Roads (Environmental Impact)

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd April 1995.

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Mr. William O'Brien:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on progress to reduce the environmental impact of road transport. [15703]

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

A wide range of measures has been introduced to reduce the environmental impact of road transport, within the Government's overall aim of sustainable development.

Mr. O'Brien:

Will the Secretary of State confirm that included in that statement there is a genuine interest on the part of Government to reduce the development of asthma in children and in the population in general? Will he give an assurance that new motorways will not be built near infant and junior schools? Does he agree that there has to be a distance of half a mile, or a mile, between a motorway and a school to ensure the health and safety of children in our schools?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I understand the importance that the hon. Gentleman attaches to clean air. I hope that he will accept that, in the nine months that I have been in this job, I have tightened vehicle emission standards on two occasions and have paid particular attention to putting in place arrangements that will add to those already in place as regards cleaning the air. As to new roads, I understand that the hon. Gentleman has a genuine concern about the A1 (M) and proposals for new routes, the effect that those might have on the Ferrybridge-Pontefract corridor and whether the route ought to go to the east of Knottingley. He will appreciate that a variety of issues have to be taken into account in making such a judgment. He has made one of those points very eloquently today. I hope that he will accept that a number of others have to be borne in mind before a final decision is reached.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the M3 has been an outstanding success, as its use by the public has cut out many huge traffic jams of the past? None the less, the environmental side needs some attention. As a result of the sheer construction of the gap, almost 1,000 contractors' caravans are still in place. Should not a little environmental detail now be approached to make the M3 a real success?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I agree with my hon. Friend that the M3 and the whole motorway network have been a success. Some motorways have been a little controversial at the time of construction but, as people reflect on what we now have in place, they agree that the system is to the great advantage of the travelling public, business and industry. I hear what my hon. Friend says about the environmental aspects of the M3 and I will report his concern to the Highways Agency.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

In view of the measures which the Secretary of State says are so important, when will he take full account of the report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment and the report of the royal commission? When will environmental appraisal be at the root of all road schemes and transport policies? When will he introduce air quality monitoring, both nationally and as a requirement for local authorities?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

I should have hoped that the hon. Lady would know that, since 1985, environmental assessments have been at the heart of decisions on whether new roads should be built. The SACTRA report made it clear that induced traffic consequences of road building happen only on some roads but could not say in advance which roads those would be. It recommended that we should do more research to pursue that matter further and I am happy to tell the hon. Lady that we shall do so.