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Roads, West Midlands

Volume 205: debated on Monday 9 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the programme of road building in the west midlands.

We are pressing ahead with the Birmingham northern relief road and western orbital route. The A5-A49 Telford-Shrewsbury improvements and two other bypasses are opening this year, and we are also supporting a £446 million local roads programme.

My right hon. and learned Friend will understand that the west midlands conurbation, lying as it does in a landlocked area, is responsible for the bulk of the country's manufacturing industry, and that it depends on adequate and improving road conditions. Does he accept that there is widespread support from industry and the community generally for the Government's roads programme? Without it, the whole area would be economically strangulated; but that is not the view of the Opposition, whose transport spokesman—the organ grinder—has now left the Chamber, but who would condemn every aspect of our road building programme.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the vital contribution that our roads programme will make to the west midlands economy, and to contrast that with the appalling implications of Labour's proposals. I note that, in addition to the party's moratorium on the roads programme, the shadow Secretary of State for Transport has imposed a moratorium on his own presence in the Chamber.

This electioneering is an expensive business, Mr. Speaker.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what proportion of his Department's projected minimum increase of 80 per cent. in road traffic will be absorbed by this latest pre-election bribe? Will he also tell us why he has refused to adopt the alternative package approach, involving a mixture of public transport and road schemes, that has been advocated by local authorities in the west midlands? Finally, does the Secretary of State accept that, no matter how much money he tries to throw around now, he will not save his hon. Friends' necks?

We are delighted to hear from the shadow to the shadow Secretary of State. He must appreciate that we do have a mixed public-transport and roads programme. In the autumn statement, we announced major increases in rail expenditure in particular. Labour's proposed attempt to finance improvements in our rail expenditure, at the expense of our roads programme, would result in massive unemployment in the construction industry, along with an increase in the number of casualties on our roads. It would also bring deep depression to many members of communities who are looking forward to the bypasses that the present Government have promised. That promise would not be implemented if the Opposition ever came to power.