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Road Programme

Volume 645: debated on Wednesday 26 July 1961

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asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the need for the road programme to be expanded forthwith to at least twice its present size; and whether he expects to make a statement before the Summer Recess with regard to his plans for expanding present expenditure on the roads.

We are already devoting a large proportion of our resources to the road programme, and it would be wrong for me in present circumstances to hold out any hope of an increase of the order suggested by the hon. Member.

Was the right hon. Gentleman in the House yesterday when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, in the field of public expenditure, it is essential to see that priority is given to whatever directly affects national efficiency and that we should not wastefully disrupt programmes under way? Will the right hon. Gentleman insist that the Chancellor recognises that a great improvement in our roads is absolutely essential to national efficiency?

That is why we have the biggest programme this year that we have ever had.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he intends to take any steps this year to free the Selby toll bridge?

I can answer that categorically. I do not intend to take any steps this year to free Selby toll bridge.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement will be viewed with great concern by all road users? Although, as we freely admit, the programme is a large one, it is still not large enough. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if long-term programmes are to be cut down because of the economic situation, this nation will be the first to suffer?

There is an overload on the building industry at the present time. For example, there are 1,111 vacancies for carpenters in London and the South-East but only about 230 carpenters registered as unemployed. Merely to announce an astronomical figure, as was suggested in the Question, would be disastrous.