asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with the severe delays caused to the trunk road programme by expenditure constraints and prolonged statutory proceducers; and, if not, what steps he is taking to reduce such delays.
:The Government are committed to restraining public expenditure and the trunk road programme must play its part. Following the changes announced in the report on the review of highway inquiry procedures the statutory procedures are working more satisfactorily. Expenditure is likely to be close to the cash limit this year and, subject only to the outcome of actions now before the courts, we expect to make full use of the resources likely to be available in future.
asked the Minister of Transport what was the planned budget for 1979–80 for English motorway and trunk road construction, at the start of the financial year—in 1979 survey prices; what announced changes to the budget were made in the course of the year; what is the presently expected outturn for the year; what factors, additional to the announced changes to the budget, have caused the expected outturn to differ from the planned out-turn; why no announcement of these factors affecting the budget was made; whether the cash limit, for the block of which English motorway and trunk road construction is a part, has caused the expected outturn to be lower than planned; and what is the Government's policy on the use of cash limits as a means of cutting back expenditure plans in real terms.
Expenditure on motorway and trunk road construction was planned at the start of the year to be £315 million. This was £13 million less than that published in Cmnd. 7439, due mainly to transfers to motorway and trunk road maintenance and to local transport. Provision was reduced by a further £8 million in the June Budget. The estimated outturn is £291 million—all figures at 1979 survey prices.The cash limit for the block that includes motorway and trunk road construction is £450·5 million. Expenditure on the block is expected to be close to the cash limit. Because costs have been increasing faster than expected, the cash limit is equivalent to a lower volume of expenditure than was planned. The block has been managed so as to allow expenditure on maintenance to continue at approximately the volume originally provided. It is not possible to isolate the effect of the restriction imposed by the cash limit from other factors affecting expenditure on the large number of schemes which make up the motorway and trunk road construction programme. These include slower progress than expected on work under construction earlier in the year.The Government's policy on cash limits is explained in my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech to the House of 22 May 1979.