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Motorway Network

Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport what is the likely effect of recent public expenditure cuts on the completion of the motorway network.

The public expenditure and roads programmes are still under review, but the most urgent schemes should still be able to go ahead as soon as they are ready.

Could the Government consider separate funding arrangements for the motorway network? In Wales, for instance, the completion of the M4 is gobbling up the bulk of road expenditure. If Wales is to have any future as a viable economy are there not certain road schemes that should be given the highest possible priority?

I do not think that we could consider a new funding arrangement. Clearly the hon. Gentleman has a point for the Welsh Office. What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that our road programme is very substantial and we have in mind the importance of the kind of road about which he is talking.

In assessing his priorities for the road network, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the need to provide bypasses for those cities that suffer acute traffic congestion, especially those that are important industrial centres which have—

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is anticipating someone else's question on the Order Paper concerning bypasses.

I am well aware of the problems of the Lincoln bypass. All I say at this stage is that I have every sympathy and intend to place far more emphasis upon bypasses taking traffic away from the residential areas.

Is the Minister willing to fight within the Cabinet for the concept that if industrial regeneration and recovery is our ultimate objective the motorway system, particularly in areas such as Greater Manchester, will play an important part and should not be chopped now for short-term reasons of expediency?

I have great sympathy with the point put by the hon. Gentleman. Roads such as the M25 remain a very high priority as do other industrial routes. Indeed, our road building strategy is to put first emphasis on the regeneration of the economy.

May I ask my right hon. Friend about his proposals for lighting all motorways? As motorists are now accustomed to travelling on unlit motorways, does he not agree that there would be significant savings in public expenditure if he were to remove the urgency of completing that programme and redirect some of that money, through the local authorities, into maintaining and repairing existing major or secondary roads, some of which are in an appalling condition?

I have sympathy with the point about road maintenance. That is clearly something that we shall look at. We put lighting on the motorways only when we are convinced that the savings in terms of road accidents justifies it.