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Roads (Expenditure)

Volume 894: debated on Thursday 26 June 1975

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the extent of Government cuts in expenditure in the current roads programme in Northern Ireland.

Over the next four years, financial provision on the roads programme in Northern Ireland has been cut by approximately £14 million from the figure of £197·8 million shown in the January Public Expenditure White Paper (Cmnd. 5879). As a result of the reduction in public expenditure announced by the Chancellor in his Budget speech, further cutbacks in the roads programme may be necessary. The programme is under review and it is not possible to give precise figures at the present time.

Although I acknowledge the need for the stringent control of public expenditure in the present situation, will not the Minister concede that, in view of the abandonment of the Great Northern Railway line between Portadown and Londonderry, first priority should be given to the Dungannon Bypass and to the Strabane Throughpass out of whatever money is available? This would be to implement the promises of various administrations to provide an adequate road system to make up for the loss of the railway.

I am tempted to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he has a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). All the Northern Ireland programmes are at present under review, and only when my right hon. Friend has studied the full effects of the Budget cuts will it be possible to determine individual programmes or parts of them. I may say that the Dungannon Bypass is pretty high in the list of priorities of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.

Can the Minister tell us how the M2 motorway will be affected by this cut?

I do not want to get involved in individual projects. They are all being studied. The programme is under review, and we shall give details of the various schemes as soon as possible.

Are these cuts in the work programme directly related to Government subsidies being made available to Harland and Wolff?

In the case of the pre-Budget cuts, yes, partly. In relation to the Budget cuts, no.