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M1-M62-A1 (Road Link)

Volume 975: debated on Wednesday 5 December 1979

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21.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress is being made in the public inquiry into the proposed M1-M62-A1 road link; and what is the present estimated date for the start and completion of the whole scheme.

The inquiry is proceeding reasonably well. The issues involved are wide-ranging and there is much detailed evidence yet to be presented. Inevitably, the inquiry will continue for some months. I cannot make any forecast about construction of the scheme at this stage.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Is he aware that the 2 million people of the West Yorkshire conurbation regard this link as extremely important, both on economic grounds and in terms of the environment? Will he again consider his view that the inquiry is proceeding well? It started on either 2 or 3 October, and it is rumoured that it will go on until June. It is costing at least £3,000 a day to pay for highly expensive legal and professional advisers, as a result of which it will cost upwards of £½million. Does he not think that the authorities concerned are abusing the possibilities of objection that are open to the pressure groups which are compelled to lose their rights because of the great expense of the inquiry?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I cannot comment on an individual scheme at this stage without perhaps giving rise to further problems of legal complications later on. We must let this inquiry take its course. As a general point, I agree that these inquiries, while they are valuable, are taking more and more time and are becoming more expensive. It is the duty of all those involved, including the local authorities that make representations, to see whether such inquiries can be kept to the point and that the cost is kept down to the minimum.

Is the Minister aware that his predecessor travelled over the proposed routes, and that without any doubt the Department decided on a certain route? Will he bear in mind that this inquiry is taking far too long and that while the grass is growing the horse is starving? Will he take cognisance of the fact that the villages of Oulton and Woodlesford are almost choked with traffic and that still there is a fight by these various pressure groups, which will not help the situation at all?

We need to have public inquiries, and it is right that there should be the fullest possible public debate about controversial schemes of this kind. Bradford city council felt it necessary to raise a number of procedural points at the beginning of the inquiry. I hope that the inspector resolves them—he must be the only person who can resolve them—and that we have the right kind of inquiry in order to come to a decision in the not-too-distant future.