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Jane Griffiths (Reading, East): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, especially for not including in it any schemes that have a direct impact on my constituency. The last thing the Reading area requires is more roads. The Thames valley is already congested, and the solution is not to build more roads.

I am pleased to welcome my right hon. Friend's statement that we require an holistic approach to our transport problems. Will he reassure me that the proposed London to Reading corridor study will take an holistic and cross-departmental approach and will not just consider the need to increase capacity along that corridor?

Dr. Reid: Agreed, welcomed and assured.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Does the Minister recognise that the vast bulk of traffic, both private and business, will continue to use the roads as a result of individual decisions made by private motorists and businesses? Will he give the House an undertaking that he will not seek to penalise and to drive off the road, either through neglect of the road system or by other penalties, the vast majority of decision makers who want to use the roads for their own purposes?

Dr. Reid: What will drive people off the roads is the awful congestion in some places. The Government fully support real freedom of choice, but that means the ability to move one's car at more than 2 mph, which is impossible in many parts of the country. Of course we have no intention of adopting a dictatorial or penal attitude. We want to give the motorist and the business man choice, but, in order to do that, we have to use the full range of the assets that we have for moving from A to B. That means taking an integrated, holistic approach involving persuasion, education and putting money into other forms of transport as well as the road network. Throughout, we have followed a broad and balanced approach; it is right for the motorist, for the business man and for our quality of life--as well as for the number of journeys undertaken.

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): The people of Kegworth in north-west Leicestershire will welcome the fact that safety and health remain the criteria

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for decisions on bypasses. They will be deeply disappointed, however, that it was not possible to go ahead with the A6 bypass, because the projected line of that route and the need for it have existed for 50 years. Will the Minister reassure the people of that area, which lies at the congested heart of the east midlands transport infrastructure, that it might be possible to go ahead with the A6 element of the rather wider scheme in respect of junctions 23A to 25 of the M1, about which I am agnostic? The need for the A6 bypass remains acute.

Dr. Reid: The schemes have not been abandoned, but put on hold for further study. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to have a 50-year timetable and simply add names to the list. The reason schemes were taken off the list was that we were not convinced that they could start within seven years and we did not want to make illusory promises. However, they have certainly not been entirely abandoned.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest): My constituents in Epping Forest will be disappointed that the planned improvement to the M11 motorway there has been cancelled. Although I appreciate that the Minister has been in his post for only a few days and may not have had a chance to consider this aspect of the Government's policy, they will be more concerned that he has given no indication as to whether he plans to revise the congestion forecast, because it does not appear that anything said today or last week will improve congestion at all. Can the Minister confirm that today's announcement proves that the Government are willing to sacrifice the efficient and effective road network upon which business and industry depend in order to please Swampy and his friends?

Dr. Reid: The whole thrust of what I said today is that we have to tackle congestion, but the previous approach of using one exclusive instrument--building more roads--has patently failed. We have to achieve our objective through a breadth of measures and by taking an holistic and integrated approach to all forms of transport.

Mr. Ian Pearson (Dudley, South): Can the Minister confirm that proposals for a western orbital motorway drawn up by the previous Government are now totally dead and will not form part of the west midlands area study? It does not take a genius to recognise that in a hugely densely populated and industrial area such as Birmingham and the black country, building new roads is not the answer. There is no space for priority bus lanes, so an effective network of light and heavy rail is absolutely essential. I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post in the hope that his departmental officials will tell him that although light rail does not provide value for money compared with buses, it is the only possible solution for 3.5 million people in the west midlands.

Dr. Reid: There are a lot of questions there. We are building the Birmingham northern relief road. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's comments to my officials, who have no doubt heard them already. I shall write to him on the other detailed points.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire): I strongly support what the Minister has said about new

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roads, which will promote economic growth and sustain industry and employment. With that in mind, will he end the delay over Dunstable's A5 north-south bypass; and could we proceed with new, urgently needed roads in south Bedfordshire to sustain industry and employment?

Dr. Reid: The study about which I have written to the hon. Gentleman will also consider the A5 at Dunstable.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to his post and I agree with the thrust of his statement. I also welcome what he has said about the A66 and the decisions that have been made since the Government came to power. Does he accept that a new deal for the A66 would require dualling from Scotch Corner to Penrith? There has been an all-party campaign on that for the past decade and a half, with the full support of the CBI.

Dr. Reid: We recognise that there is a serious problem and we shall carry out a safety study of the A66. It will be for the regional planning conference to consider its priority for investment.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): May I add my congratulations to the Minister on his promotion? Given that there are no schemes approved or even targeted for my constituency, will he confirm that shire counties such as Surrey will have a proper increase in the budget transferred under the standard spending assessment in the way that he has described? Will he be prepared to meet delegations from areas such as Surrey, where long delayed bypass schemes have now been put further into the future? If the Chancellor cuts the budget further after three years so that even some of the seven-year schemes miss their target, will he apologise to the House and the country?

Dr. Reid: The hon. Gentleman speaks as though the previous Government had a 10-year agreement, or even a three-year agreement. They had a one-year agreement. We have an agreement for at least three years of stability--and up to seven years with investment. The previous Government never remotely approached that.

The news about the A3 Hindhead improvement will be disappointing for the hon. Gentleman, but the project could not be started in sufficient time for us to include it in the target list. Under the old method, it would have been on a list, like every other project, but that would have been a list of paper roads leading nowhere. We would rather put up practical proposals that are feasible and funded.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): On the question of providing jobs and employment, has my right hon. Friend looked at the recommendations of the coalfields task force, set up by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister? The recommendations involve road programmes that will lead to the prospect of many jobs--15,000 in north Derbyshire. Will those projects be given priority?

Dr. Reid: I have announced a number of improvements in the coalfield areas. We are studying that issue further. A report is coming in October.

My hon. Friend properly points out that we have to consider economic development, jobs and regeneration. We are having a balanced review. For many decades,

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Governments took only one view, irrespective of the environmental consequences. It would be wrong to swing the other way and say that every decision had to be based on environmental consequences, irrespective of the effects on jobs and regeneration. Throughout the Department, led by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, we are trying to promote a balanced view, an integrated transport system, interdepartmental work and an holistic solution to the problems--because the old way did not work.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Although the inclusion of the A41 Aston Clinton bypass in the targeted programme of improvements is welcome--I genuinely thank the Minister for that--does he recognise that my constituents will be gravely disappointed that the previous construction date of 2002 has been scrapped? I remind him in no spirit of political partisanship--my Government did not construct the bypass either--that my constituents have waited 61 years. There has been a 40 per cent. increase in traffic flows over the past five years and there are now 30,000 vehicle movements each day through the village. In the light of the diet of accident, injury and death that my constituents have had to swallow, will the Minister bear in mind their pressing claim for the earliest possible construction date for the bypass?


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