Departmental Budget

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 29th November 1993.

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Photo of Mr David Martin Mr David Martin , Portsmouth South 2:35 pm, 29th November 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of his Department's annual budget is currently spent on roads and what proportion on public transport.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, The Secretary of State for Transport, Chair, Privileges Committee

About 55 per cent. of my Department's expenditure is spent on roads; the bulk of the remainder is devoted to public transport. Given that 90 per cent. of passenger and inland freight traffic is by road, this indicates the priority that Ministers give to public transport.

Photo of Mr David Martin Mr David Martin , Portsmouth South

I recognise the importance of public expenditure on public transport. Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, of the horrendous problems caused by the traffic jams and delays on the A3 between London and Portsmout at present affecting Hindhead, which is the last bottleneck in a road that has seen many improvements under the present Government? Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will do all that he can to advance the cause of a bypass around Hindhead so that we can complete the excellent work being done on the A3?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, The Secretary of State for Transport, Chair, Privileges Committee

I recognise the importance of a bypass at Hindhead to my hon. Friend's constituents in Portsmouth. Route and environmental issues have caused the delays to date, since the first public consultation in 1987 which led to the rejection of the first preferred route.

The detailed design is now being undertaken on a new preferred route, following an announcement earlier this year. That will lead to the publication of draft orders, expected in 1995. Meanwhile, a number of surveys are being carried out, including traffic and topographical surveys, and a ground investigation is due to start in the new year. I hope that that demonstrates to my hon. Friend that we are getting on with it.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Does the Secretary of State recognise that much of the money that is shown by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report to have been squandered by his Department on the road programme would have been better invested in London Underground? Ministers in their chauffeur-driven cars may not appreciate it, but people who travel on the tube every day know that the system is falling apart—that lifts and escalators are not working, signals are overloaded and tunnels are swilling with water—because the Government have failed to invest the necessary funds to make the tube system safe and sound. When will the Secretary of State change his priorities and ensure that the people of London get the decent tube service that they desperately need?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, The Secretary of State for Transport, Chair, Privileges Committee

Investment in the existing underground network is higher than it was at any time in the 1970s and 1980s, including the period of the Labour Government. Moreover, the Central line is benefiting from a £750 million modernisation scheme. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends will note that Opposition Members dismiss that £750 million and laugh at it, but it is a significant amount of taxpayers' money. The scheme is due to be completed in 1995 and includes provision for an upgrading of power supplies.

I believe that London Underground has traced last night's fault to power cables at Lots road power station. They have been repaired and we must hope that the service will be able to resume as soon as London Underground is satisfied that the trains can run properly. I have every confidence in Sir Wilfrid Newton and his management and staff, who have worked around the clock to identify the problem and get the Central line operational again. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) should recognise just how much money is being given to London Underground by the taxpayer.