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Departmental Expenditure

Volume 975: debated on Wednesday 5 December 1979

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asked the Minister of Transport what steps he has taken to eliminate waste in his Department in the six months since assuming office.

I am continuing to review the work of my Department in this respect. Staff numbers have already fallen by about 400 and recruitment is limited to essential tasks only. My recent decisions on vehicle excise duty, the National Freight Corporation, traffic licensing and motorway service areas will produce further economies.

I welcome that reply, but will my right hon. Friend look into the question of the costly £11 a time plastic cones that are purchased by his Department and his agencies? Will he deny the rumour that these cones are breeding on the motorways? If that is not true, will he try to put a stop to what seems to be an enormously wasteful occupation?

I am sure that breeding on motorways is against traffic regulations. I shall certainly look into the question of the cones.

If the right hon. Gentleman finds evidence of waste in his Department, will he consider using some of the money saved to introduce a programme of training for motor cyclists? All hon. Members await a programme to try to stop deaths on motor cycles.

As I said earlier to the hon. Gentleman, I give the highest priority to achieving that aim. We are at what I hope will prove to be a late stage of the discussions. My hon. Friend is having discussions with the interested parties. I hope and aim to have a plan that will reduce motor cycle casualties because, like the hon. Gentleman, I believe that they are far too numerous.

If my right hon. Friend is looking through his Department to see how to save waste, will he look into the possibility of cutting out altogether some of the new road schemes? They seem to have lingered on indefinitely without real purpose. Moreover, it is felt to be an anomaly that nearly all other Government Departments are effecting economies, whereas the road building programme shows no indication of doing so.

Nobody can accuse the Ministry of Transport of not effecting economies. To say that it is not is diametrically the opposite of the case. I shall examine any points that my hon. Friend cares to raise on individual road schemes.