Several improvement schemes are under way on, or proposed for the A5 around Hinckley. They include: safety works at Stretton bends, including new lighting, surfacing and footways; anti-skid surfacing schemes at Nutts lane and Smockington hollow; the signalisation of the junction of the A5 and the M69; a scheme to improve the capacity of the Dodwell’s island junction; improved warning signs at Hinckley rail bridge; improvements to the A5/A444 Red Gate junction, and changes to speed limits and associated signs.
Additionally, preliminary design work is under way for improvements between Stretton house and the M69 junction.
I thank the Minister for that list but, given that the Hinckley and Bosworth area has to build 9,000 houses in the next 20 years, thanks to the local development framework, is not it time to put dualling the A5 between the M69 and the A47 back on the agenda? Although the Minister talks about improvements at Stretton bends, will he confirm that they will not take place in July, as promised, nor will the £5 million improvements at Dodwell’s island, which the Government also promised? Will he confirm that the works to realign the M69 island will take place in January 2007, as promised, or is that another broken promise of the Government’s?
The Government break no promises. We are delivering sustained improvements in the area around the A5 at Hinckley. There are safety problems on that road—that is why such a list of improvements has been made to it. On a major scheme such as dualling the A5, I advise the hon. Gentleman to work in his region to influence the prioritisation of major schemes when the regional funding allocation is reconsidered in two years.
The Minister has rightly given the House a long list of works scheduled to take place on the A5. However, he did not include the nearby project that has just been announced to bypass Earl Shilton on the A47 on the eastern fringes of Hinckley. Does he agree that this is a demonstration of the success of the tenacity, patience and energy of the people of Earl Shilton, led by the Labour councillors Dennis and John Bown in this Labour enclave in a Conservative and Liberal Democrat area? Does my hon. Friend also agree that, no matter how persuasive and effective the campaign, what was needed in the final analysis was the commitment of the resources to be allocated by the Government to achieve this long-delayed and much-welcomed bypass for Earl Shilton?
Humility prevented my hon. Friend from mentioning his own role in that campaign. He is absolutely right; it will provide a much-needed improvement. It has been included in the regional funding allocation, and that is because local people made the case locally to ensure that we received the necessary advice about the importance of the scheme. The advice that I would offer to Members on both sides of the House is that, if they want to influence major projects such as these, they should become active in their own region and their own local community to ensure that the regional funding advice that the Government receive reflects the true priorities of the local people.
The A5, which runs through my constituency south of Hinckley, is horrendously congested. The Comptroller and Auditor General wrote to me recently to say that the Highways Agency intended to put in a new junction, 11A, at the same time as widening the M1 to save £10 million. However, I learned from a letter from the Secretary of State yesterday that that is only a possibility. Will the Minister write to me to tell me exactly what the Highways Agency is doing?
The situation to which the hon. Gentleman refers has arisen because the region did not prioritise that particular piece of work. We want to stick as closely as possible to the advice that we receive from local people, local councils, regional assemblies and regional development agencies—people who know what the priorities are on the ground—and the road scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers was not prioritised. However, we want to ensure that if the region changes its priorities, the work will be able to go ahead as expeditiously as possible. That is why we will continue with the work around that particular scheme, in case the region changes its mind in two years’ time.
Closer to Hinckley than the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous)—about five miles to the south-east on the A5—is the hamlet of Wibtoft. To the north and the south is a dual carriageway—the old Watling street—along which very heavy traffic thunders until it gets to Wibtoft, where a single carriageway snakes its way through the village. There is no speed limit; nor is there any proper visible traffic calming. The Highways Agency has refused to contemplate imposing a speed limit or laying a quieter road surface. Will the Minister ask the agency to reconsider its decision, and to impose a speed limit of, say, 30 mph through the residential area of Wibtoft? Many other places along the A5 have exactly that.
I will certainly pass on the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the Highways Agency. I would also advise him to engage with his local road safety partnership to see whether it can make representations to the agency. If such villages need a speed limit, and if there is evidence of safety concerns, I will certainly do what I can to encourage the agency to be helpful.