Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that very little is to be gained by tackling this problem with a series of small bypasses to assist various towns along the way? What is really needed is for the Minister to think big in this matter so that we have a highway which will connect the industrial Midlands with the East Coast ports.
Our job is to think in terms of traffic volumes on the roads and the requirements in terms of modern transport needs. These roads are being brought up to standard in accordance with the evidence of traffic volume that we have. As the hon. Member knows, a considerable number of schemes are now in hand.
Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we have, in recent months, seen some of the difficulties that arise as a result of the funnelling of so much of our export trade from the industrial Midlands through the Port of London? Would not the hon. Gentleman consider that a great deal might be gained by diverting some of this traffic, particularly that which goes to the Common Market countries and into the valley of the Rhine? Would it not be an improvement if some of this traffic were encouraged to go on an east-west route through the developing ports of Ipswich and Harwich, which would ease congestion in London and make for much more effective shipment of our exports to the European nations?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the roads leading to Harwich are becoming a vital artery for our exports and that motor traffic on them, in terms of export value, has increased from £50 million to £300 million in the last few years? A lot of this traffic consists of caravans and car transporters, and we shall have a fatal accident very soon in our narrow country lanes along which this transport has to go. Will the hon. Gentleman's Department do something about it?
Something is being done about it. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that roadworks are in hand on the A.604 and the A.113 in order to improve them in relation to the volume of traffic.
In looking at the schemes to which these Questions refer, would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that competition between ports for traffic can be, as the Rochdale Committee pointed out, not only a safeguard to the consumer but an important stimulus to efficiency?
As I have said, we are in favour of a better distribution of traffic between ports and, therefore, in considering transport requirements, we are doing all we can to improve access to these ports.
Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that although earlier today the claims of the more southern routes have been stressed, if a road of this kind is contemplated it would be better to build it on the north route to Lynn because this would help not only Norfolk but Suffolk?
I should not like my hon. Friend to think that there was any particular proposal for the southern route. There are as many as 10 improvement schemes in hand or programmed on the A.47.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a policy which is based on the existing traffic will not help anyone and that his task as Minister is to contemplate the future and to recognise the growth which is taking place in the Eastern Counties? It is simply not good enough to fob us off with stories about what the existing traffic is.