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Roads (North-West)

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 3 June 2008

2. What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the road infrastructure in the north-west of England, with particular reference to south Manchester and north-east Cheshire. (207972)

We are working closely with regional partners and local authorities to deliver improvements to the whole of the north-west transport network, including the road infrastructure.

Does the Minister, for whom I have a great deal of respect, accept that my constituency of Macclesfield in north-east Cheshire does not receive a fair allocation of resources for road infrastructure improvement? Does he agree that improved road infrastructure can lead to increased economic development and activity and can reduce carbon emissions in the community? Will he look at the situation in south Manchester and north-east Cheshire to see whether a fairer allocation of resources can be provided?

Obviously I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. I agree that good road infrastructure is essential to the health of the economy and of the environment, but, as he will probably know, road spending in the north-west has more than doubled since 2000. The south-east Manchester multimodal study, commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar), has come up with possible solutions for the south-east Manchester relief road. That is a very expensive project—costing possibly between £700 million and £1 billion—and it cannot go ahead as a single scheme. We are looking at progressing parts of that scheme in phases. He will know that a crucial part of that is the Poynton bypass in his constituency. We are working very hard with all representatives in the local area to come up with an affordable proposition. But to claim that the Government have not spent enough money on road infrastructure in his constituency, or anywhere else in the country, would be false.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) and I are the parliamentary shareholders in the road scheme to which the Minister refers, which would complete the road network in my constituency in particular. Is he now in a position to take up the offer that his predecessor made to visit the site and to see what is needed to relieve congestion and pollution in my constituency?

I am always happy to visit the constituency of any hon. Member. If he wishes to make a formal invitation to my private office, I shall be more than happy to consider it. I hope that, during such a visit, he will find that the resources invested in transport infrastructure in the north-west and other parts of the country have well exceeded those of all our predecessor Governments.

Does the Minister understand the very real frustration of residents in my constituency who are concerned about the apparent lack of progress on the completion of the A555 relief road? Does he further understand that the unique factor in the completion of the scheme is that the middle section was built many years ago and simply needs connecting at each end? Without that completion, it will be a permanent testimony to the folly of short-term transport planning.

Of course I understand the frustration felt by constituents and MPs on both sides of the House when a particularly important road scheme is not progressed according to the time scale that we originally expected. As the Government, we have to make sure that whenever a road scheme is progressed, it delivers best value for money. Regardless of the record amounts of money that the Government are investing in road infrastructure, we have to make sure that every pound is well spent. I notice that the transport plans issued by the hon. Gentleman’s party today do not offer much extra money on top of what we have already offered.