The Tyne and Wear passenger transport authority has applied to my Department under the Transport and Works Act 1992 for powers to build a second Tyne tunnel. We hope to reach a decision shortly. I cannot comment on the merits of the scheme before the decision is taken.
It was in 1997, when I first entered the House, that I introduced the paving Bill for the second Tyne tunnel. It is now 2005, and not even a brick has been laid. When will the Minister get something done and sort out the civil servants to make sure that the scheme goes ahead, in order to create jobs in the area and relieve traffic congestion?
I hear what my hon. Friend says. The fact is that the decision was delayed as a result of the PTA changing its mind about what powers it required after the initial inquiry. In fairness, we must then allow other people to comment on that decision. The decision will be made as quickly as possible. As I said, because Ministers are required to act in a quasi-judicial mode on those sorts of decisions, I cannot comment on the merits, as that would be the quickest way to make sure that the scheme was delayed even further.
The Minister might also be aware that I have made the case in this Chamber, even before 1997, for action to be taken to relieve congestion in the Tyne and Wear area, particularly on the A1 western bypass. The second tunnel will greatly help in that direction, so will he listen to my hon. Friend Mr. Hepburn, who has been putting the case well over many years, and take urgent action to get this scheme under way as early as possible?
From our point of view, we will make the decision as quickly as possible, and I certainly expect it within the next few weeks. All that I can say is that I have heard what my hon. Friends have said, and all comments will be taken into account.