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Volume 975: debated on Wednesday 5 December 1979

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asked the Minister of Transport when he now expects work on the M6-Blackburn, and other remaining stages of the M65, to begin.

I cannot yet say. We are reviewing the timing of schemes in the trunk road programme as part of our commitment to contain public expenditure. Revised proposals will be published in a White Paper in the new year and it will then be possible to give an indication of possible starting dates for trunk road projects.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government still regard this scheme as of high priority? Does he recognise that its speedy implementation is vital to the economy and prosperity of the whole of North-East Lancashire? If only one road scheme is to go ahead following the public expenditure cuts, will he promise that it will be this one?

I appreciate the high priority put on the Calder Valley scheme by those who represent the area. I shall certainly bear in mind the wishes of those who represent the area when we are reviewing the programme. I do not think that the claim that this should be the only scheme to go forward will win much approval elsewhere, but the cuts in the road programme should not be so drastic as to require anything of that kind.

I think that the Minister's letter to me yesterday announcing stages 4 and 5 of the M63 through Stockport will be met with rejoicing. Is he aware that that takes the M63 into the centre of Stockport?

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman going to relate his question to the M65 and the M6?

Indeed, Mr. Speaker. Just as the M65 is important to Blackburn—I think that the Minister has an answer, Mr. Speaker.

Order. It is a bit thick really, but perhaps we could have a very quick reply from the Minister.

I hope that the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. McNally)is satisfied, as he should be, that we are proceeding to place the contracts for the Stockport east-west bypass. He will know that we are looking at other schemes for the continuation of the motorway. Indeed, I made a visit to the area recently to look at possible routes.

With regard to the M65, the Minister will be aware that if this scheme is further delayed there will be deep dismay throughout North-East Lancashire. We have waited for it for a long time. We had a helpful meeting with the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that he would like to stick to the assurance that he gave us at that meeting that this scheme would be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity.

I have recently been able to announce progress on the section of the M65 near Burnley. As I promised, in the review that we are to carry out we shall bear in mind the high priority placed on the scheme by those who live in the area.