To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what response he has received from organisations concerned with the countryside about his ideas for extra motorway service areas.
We issued a consultation document on the provision of motorway services on 10 February. Copies were sent to a number of organisations with countryside interests. The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland has responded. It was concerned that proposed new arrangements should not lead to undue development in sensitive areas and it favoured a degree of continuing Government control over minimum standards at motorway service areas.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is still time for various groups, whether environmental or road safety, to respond to the Government's proposals? Does he understand that planning permission was initially gained, with difficulty, for the building of motorways through areas of outstanding natural beauty and great environmental sensitivity, so many people would not be keen to see developers spending hundreds of thousands —if not millions—of pounds fighting in a long succession of inquiries so that they can build not just motorway service areas—possibly excluding the disabled and lorries —but hotels and other facilities that would never have received permission when the original planning consent was granted?
I confirm that there is still time for organisations to respond to our proposals and we expect more representations during the consultation period. My hon. Friend raised matters that we will want to consider carefully. However, most people would welcome a greater availability of motorway service stations. A number of people have expressed their concern that there are almost 200 miles of motorway without one. The proposals in the consultation document will go a long way towards improving the facilities and the standards that drivers expect from motorway service areas.
When the Minister consults the countryside organisations about motorway service stations, will he also discuss the wider environmental implications of the Government's transport policy? Has he seen the report published today by the Council for the Protection of Rural England? If, over the next decade, there is to be a 50 per cent. rise in traffic demand, is not it about time that his Department stopped being a Department only for roads and instead sought to introduce a proper, integrated transport system that takes real account of environmental considerations?
Well, there we have it. That sums up the Labour party's attitude, which is against a roads policy. The Opposition should go to a number of towns where bypasses have been built, which have been warmly welcomed. I assure my hon. Friends that we will continue to provide those bypasses where schemes are put forward. They are environmentally friendly and they lead to less congestion. That helps the environment; it does not damage it.
Will my hon. Friend take into account motorway service areas of the kind found in France—which do not have restaurants, hotels or facilities of that kind, but offer lavatories, running water and parking places, so that the motorist can stretch his legs and rest before continuing his journey? Such stopping places are cheap and good, and we need them in this country.
I hope that the consultation document will prompt a number of proposals of the kind that my hon. Friend makes, and we will certainly consider them.