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Dr. Reid: I am very glad that we have been able to proceed with the bypass at Aston Clinton. From memory, it should take about 70 per cent. of traffic out of that village. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the importance of proceeding early. In the same non-partisan spirit with which he made his remarks, I should point out that, of the 61 years that we have been waiting for the bypass, we have had Tory Governments for 50.

Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford): I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new post, and I welcome today's statement. Does he agree that high priority should go to schemes under which an unimproved stretch of road prevents full realisation of the true value of earlier road investment? There is an example of that in my constituency on the A106, which is the south Thames development road that runs between Greenwich and the M25. It is the main access to the Thames gateway, which presents an important economic opportunity for south-east London and north Kent. Traffic on the road has increased by 50 per cent. in the past five years. Thames road, Crayford, which is a short stretch of road, is the only part of the main artery that has not been dualled. It is creating a bottleneck and substantial difficulty in the area. Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to look again at proposals for widening it?

Dr. Reid: May I, at this stage, respond just to my hon. Friend's general point? Perhaps we could correspond on the specifics. I very much agree with him, which is why we place such stress on maintenance of roads and better use of the existing network. Such priorities must rank alongside consideration of building new roads.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): The Minister has announced plans to build on eight sites of special scientific interest, yet it was a Labour commitment not to build on any. Can he explain that?

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Dr. Reid: Yes, I can explain. We did not say that we would not build on any SSSIs; we said that we would be reluctant to build on them. The fact that we have reduced their number in this context from 49 to eight must, even to the most churlish Conservative, be an indication that we have carried out what we said we would.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): The Minister will be aware that the House has twice passed road traffic reduction measures and has signed up to the Kyoto summit targets on reduction of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Is he prepared to undertake a study of expected traffic growth in the light of today's statement and its long-term pollutive effect?

Dr. Reid: Such matters of course rank in importance. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Deputy Prime Minister not only attended the Kyoto summit but played a major part in it. These matters are already under consideration, and a document on sustainable development will be published in the autumn.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): I have stood up many times in the hope of catching your eye, Madam Speaker; it was certainly wonderful exercise. Does the Minister realise that, as a consequence of his decision to widen the M25 between junctions 12 and 15, the champagne will be flowing in the BAA boardroom this lunchtime? Is he serious about reducing congestion and the number of cars on that stretch of motorway? Has any consideration been given to designating a lane of the existing motorway for buses, other public transport and laden cars?

Dr. Reid: I think that the people who will be celebrating are those who now have to deal with the rat-running alongside the M25 that makes their lives a misery. That is one of the factors that we had to take into consideration in reaching the decision. As for the hon. Lady's more general points, the answer is yes. I will clarify further details for her if she wishes to communicate with me.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Many of my constituents will be extremely pleased with his comments about the Bingley relief road, and they will also wish to join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie) on his well-organised and forceful campaign. In the long term, although the relief road is welcome and I am pleased about it, it cannot be a solution in itself. The Aire valley is narrow, and we need to consider improving bus services and rail services on the Aire valley railway. We could even consider using the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The statement tells us that the A650 Hard Ings road improvement will be replaced by a scaled-down solution. That is a narrow stretch of road between two lots of dual carriageway, and it forms a dreadful bottleneck right in the middle of my constituency. How scaled down will the solution be?

Dr. Reid: I can write to my hon. Friend about her last question. As for her second point, she will know that transport provision other than the roadways is already being considered. I have already paid tribute to the

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campaign for the Bingley relief road, but, at the end of the day, like all the other schemes, the plan met the new criteria that we have outlined; that is why it is there.

Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): In what respect will the widening of the M25 be good for the environment; and in what respect is it integrated?

Dr. Reid: The hon. Gentleman will understand that those factors need to be balanced, and none of them can be taken in isolation. Even the strongest opponent of motorway building and widening would accept that there is a particular problem with that stretch of road. If he is asking me about the pollution effects, he will know about those as well as I do. Thousands of cars parked together belching smoke into the air present what is probably the most obvious example.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud): I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend, and welcome in particular what he said about the help with combating noise pollution. I pay tribute to the previous Minister responsible for roads, Baroness Hayman, who was interested in and concerned about that matter. I urge my right hon. Friend to deal with the problem facing my constituents who live at Upton St. Leonards alongside the M5. Their houses are far too close to the motorway, and have no protection against the noise. I am sure that that situation is replicated throughout the length and breadth of this country.

Dr. Reid: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He will have noted that we are emphasising for the first time a commitment not only to examine noise pollution but to do something about it.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): I welcome the Minister's statement that he plans to ring-fence investment funds for safety measures and target them on small-scale improvements. Will he review the criteria now used to prioritise safety improvement schemes, because to some of us they seem both byzantine and counter-intuitive? When he has done that, and based those criteria on common sense, will he take another look at the case for safety barriers on the Kingston A3 bypass?

Dr. Reid: I think that it would test the patience of the House if I spontaneously announced yet another review of the criteria used to review safety elements, but I am glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the scheme to spend up to £50 million on safety measures, with a maximum, I think, of £5 million for any one scheme over a number of years. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to write to me I shall take his comments into consideration, but I would not like to promise another review ad hoc.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment and welcome his roads statement today. I welcome especially his decision to withdraw from the roads programme the widening of the M1 between junctions 10 and 14 where it passes through my constituency. I am sure that the Minister realises that that is one of the few places along its route where the M1 passes very close to dwellings. As a result of the uncertainty generated by the previous Government,

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a deal of blight has been created and many residents are very upset. The correct decision has been made today; but will my right hon. Friend give sympathetic and urgent consideration to dealing with that blight in the near future?

Dr. Reid: Yes. My hon. Friend makes the point and gives the reasons for our decision as well as, if not better than, I could.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his impressive performance at the Dispatch Box on a tricky subject so soon after his appointment. While the widening of the M6 motorway through Staffordshire is on hold pending studies, will my right hon. Friend confirm whether three things will happen? First, will the trunk roads that are possible alternative routes be maintained and improved? Secondly, will the west coast main line be upgraded to attract more passengers and freight? Thirdly, I know that my right hon. Friend's Department has studied the genuine bottleneck on the M6 between junctions 10 and 6. Will there be action as a result of that study?

Dr. Reid: My hon. Friend threw three questions at me. I think that the answers are: yes, yes and yes. There will be action when we have completed the study.


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