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Motorways (Construction)

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1961

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9.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in order to expedite the construction of cross-country long-distance motorways, he will authorise that such roads in future be developed by private enterprise and local authorities jointly, the capital required being serviced by tolls, in cases where the necessary finance is forthcoming.

This is an interesting suggestion. Legislation would be needed to enable tolls to be charged. I feel sure, too, that Parliament would wish to consider very carefully any proposal to allow local authorities to use for the profit of private interests the powers given them to construct motorways, including the right to acquire land compulsorily and to close private accesses. In any case, it is doubtful if proposals on these lines would expedite the provision of long-distance motorways, in view of the extent to which civil engineering resources are already very heavily committed.

While appreciating that much has been and is being done now for new road construction, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that it is absolutely clear that much more needs to be done? If the limiting factor of additional new road construction is the amount of capital which can be provided, surely it would be just as well to get this new capital from any source that may be available. Would the Minister keep this matter under consideration and perhaps take the view that the right responsibility of government is to build new roads in the cities and for private enterprise to build outside them?

I will certainly keep this under consideration, as we are doing. The limiting factor is not so much cash, as it were, but the resources of the industry, especially skilled men. What has disturbed me a lot recently is the reduced number of bids that we get when we put out schemes to tender. Also, the prices are higher, which indicates that the resources of the industry are strained to the utmost.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many counties, such as Dorset, only see railway lines closing and have no hope for twenty years of new roads; and that this is a very serious problem for them?