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Roads (Planning Inquiries)

Volume 941: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve the roads inquiry procedure; and whether he will make a statement.

A review of highway inquiry procedures is well advanced. I hope to announce the outcome before too long.

Has the Secretary of State received the report of the Council on Tribunals? If so, will he tell the House whether its recommendations are included in any action that he intends to take to improve the procedure?

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the work of the Council on Tribunals. We are having discussions with the Council. I shall inform the House of the outcome of these discussions as soon as they are complete.

Is the report on tribunals procedure likely to come before or after March? Will it come before or after the inquiry into the A2 stretch of the Rochester Way, in Woolwich?

I hope that it will come before March, but I do not want to be committed to that date. It will come as soon as possible. There are real problems, and I want to try to relieve any anxieties if I can.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would save public funds if public inquiries took place immediately after the announcement of preferred routes rather than two years or more later, when a great deal of public money might have been spent on purchasing blighted property or on making plans for the route preferred by the Minister which a public inquiry might reject?

I am in favour of speeding up these procedures, if possible. However, if we consult the public in the way that we do today—I think rightly—and follow that by a public inquiry, it will always take much longer than the actual process of construction.

I recognise the need for improved procedures and welcome the Government's efforts to improve them. However, will the Secretary of State ensure that representations are not restricted to those who shout the loudest?

Yes. The task of Ministers, in so far as they make decisions, and, obviously, the task of public inquiries, is to take account of all points of view. Sometimes those who express these less forcefully have an interest that should be respected.