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Road Works

Volume 887: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to ensure that there is no delay in road works and other infrastructure requirements in areas of Scotland affected by oil-related development.

Priority is given to finance for oil-related road and other infrastructure schemes, and extra assistance has been provided for local authorities in areas affected.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that production targets for North Sea oil have already lagged behind? How much of this is due to lack of infrastructure in the oil-related areas? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, because of the snail-like decision-making progress of his roads department, there are many important schemes, in my constituency in particular, which are being held up? What does he propose to do to speed them up?

If the hon. Gentleman will put down Questions about specific road schemes, I shall answer them. I do not accept his charges either about road schemes or generally. Under the Conservative Government there were considerable delays not only in road schemes but on the infrastructure generally. If the suggestion is that there were no delays, I remind hon. Members that the oil programme has certainly not been held up because of delays in the infrastructure under this Government.

Is the Minister aware that the Clyde Estuary is an important area for oil-related developments? Why is the Secretary of State still refusing to give the go-ahead for a motorway connection between Hunterston, one of these centres, and the M8 or the M74, in spite of repeated promises by himself and his Conservative predecessor? When will he do something?

I do not accept my hon. Friend's charges. Oil-related developments get priority. There are constraints on the road programme generally, as there are on all other programmes of public expenditure.

Since it is important to get on with this work during the coming summer, will the Minister say when the local authorities will be told finally what extra grants they will get, for instance, for schools, roads and housing?

I think that the schools figures are already out. There is absolutely no restraint on housing expenditure by local authorities, not only in oil-related areas but on any housing construction anywhere in Scotland.

Does the Minister accept that lack of housing is the greatest deterrent to improving the pace of the oil programme? Does he further accept that there is a very serious need to house properly the people already living in those areas, let alone the additional housing which will be required? Are the Government about to make a statement about additional resources or ideas they may have in mind to improve the supply of housing, particularly in the North-East?

There is no constraint on housing development other than the constraints which arise through the physical difficulties of finding the men and materials. There is no constraint on numbers or finance by the Scottish Office. The SSHA is deeply involved in these matters in many areas, including the hon. Member's constituency. It is there specifically in that case, however, to provide for incoming workers in accordance with the economic expansion programme. The provision of housing for the existing population is basically a local authority responsibility. We have had excellent co-operation from the local authorities and they are under no restraint from central Government.

If the Minister is so pleased with what his Government are doing to help in these oil-related areas, why has the school building programme been slashed? In the county of Kincardineshire it has been cut to 11,000 for the whole year.

The hon. Member should listen to the answer. There is no cut in the provision of roofs over heads. In the oil-related areas, particularly where there is an expansion of population, school provision is being made simultaneously and correspondingly.