asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the amount authorised for new road construction and major improvements for the financial year ended 5th April, 1955; what amount of that sum was actually spent; what amount is authorised for the present financial year; and what amount he expects will actually be spent by 5th April, 1956.
The total amount provided for payments in 1954–55 was £5,048,000, of which £4,927,000 was actually spent. The amount provided this year is £8,314,000 and I expect this amount to be spent. If my hon. Friend is referring to schemes authorised, the total provision in 1954–55 was £19,360,000 but the value of the schemes actually authorised was £20,027,000. The provision for schemes to be authorised this year is £29,830,000, and I expect to authorise schemes to that amount.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in recent years the estimates have not been fully spent? As he has said, under £5 million was spent on Government account last year. Is he further aware that local authorities have recently been disturbed by the circular calling for economy generally? Can he assure local authorities that the road programme will go ahead, and that the Exchequer and local authorities will spend up to the Estimates this year?
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that when all these road improvements have been completed, the congestion will, because of the increase of vehicles on the roads, be just as bad then as it is now, with all the waste and inefficiency that that means? While I appreciate that there is financial difficulty at the moment, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can assure the House that as soon as things get a little easier the Government will give top priority to further improvements?
Is it not a fact that the hon. and gallant Member has understated the facts, and that when these schemes are completed the situation will not be similar to what it is now, but will have grown worse?
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are only too well aware of the problems caused by the very great increase of traffic, actual and potential, over the next few years with which we have to deal when handicapped by the heavy backlog of work with which we are now faced.
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many schemes for road development and reconstruction affecting or requiring the demolition of domestic housing have been sanctioned by him; how many of these are likely to be in operation within the next five years; and how many houses are thus affected.
A very large number of the schemes I have authorised and intend to authorise and complete during the next five years will require the demolition of domestic housing. I cannot at this stage give the hon. Member the number of houses or the date when they will be affected.
Can the Minister not give at least some approximate idea of the number of houses to be demolished, thus adding to the housing difficulty? Furthermore, are all householders thus to be affected, or those who have been affected, left to their own devices to find alternative accommodation?
In reply to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, over a five-year period, in view of the very large number of schemes that are being undertaken, I really cannot give a figure relating to houses. Questions of rehousing are, I think, on the whole not matters for me.
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to what extent the compensation paid to householders affected by road development and reconstruction covers all the expenses involved in the surrender of their houses, including removal and loss of market value through public knowledge of impending road schemes affecting that property.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether that is adequate to the needs of those who have to leave their houses? If necessary, would he be prepared to see a deputation of hon. Members from both sides of the House on this matter as it affects their own constituents?
The question of a proper level of compensation when property is acquired for public purposes is not one for me to decide. If the hon. Member wishes a deputation to be seen, he should take it to one of my right hon. Friends.