Maintaining trunk roads and motorways is one of the three main priorities mentioned in my roads White Paper. We must protect the value of the huge investment made over the years in road construction with adequate maintenance today. My proposals for tackling this include identifying those stretches of heavily trafficked roads which require early treatment and carrying out a programme to get repairs completed quickly, economically and with as little traffic disruption as possible.
Does not the Minister agree that motorway maintenance is likely to take a far higher share of the budget in the immediate years ahead? Will not this mean that a smaller amount will be spent on trunk road schemes? Does he not agree that any skimping of the road maintenance programme is a penny-wise, pound-foolish policy—a policy that the Government are pursuing in so many other directions?
The hon. Gentleman cannot accuse the Government of pursuing that kind of policy in road investment and maintenance when we look at the record of the previous Government during their last two years. The position has improved. I agree that road maintenance is of the greatest importance. It will become increasingly important over the next decade.
Has the Minister noticed that, of the 115 schemes proposed in the White Paper for postponement or cancellation, no fewer than seven happen to be in the constituency of Skipton, which I am proud to represent? Is this deliberate? Is the Minister's mind open? Is he prepared to hear logical, dispassionate, sincere and intellectual argument to the effect that at least two or three of these schemes might be restored to their original priority?
Does the Minister accept that the deterioration of roads and pavements in cities is a matter of grave concern for elderly people and others? Is he aware that city highway authorities do not have the money to maintain them properly, which means that the danger is growing daily? What, if anything, does he propose to do to help?
About £500 million a year is going towards local road maintenance. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware of the national survey showing that, over the last four or five years, local roads have improved rather than deteriorated. If the hon. and learned Gentleman disagrees, I would point out that during most of that time, the Labour Government were in power. I am concerned about the issues that the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. I shall give more thought to them.