Orders of the Day — Severn Bridge

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed,

  1. 1. That the Minister of Transport (hereinafter referred to as "the Minister") shall be authorised, in accordance with orders to be made by him, to levy tolls in respect of vehicles using the carriageways comprised in those parts of a new road constructed, or in the course of being constructed, by the Minister which cross the Rivers Severn and Wye by bridges or constitute the approaches to such bridges.
  2. 2. That it is expedient to provide—
    1. (a) for imposing restrictions and other requirements in respect of vehicles stopping or remaining at rest on the said carriageways, and for securing the removal of such vehicles and the imposition of charges in respect of their removal;
    2. (b) for securing the operation (either by the Minister or by other persons) of a service of removing such vehicles from the said carriageways;
    3. (c) for extending, in relation to the said carriageways, the powers of prohibiting or restricting the use of roads, and, in particular, of regulating the use of special roads, conferred by the enactments relating to road traffic; and
    4. (d) for imposing other prohibitions and restrictions in relation to the parts of the new road which are referred to in paragraph 1 of this Resolution and in relation to structures, works and apparatus on, under or over those parts of that road or connected therewith or with the regulation of traffic thereon or with the levying of tolls as mentioned in that paragraph.
  3. 3. That, in any case where by reason of any accident or other emergency vehicles which would otherwise use the said carriageways are authorised to use the cycle track or the footway comprised in those parts of the new road which are referred to in paragraph 1 of this Resolution, the Minister shall be authorised to levy tolls in respect of the use of the said cycle track or the said footway by those vehicles; and, for the purposes of any such case, paragraph 2 of this Resolution shall have effect in relation to the said cycle track or the said footway as it has effect in relation to the said carriageways.
  4. 4. That it is expedient to provide for the extinguishment of any franchise to operate a ferry across the River Severn in the vicinity of the said new road and for the payment by the Minister of compensation in respect of any such ferry which is discontinued in consequence of the provision of that road.
  5. 5. That tolls levied as mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 3 of this Resolution, and any sums received by the Minister in connection with the removal of vehicles as mentioned in paragraph 2 (or in that paragraph as extended by paragraph 3) of this Resolution, shall be paid into the Exchequer.
  6. 6. That it is expedient to provide for other matters incidental or supplementary to the matters specified in the preceding paragraphs of this Resolution.—[Mr. MacDerntot.]

11.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

I feel that it would be wrong for the Committee, even at this hour of the night, to pass this Resolution, which will, after all, determine the ambit of the Bill which in due course will be founded upon it, without some outline indication of the policy to be followed in implementing the Resolution eventually —in the form, presumably, of regulations which will fix the tolls.

This Resolution implements the policy in regard to the Severn Bridge which was announced some years ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), and I congratulate the Labour Party on bringing it forward, since for many of them it represents a change in point of view—for example, a change in point of view for the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who only a year ago said that the only people still in favour of tolls were the then Government and the Tory Members for Scotland, and a change in point of view for the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who a few years ago considered the introduction of a toll system … a retrograde step."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 1102.] However, we are all now toeing the same line, and I must assume that the Government accept that in the case of these large projects, which bring about a really substantial economy, and which for practical purposes can be isolated from the rest of the road and bridge system, there is a sound justification for the system of tolls. I think that it would, however, be reasonable if the Government gave some indication of the broad policy which is intended to be followed. I quite understand that initially the fixing of any toll must be empirical. One cannot tell in advance exactly what toll or system of tolls will produce a given financial result. Nevertheless, I think that it would be, helpful to the Committee and only right if the general policy were known.

Is it the intention that the tolls should recover the whole cost of the bridge or the whole cost together with the current maintenance of the bridge? If they are intended to recover the cost or part of the capital cost, over how many years is that to be calculated for this purpose?

Finally, is it intended that in due course they should accumulate a surplus, or will they be extinguished when the initial purpose has been accomplished? These are matters of general policy and it is only right that in bringing forward this Resolution which will make it possible to impose tolls, the Government should indicate broadly the financial relations they intend between the system of tolls and the cost of the bridge. I hope that we shall have a brief explanation on these lines from the Government Bench.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I must plead that I have a constituency interest in this matter. I should like to add to the plea made to the Government to give a clear indication of their intentions. It was to some extent impudent of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to have indulged in the type of speech which he delivered. He is the last person who should talk about tolls, because he believes in them and has done so for a considerable time.

I do not believe in the toll system for bridges, and where the tolls are given to private enterprise, as in the many instances which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) has raised in the House, they are a crying scandal. They are not just tolls for bridges. They are tolls in spite of bridges in many instances.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I remind the hon. Member that I have just said that I was talking about the instances given by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West who has repeatedly complained not solely that there are tolls but that the bridges for which tolls have been paid have been poor substitutes for bridges.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

I said "not all" because among the bridges referred to by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) was the Whitney bridge, the private enterprise beneficiaries of which have received no benefit from it for some years because maintenance costs have been greater than the receipts.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

It is a pity that an intervention in reply to an intervention is not permissible, because I should have liked my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West to have intervened on that intervention. I do not know all the bridges—

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

We are dealing only with the Severn Bridge at present.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

That is perfectly true. I do not want to pursue the matter because it is not germane to my case, but in fairness to the Committee, and because it will be going on the record, I respectfully submit that it is in order when talking about tolls which will be applied to the Servern Bridge to make one's comparisons, provided that one does not spend too great a time on the point one is making. The only toll bridge of which I have personal experience is that at Selby, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West has often referred. If there is anyone who will say that that is a bridge, his concept of a bridge is different from mine.

The Severn Bridge just touches my constituency and will undoubtedly provide a tremendous improvement in transport communications in the area. Why in this age we should be considering imposing on transport users charges which would be more in keeping with the 17th and 18th centuries, I do not know. As the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has said, we are continuing the policies of the previous Government in this respect, but we have expressed ourselves in no uncertain terms about those outdated and outmoded policies.

Some of the tolls on motor vehicles, especially those engaged in trade, will be an onerous burden in certain respects. If transport costs for the people of the Forest of Dean are increased, that will be unfortunate for an area facing difficult employment problems. Transport costs may be cheapened, but it is incumbent on the Government now to state clearly what is in their minds.

My area is faced not only with the closure of two pits with 720 redundancies, but with the closing down of an A.F.I. factory with 850 employees. The A.E.I. is then to have Government assistance to expand at Birtley. If new employers considering moving into the area are to be faced with additional transport costs, it will be extremely difficult for me or the Board of Trade to persuade them to come to the area.

I know that some of my right hon. Friends have indicated a degree of irritation that I should have the temerity to get up at this time of night, but I am bothered not about the time, but about looking after the people who sent me here to represent them. I am not sure about What the Government propose to do about tolls on vehicles. All in- dustrialists and traders in my constituency are faced with possible additional transport costs—I do not say that transport costs will be increased—as a consequence of the policy which the Government are now pursuing.

It is very important, when we invite employers to come into a constituency to provide work—and some have already come in mine, to some extent in consequence of efforts I have made here on the Floor of the House—not to present them with a situation in which their transport costs render them uncompetitive. So I should be failing in my duty if I did not rise to speak on this matter, even though the hour is near to midnight.

On principle I am opposed to levying tolls on bridges. It is a retrograde step. It is the sort of thing I expect from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the Committee, because I think their concept is that we should exploit any situation, and if they think they can get money from anywhere they will get it. But we on this side ought to be a little more forward-looking and progressive in our attitude, and consider that the roads of this country are used by all and sundry. We build the M1 and major motorways, and no one dreams of suggesting that because they cost an enormous amount of money we should impose tolls on the vehicles using them.

We are building, in effect, a road over the Severn. We are doing no more than building a road. If the hon. Gentleman who smiles so sweetly thinks there is anything wrong in that statement I will willingly give way to him.

Photo of Sir John Gilmour Sir John Gilmour , Fife East

I was just amused because, having heard so many of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends using this argument which he is repeating, it seems odd to hear his right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench proposing tolls for this bridge.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I accept that. I am not going to quarrel with the hon. Member. But it was a sweet smile, and I thought it was directed at me, not my right hon. Friends.

Photo of Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith , Chislehurst

Would not the hon. Member agree that, in the main, bridges save many miles of transport round by roads? He is not alone in having tolls—on bridges going over the top. My constituents use a bridge which goes underneath, through a tunnel and we are paying tolls, and heavily and willingly subscribing, because of the hours saved and the mileage saved by the DartfordPurfleet tunnel.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

That seems, on the surface, a very logical and well-thoughtout argument, but we can build a road which curves round many miles—as we have done in this country—or a road which is comparatively straight. We can have a road from Birmingham to Ross which is a straight road; we can use a road from Birmingham to Worcester, going round the Malverns. It is the same argument. The right hon. Lady ought to recognise that the only purpose in building a motorway is to have a straight, direct road which saves many miles and transport costs. If the right hon. Lady disputes that, perhaps she will say why.

Photo of Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith , Chislehurst

It is more expensive to span a river. No doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I think that it costs about £1 million to build a mile of motorway, whereas it cost about £13 million to build the Dartford to Purfleet tunnel. That tunnel avoids the necessity of travelling 20 or 30 miles up to London and then going down to Kent. Whether one goes over the river, or underneath it, one saves the cost of going round it, and the congestion caused by doing so. It is much more expensive to build a means of crossing a river than it is to build a road, and that is why, against opposition in my own area, I have supported tolls on the Dartford to Purfleet tunnel, and why I accept that it is not unreasonable to impose tolls where heavy expenditure has been incurred to provide a short cut.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

In a rather lengthy intervention the right hon. Lady merely shifted her ground. She first argued that tolls should be imposed on bridges because they provide a direct route from one point to another and thus save transport costs. A similar advantage accrues from building a motorway as opposed to building the old type of road. The right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends have never suggested that tolls should be imposed on motorways.

Finding that her first point was rather a sticky one, the right hon. Lady moved away from it and said that it cost £1 million to build a mile of motorway—I think that that is a bit of an exaggeration, and that in recent years the costs have been estimated at between £400,000 and £500,000 a mile, but even that is too high, and there should be an investigation into road building costs—but considerably more to span a river.

If it can be argued that because bridges over rivers cost more to build than motorways, there should be tolls on the former, it can equally be argued that as motorways cost so much more to build than ordinary roads, there should be tolls on them, too. The argument goes full circle.

My right hon. Friend ought to think again about imposing tolls on bridges. He ought to accept that such a proposition is outworn and out of date. I know that I would be in difficulties if I had to face the situation which the Government have had to face after 13 years of Tory Governments, but we are not bogged down by internal economic difficulties. We are bogged down by an external financial crisis.

The bankers may suggest that we ought to impose tolls on our bridges, but I very much doubt it. I can see no earthly reason why we should not dispense with tolls, a practice which was initiated by the previous Government, and get down to the job of providing an adequate transport system in all areas for use by both industry and the private individual. Our job is to provide an efficient transport service. If an efficient transport service involves the provision of bridges we should not take a different attitude to bridges from that which we take to motorways.

It is about time that my hon. and learned Friend gave us some indication of the Government's intentions in this respect. I should like to see him take the whole of this provision back and ask the Government to think anew about their attitude to bridges, and forgo any suggestion of imposing tolls.

12 m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

I do not want to follow all the ground covered by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin). He covered rather a wide field. I shall not follow him into the argument about toll bridges, except to say that it is unfair to accuse the owners in all cases of being profiteers—which seemed to be the substance of his remarks—because in the case I have mentioned the owners have received nothing at all for some years, and they have spent all the tolls they have received in maintaining the bridge—a burden that otherwise would have fallen on the taxpayer or ratepayer.

I am in favour of tolls in respect of bridges like the Severn Bridge, in appropriate cases, because—and this concerns the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith)—there is also the question of the total expenditure involved in road maintenance. Whatever Government are in power, they must have some target, and if they are going to spend a large proportion of that target on bridges, which are very expensive, there will be less money left to spend on major and minor road improvements. There is bound to be a shortage in this respect, whatever target is chosen.

I am pleased that tolls are proposed for the Severn Bridge, because of the experience that we have had with the Tamar Bridge. For years the Cornwall County Council and the City of Plymouth were agitating for a road bridge across the Tamar. I was partly responsible for the building of the bridge, because I pointed out to the then chairman of the Cornwall County Council that he should not expect the Minister of Transport of any Government to spend a large sum of money in building an expensive high bridge across the Tamar—and it had to be high, because the Royal Navy uses the water underneath—when there is an urgent need for other bridges, particularly bridges such as the Severn Bridge, for which there must be a higher priority, because there are more people in Bristol and South Wales than there are in Plymouth and Saltash.

The Cornwall County Council and the Plymouth County Council then decided to ask for statutory powers to build the bridge themselves, and that bridge was built without any assistance from the Ministry of Transport. It was built under a Private Act as a toll bridge. The cost of building it will be recouped in the course of years. Indeed, the bridge has already proved to be so popular that more money is being made than was expected, and the bridge will pay for itself much earlier than was expected. If the Severn Bridge can collect money in this way it will not be a burden on the general taxpayers, and it will allow more money to be spent on the motorways and the major and minor road improvements which are so necessary. The more money spent on the roads the better it will be, because we shall in any case have a great problem in building sufficient roads to keep pace with the growing amount of motor traffic.

If, by the imposition of reasonable tolls on the Severn Bridge, there is a little more money available for other urgent purposes, so much the better.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

As the representative for the area at the southern end of the great bridge over the Forth, I want to ask my hon. and learned Friend one or two simple questions. Is it right that a motorway over sea should be taxed, and a motorway over land untaxed? What is the qualitative difference between a major roadwork such as the Severn or the Forth Bridge on the one hand and the M.1 or the Preston by-pass on the M.6 on the other? It is certainly our experience that imposing tolls is not only a questionable way of raising money, but it also brings about some bad physical difficulties.

Before making a final decision on tolls over the Severn, I think that the Minister ought to look at the traffic delays that have been caused Sunday after Sunday and weekday after weekday in the summer, with cars queueing up in order to pay their 2s. 6d.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

May I begin by assuring my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin), that I, for one, will never find it irritating, whatever the hour, to listen to him putting forward so cogently the interests of his constituents? I have great sympathy with the point of view which he was expressing. I assure him—and I hope I can substantiate the assurance with some figures later—that as we envisage the operation of these tolls, it is quite clear that anyone who will be required to pay a toll for the use of this bridge will still be a net gainer as a result of the construction of the bridge, because of the great saving there will be for him on the present costs he has to incur without the facility of the bridge.

I was invited at the outset by the right hon. Gentleman for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), to give some information to the Committee, in a broad sense, about the way in which the Government envisage the operation of these tolls, and what the policy would be. Obviously, it would not be right for me to go into this matter in any detail. It is a matter which will be dealt with when the Bill itself is considered, a Bill which will have an Explanatory Memorandum to set out the financial provisions.

Perhaps I may first deal with the general principle on why we think it right that tolls should be charged in the case of river crossings, and why we treat them differently from motorways, the point which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) just raised. First, let me remind the Committee that tolls are charged already on other large river crossings in this country that have been constructed in recent times. I think they have been mentioned already—the Forth Bridge, the Tamar Bridge and the Dartford Tunnel; and recent Acts authorised tolls on the Tay Bridge and the Tyne Tunnel, when completed.

It was, I think, in 1960 that the last Government announced their intention of charging tolls on the Severn Bridge in the same way. We have considered the matter, and propose to make no change in that policy. As was pointed out by the right hon. Lady the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith), the cost of constructing bridges of this kind is exceptionally heavy, and the Severn Bridge itself, like the tunnel to which she referred, will cost over £13 million. There is no doubt that, while the cost of constructing such bridges is exceptionally heavy, they do bring exceptional savings to the users of them—which is the real distinction which can and should be drawn between the position of users of these bridges and that of users of motorways in general.

One can point precisely to the saving and the gain, which each individual using the bridge will achieve as a result of the presence of that bridge, though when someone uses a stretch of motorway, one cannot say what saving, if any, he has achieved. The motorist who uses the M.1 instead of the A.5 is making a very slight saving, if any, in terms of petrol. One cannot draw a parallel.

I will give a few figures to illustrate the point. People who at present travel by road will save about 45 miles of travel as a result of the construction of this bridge. The journey by road from, for example, Bristol to Cardiff is at present about 90 miles. That will be cut by about 45 miles. The consequent saving in expenditure on petrol at 5s. 3Y1. per gallon for a 30 m.p.g. vehicle would be about 8s. or for a 25 m.p.g. vehicle it would be about 9s. 6d.

The proposed toll rates have not been determined. It would, in the first instance, be a matter for Parliament to determine the provisions of the Bill, but I can say that what is proposed is that the actual rates should be fixed by regulation, subject to the principles being laid down in the Bill. This would enable, if it were necessary, changes and modifications to be made in the rates from time to time. Although they have not been fixed, the sort of toll rates envisaged would certainly be considerably less than the savings in petrol I have illustrated.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

The question of distances is not an easy one to understand. The Severn Bridge will cost £13 million. This will represent a saving of 45 miles in the journey my hon. and learned Friend described. Considering the matter on the basis of mileage, it is obviously cheaper to build the Severn Bridge—based on the figure of £400,000 per mile of motorway—than it would otherwise be to build a motorway. On some future occasion we will have to face the problem of constructing a motorway from Bristol to Cardiff. I am endeavouring to show that the construction of bridges, certainly some bridges, is not such a dear business after all.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

If my hon. Friend's point is that it is a good economic proposition to construct a bridge of this kind, I entirely agree with him. But the question is on whom is it right to impose the burden of the cost of its construction? We think that whereas here there is a clearly defined category of people who derive the benefit and who can, without great administrative cost, be made to pay for it, it is right that they should be the ones to pay, rather than the general taxpayer or ratepayer.

I have given some figures relating to roads. I understand that the figures relating to the ferry are that the present cost of use of the ferry is 7s. 6d., together with Is. for the driver and 1s. for each passenger, up to 15s. for medium-sized vans. As hon. Members will see, comparing that with the savings I mentioned on petrol, the savings on the use of the bridge compared with using the ferry would be at least as large, if not larger than, the saving for a person who is making the road journey.

These are the general reasons why we think it right that the burden of these exceptional costs should fall on the users, but I wish to make it abundantly clear that this decision and recommendation which we are making to the Committee is entirely without prejudice to the question of the financing of motorways. I hope that no hon. Member will think that, because we have come to this conclusion in regard to bridges, we have any intention in our minds of imposing similar charges on motorways.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Is the Financial Secretary saying that the principle behind tolls is to recover the capital cost or the capital cost and maintenance? Will he enlarge on this matter?

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

I will deal with that briefly. I cannot go into great detail on it at this stage but, in general, the intention is that the tolls should cover amortisation of the capital cost over a period of 30 to 40 years, with interest, and also the maintenance costs of the bridge and the cost of collection.

If I could give some indication of what that might mean in terms of figures, on the latest estimate of the cost of the bridge, which I said was over £13 million, amortisation over a 30-year period at 6 per cent. would involve annual payments of approximately £1 million. In addition, if the revenue from tolls is to cover the cost of collection and maintaining the bridge, the scale of the tolls would have to be fixed at a level which would produce an annual revenue of £1,128,000—something of that order.

I do not want to be tied to these as final figures. I am only giving them in the spirit in which I was invited to do so, as a broad indication.

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

On the figures which the hon. and learned Gentleman has just given, may we have some indication of what the tolls are likely to be? As it must be known approximately what number of vehicles will use the bridge, and as we know what the revenue each year will be, we ought to be able to be told what the tolls will be. We have a long time ahead of us tonight so perhaps the Minister would take the opportunity to tell us, because it is a matter of very particular moment to those who live in Gloucestershire, in my constituency in particular, and who very often have business which takes them to South Wales. At the moment they have to make up their minds whether to go by way of the City of Gloucester, which is a difficult bottleneck, or whether to go down to the ferry, which is an extremely frustrating experience on a summer day. Even if one can eventually get on to the ferry one may have to wait several hours to do so.

Therefore, this bridge is of very particular importance, and in assessing whether it is likely to be an amenity or not my constituents would very much like to know how much they will have to pay. The hon. and learned Gentleman has given us all the figures except the last two, and in the time at my disposal I have not been able to work out what the tolls will be. I might, perhaps, be able to work out what the figure will be were I seated, but I cannot do it on my feet.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

The hon. Gentleman should take his shoes off.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I do not think that to take my shoes off would help. Perhaps as the hon. Gentleman is in a more comfortable position than I am, and has in his hand a pen with which he has been doodling away in order to keep himself awake, he will calculate the number of vehicles of different sorts which will have to pay a toll in order to produce a net annual revenue of £1,128,000.

I dare say that the vehicles will increase in number each year so we have to allow for a sort of sliding scale. The hon. Gentleman would have to calculate how many vehicles would be able to get over the bridge and then, perhaps, he could make another intervention and tell us the result of his calculations.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

The hon. Gentleman is asking the impossible because there are so many imponderables in the matter. We do not yet know what kind of vehicles they are going to be. We only know that at the present time there are vans, wagons, motor cars and cycles. In the last few years we have had motor cycles, mopeds and various kinds of cycles. I do not know what sort of scientific or technological developments will be made in the next 10 years. There may be vehicles of which we do not dream at present. My hon. and learned Friend might still be a member of the Government then and might decide to bring in amending regulations which would change the calculations completely. He might charge twice as much toll for the new vehicles as for motor cycles. I know that I can do most things, but the hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot do the impossible.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The hon. Gentleman and I are at a certain disadvantage. The Minister has all the cards in his hand, or has one or two up his sleeve, and it is disappointing that he has not shown us the full extent of them.

I hope that, when rates are considered, a sense of equity will prevail. The hon. and learned Gentleman will not wish to become, in the rather hackneyed cliché, a desiccated calculating machine—something which it is dangerous for anyone on his side to be—and he will have regard to what ordinary people fairly close to the bridge will feel reasonable in wishing to use the bridge not so much for trade or business but for normal amenity purposes.

As regards those who will wish to use the bridge for the purposes of trade, the calculation which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave about saving 8s. on a journey from Bristol by a car doing 30 miles per gallon is interesting, but what about lorries? Users of lorries will save a great deal more not only in £ s. d. but in the vital element of time. As is well known, a great many lorries come up from South Wales during the night in order to bring fresh produce for sale in Covent Garden market, and it is most important that they should be able to come up in good time. The users of these lorries will not only have the immediate financial benefit of the bridge but will have a rather more distant interest and be willing to pay for the time and trouble saved.

I do not regard tolls in themselves as offensive. They represent a "pay-as-you-use" concept which, I think, is quite agreeable to many hon. Members and which seems in all the circumstances reasonable. I do not believe that transport costs will be increased, as the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) thought, for people living in his constituency or in mine. The inconvenience of having to go round is very great. We have had the welcome assurance that the charges will not be calculated at the full saving. I understand that the cost of the toll will be rather less than the saving which will result, and we in Gloucestershire are very grateful for that assurance.

There will be countervailing advantages not only from the point of view of transport. The value of houses and of land, particularly in the Forest of Dean, a remote and hitherto rather barbarous area—

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting very far from the Severn bridge.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

On a point of order, Sir Samuel. I live in the Forest of Dean. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to me as a barbarian?

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

I did not hear the hon. Gentleman so referred to.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I should not dream of doing so, Sir Samuel. I am entitled to say that communications with the Forest of Dean have in the past been extremely difficult and, therefore, the value of land and property in that area has been much lower than elsewhere. One of the consequences of the building of a motorway is that land near it becomes more expensive. This effect is already to be seen near the site of the Severn bridge—doubtless, the hon. Gentleman will rejoice in it—where land, although the bridge is not yet open, is rising in value in anticipation of the event and the wish of people to come to live there. As it is the policy of the present Government to reduce the price of land, one wonders how the hon. and learned Gentleman feels about that.

There will be the further advantage in that roads which will be relieved of their present traffic will become much more agreeable than they are now. Those who know it will agree that the A38 as it goes through my constituency and the road from Gloucester—

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Order. The hon. Gentleman must come back to the Severn Bridge tolls.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

With respect, Sir Samuel, although, of course, I bow to your Ruling, I feel that I am not very far out of order in referring to the effects which the bridge will have on the neighbourhood roads. It is a matter of very real importance, in two ways. At present, the bridge is well under construction but I am not satisfied, nor are the local people, that the approaches which lead to it are in an advanced enough state for them to cope with the increased traffic.

In that case, the Severn Bridge will not be able to be utilised to its full capacity simply because people will not be able to get to it. This, Sir Samuel, is of distinct relevance because the tolls from the new bridge will, consequently, not be so large as is calculated, and the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West may be entirely out of line in the figures which he claims to have but which he has refused to give to the Committee tonight. I should very much like to know what they are so that I might try to determine whether the feeder roads into the Severn Bridge will be adequate for their new purpose. I should like also to know more about the point raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) about the collection of tolls.

In common with other hon. Members, I have travelled on roads, notably in Italy and the United States, where tolls are collected, and I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member say that on the new Forth Bridge congestion is caused by the collection of tolls. I think he said that the congestion was very great. On the roads abroad where tolls have to be paid, the collection system seems to work without delay. There appears to me to be no congestion at the entrances to motorways or bridges, and we in Gloucestershire would be interested to know what system it is proposed to adopt and whether it is to be the same as that employed on the Forth. If so, it might seem that we are to have inconvenience and delay in getting on to the new bridge.

If the system is throughly faulty—and there are those with some experience who say that there will be difficulties—then perhaps the great boon which the Severn Bridge is supposed to be will not prove to be the case in fact. We may regret having spent £13 million of public money on this bridge when we find we cannot get on to it easily because of inadequate approach roads and because of inadequate entrance arrangements. We may not have the amenities which were expected from the bridge.

I would say finally that if the bridge is properly run, and the approach roads properly built, it will be of great benefit to our county because expenditure on other roads, which at present is very high—and these are roads which are seriously overloaded—will be diminished by a considerable margin. That, at least, will be a great relief to the ratepayers of Gloucestershire and for that reason alone, they will welcome tolls on the Severn Bridge.

12.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I should like to add something to the points raised by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

The hon. Member has only just come into the Committee.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) is much given to interrupting from a sedentary position. I was not here all the time, but I heard enough to know that he made reference to a point in which I am interested. I have in my constituency the Clifton suspension bridge—an old-fashioned type of bridge of this sort, but from which much can be learned in the matter of levy of tolls.

It seems to me that this whole question of the Severn Bridge and its tolls will not be adequately discussed. In any case, it is a pretty late hour to bring on a discussion on this matter. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer the questions my hon. Friend asked because there have been cases of great road improvements where the whole scheme has not been of sufficient benefit because the question of access has not been properly thought out.

Photo of Mr Niall MacDermot Mr Niall MacDermot , Derby North

I suspected that I have already said too much. When I learned that I had tantalised the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), I became convinced that I had said too much. This, after all, is a Ways and Means Resolution. I was led by what the hon. Member said to give some figures, but it would be quite wrong to go further into the matters raised by the hon. Member.

I was not sure at one stage whether we were listening to his Second Reading Speech on the Bill or merely a trailer for a speech in Committee. In any event I cannot go further than to give the indication I have given as to the level of tolls which might be imposed if the Committee approves of the Ways and Means Resolution and the House passes the Bill.

All that the Committee is concerned with at the moment is deciding the question of principle of whether by this Resolution we are entitled to the levying of tolls. If the Committee does so decide, all the questions which have been raised will be gone into carefully at a later stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

  1. 1. That the Minister of Transport (hereinafter referred to as "the Minister") shall be authorised, in accordance with orders to be made by him, to levy tolls in respect of vehicles using the carriageways comprised in those parts of a new road constructed, or in the course of being constructed, by the Minister which cross the Rivers Severn and Wye by bridges or constitute the approaches to such bridges.
  2. 2. That it is expedient to provide—
    1. (a) for imposing restrictions and other requirements in respect of vehicles stopping or remaining at rest on the said carriageways, and for securing the removal of such vehicles and the imposition of charges in respect of their removal;
    2. (b) for securing the operation (either by the Minister or by other persons) of a service of removing such vehicles from the said carriageways;
    3. (c) for extending, in relation to the said carriageways, the powers of prohibiting or restricting the use of roads, and, in particular, of regulating the use of special roads, conferred by the enactments relating to road traffic; and
    4. (d) for imposing other prohibitions and restrictions in relation to the parts of the new road which are referred to in paragraph 1 of this Resolution and in relation to structures, works and apparatus on, under or over those parts of that road or connected therewith or with the regulation of traffic thereon or with the levying of tolls as mentioned in that paragraph.
  3. 3. That, in any case where by reason of any accident or other emergency vehicles which would otherwise use the said carriageways are authorised to use the cycle track or the footway comprised in those parts of the new road which are referred to in paragraph 1 of this Resolution, the Minister shall be authorised to levy tolls in respect of the use of the said cycle track or the said footway by those vehicles; and, for the purposes of any such case, paragraph 2 of this Resolution shall have effect in relation to the said cycle track or the said footway as it has effect in relation to the said carriageways.
  4. 4. That it is expedient to provide for the extinguishment of any franchise to operate a ferry across the River Severn in the vicinity of the said new road and for the payment by the Minister of compensation in respect of any such ferry which is discontinued in consequence of the provision of that road.
  5. 5. That tolls levied as mentioned in paragraphs 1 and 3 of this Resolution, and any sums received by the Minister in connection with the removal of vehicles as mentioned in paragraph 2 (or in that paragraph as extended by paragraph. 3) of this Resolution, shall be paid into the Exchequer.
  6. 6. That it is expedient to provide for other matters incidental or supplementary to the matters specified in the preceding paragraphs of this Resolution.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received this day; Committee to sit again this day.