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Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport how many English towns over 10,000 population do not have a bypass.

Of some 300 such communities served by trunk roads, nearly 200 are at least partially relieved of through traffic by specific bypasses or major new routes. We intend to make progress with as many urgently needed bypasses of this kind as our resources will allow.

Does the Minister realise that the nation deplores the attitude of the Government towards the maintenance of good roads throughout the country? Does he agree that, following a mild winter, compared with last year, the Government are feeling complacent? Is he aware that many villages throughout the country are shattered by what has happened to their buildings and houses due to the passage of heavy vehicles that should be carried on bypasses? Will he take some action?

We are not complacent at all. We are continuing with a perfectly effective roads planning programme consistent with the resources that are available. When the hon. Gentleman talks of a mild winter, he refers, presumably, to the fact that we shall not underspend so much this year on the trunk road budget. That, I believe, is because the roads programme is being managed more efficiently than under the previous Government.

Will the Minister seriously reconsider the roads programme in the North East, bearing in mind the extremely heavy unemployment in that area? Will he consider bringing forward the date of the city western bypass, Newcastle, the western inner ring road and the Redheugh Bridge?

We are considering ail those schemes in the context of the review now taking place. We shall produce a White Paper in April. I am aware of road needs in the North-East. All the schemes that the hon. Gentleman mentioned have been under consideration in recent months.

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, only two days ago, the Ministry put out another press notice saying that the M25 would have the highest priority in the road programme during its construction and would have first call on the Ministry's finances for roads? How can he reconcile that with assuring my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Brown) that the Newcastle schemes are being considered? Surely they are being considered only in a secondary way, after the Minister has determined his priority on the M25.

We have always said that the M25 has the highest priority in our roads programme, and I reaffirm that. However, it does not take up all the available funds and we must consider a proper regional distribution of the remaining resources in drawing up the roads programme for the whole country.