perfectly understandable review--will be injected with a sense of urgency so that my constituents can look forward to improvements to that stretch of the road, for which they have been waiting for a long time, and which the previous Government failed to deliver?

Mr. Jenkin: It was in our programme.

Dr. Reid: Everything was in the previous Government's programme, but nothing was ever delivered.

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I am glad that my hon. Friend appreciates the nature of the problems with the A590 High and Low Newton bypass, to which he has given great support. A balance must be maintained between the economy and the impact on both the built and natural environment. That is one reason why we shall remit the scheme for further study of safety and environmental impacts.

I could not hear whether my hon. Friend mentioned the A66 Temple Sowerby bypass, which I know he has supported previously. It has not been considered for the target list because its time scale is not sufficiently advanced. However, I am glad to tell him that the A66 Stainburn and Great Clifton bypass, which he also supports, has been included in the target list. That should be some compensation.

Judging by the list of roads that my hon. Friend supports, I can only assume that the large campaign that he ran--when, in my previous incarnation, I was Minister for the Armed Forces--to get two huge aircraft carriers through the strategic defence review now requires him to build at least two huge roads to Barrow-in-Furness, where he will hope to build those carriers.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I join other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister on his move to his new post, and thank him for the announcement about the A6 Great Glen bypass in my own constituency of Harborough. The pity is that it is not to be started this year, as was intended under the previous Government.

Mr. Prescott: We did not take it out.

Mr. Garnier: If the Deputy Prime Minister would like to leave the Chamber now, I am sure that we should be delighted to see him go.

What are the funding arrangements for the detrunked A6? Will the money be ring-fenced? Will the Leicestershire county council highways authority be required to ensure that the A6 detrunked road competes for money with its other roads programmes? Will the Minister assure us that the money that is to be set aside for the Great Glen bypass will be available, although we are not quite sure when within the seven-year envelope the road is to be built?

Dr. Reid: I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his--I think it was a welcome. I was not quite sure whether he was saying that, because he wanted the Great Glen bypass last year, our decision to proceed with it now is fatally flawed and he wants us to withdraw it?

Mr. Garnier rose--

Dr. Reid: Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman would like to explain to me later whether he was requesting that we change our mind and not proceed with it. However, I shall take it that he was not asking for that. I have already said that there will be a fair exchange on money for local authorities--which, as we have clearly stated previously, will be done through the standard spending assessment.

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye): I thank my right hon. Friend for the small mercies of the decision on the Lamberhurst bypass, which will enable people to

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travel a little more speedily to Hastings. May I invite him to come to Hastings to see the problems there of deprivation, low skills and high unemployment? The greatest gift would have been the bypass that we so much needed. I appreciate that, in his letter, he said that he is


    "still minded to make orders for that scheme, subject to options in improving access to Hastings."

The argument for a bypass has already been made, over many years. Will he ensure that a very early decision is made on implementation of any review? What time scale is likely to apply?

Dr. Reid: I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome for the Lamberhurst bypass, and realise his deep disappointment on the other matter. Everyone knows--from my short time at the Ministry, even I know--that no one has fought harder than he for his case. He has been absolutely assiduous and energetic in making it. I am also under no illusions that he will now drop his views on the matter, and I realise that he perhaps thinks that we have got it wrong in an extremely important matter. I assure him that either the Secretary of State or I will be pleased to receive representations on the matter should he wish to see us again. I realise just how much importance he places on that specific decision, and I am sorry that I could not be wholly positive about it today.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge): It seems unfair that, so shortly after his appointment, the Minister should have to come to the Dispatch Box to announce, in respect of the M25 in my constituency, precisely the widening which was described by the Labour party in opposition as "madness", which Labour's then spokesman promised to scrap, and which the Labour candidate in my constituency in the general election promised would be scrapped on day one of a Labour Government. The Minister might want to reflect on police statistics which show that people who do U-turns on motorways seldom survive to tell the tale.

However, I welcome the Minister's acknowledgement that a legitimate use of the billions of pounds in tax that the Government are raising from motorists is the alleviation of the environmental impact on the communities through which motorways pass. Will he confirm to my constituents in Thorpe and Egham that when that section of the M25 is widened, the very latest, state-of-the-art absorbent sound barriers and the best possible porous asphalt surfaces will be used to minimise the impact on them?

Dr. Reid: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He would be churlish not to accept that, unlike the previous Government, the present Government have made it clear that noise abatement will be a serious component of our consideration of new roads and the maintenance of old roads, and an important element in the practical remedies.

As for the M25 decision, the hon. Gentleman should be in no doubt that I am not in the least disappointed to be at the Dispatch Box--I am not only pleased but honoured to be here. Lest the hon. Gentleman should be in any further doubt, let me say that there has been no U-turn. The principles that we applied to our consideration outlined before the election by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister are still the principles on which we take decisions. The Deputy Prime Minister has led the team and the review with consistency throughout.

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Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the reality of the world left to us by the Government whom the hon. Gentleman supported. Just one section of the M25 is so bad that there is no conceivable alternative to going ahead with the widening. To do anything else would mean inflicting on something like 200,000 motorists a day more of the misery that they had to suffer during the 18 years of the previous Government.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. The statement has been running for more than an hour. I recognise its importance to Members, but I can let it run for so long only if I have Members' co-operation, which I am not getting. Instead, I am getting long statements and long questions. I want brisk questions to the Minister, and I think that I shall have the Minister's co-operation when he responds. I want to do right by Back Benchers who have an interest in the matter, but they must do right by me and by the House.


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