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By-Pass, Medway Towns

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 27 October 1954

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52.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has a further statement to make about the proposed Rochester by-pass road.

The necessary survey work for the Medway towns bypass, of which the Rochester by-pass forms part, is virtually completed, but before I can decide whether to publish the scheme on the line of route proposed I must consult further with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture because of the considerable agricultural interests involved. Whatever line is proposed for this difficult route will be open to objections, and a public inquiry may be needed. It will, therefore, be some time before the line is fixed, and I can only say that I am fully aware of the importance of this project and shall hope to fit it into an early year of the road programme after the scheme is made.

Can the Minister explain in what circumstances he met an unofficial deputation which included the Conservative prospective Parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Chatham? Would not a responsible Minister agree this is a procedure which should not be encouraged?

I must reserve to myself my judgment as to who comes to see me, if they wish to see me. I was influenced in respect of this particular deputation—

Wait for it—by the fact that it included the mayors of two of the boroughs concerned.

I should like your protection, Mr. Speaker, in this matter. As an elected Member of this House, I extracted from the local Press a leading article and other Press comments and sent them to the Minister, asking for his observations. It was three months before I got a reply. As a Member of this House, I consider that I have not been treated properly.

No one would regret more than I any discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will take it from me that none was intended. I will certainly look into the point which he has now made, because any personal discourtesy to him would be a thing I should regret.

Would not the Minister agree that, generally speaking, Members of Parliament on both sides of the House are the people who ought to have preferential consideration in making representations of this sort? Is it not open to abuse if prospective Parliamentary candidates are brought into competition with the elected representatives of the people?

I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman that hon. Members on both sides of the House are generally understood to have very special rights in this matter, but I cannot refuse to receive a deputation which includes the civic heads of two of the boroughs concerned simply because a prospective Parliamentary candidate is included in it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, quite apart from the parochial irritation shown in this Question, he will have the support of industry, local authorities and road safety committees throughout the country in giving a higher priority to improvements such as the Rochester by-pass than appears to be given at the moment?

If my hon. Friend will study the terms of my original answer he will see that I acknowledge the importance of this very valuable scheme.