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Volume 872: debated on Wednesday 10 April 1974

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what time scale he envisages for the A9 improvements, north of Inverness; and if he will make a statement

Two road contracts have been let, but the completion of the new route across the Black Isle will be determined largely by the building of the Kessock Bridge, which I expect will take about three years. Design work is progressing well and my right hon. Friend hopes to invite tenders later this year. Improvements further north will be undertaken as fast as resources allow

That is a satisfactory answer. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it highlights the importance given by the previous Government to contracts and planning in oil-related areas in this region. However, will he undertake that there will be no reduction in the type of structure or road construction which was planned by the previous Government?

I do not think that that point has been considered. The complaints were, and probably still are, that the construction was not adequate

Will the Minister reconsider the question of making this road a dual carriageway throughout its length? Is he aware that I was extremely sorry to receive a letter from the Minister of State in another place indicating that while he was committed to it before the election he has now changed his mind? Will the hon. Gentleman change his mind back again?

I do not think the hon. Member received a letter from me. I do not remember having any views about the A9 before the election. However, my present view is that it is an extremely expensive scheme. The estimated cost was £60 million, but the actual cost will be considerably greater than that. It is in the light of that—and I hope later to be able to give the House more accurate information—that the matter must be considered

Does the Minister not realise that the development of this road is fundamental to the development and support of oil generally in that part of Scotland? Will the Minister confirm or deny reports in the Press this week from Inverness County Council that the Government are contemplating cuts in the programme? The previous Government certainly intended to go ahead with it

I am not aware of those reports. I am, however, aware that the road is important for North Sea oil developments, but the expense which the previous Government undertook to meet is likely to be a serious underestimate.