Mr Alan Fitch: asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is yet able to announce when he expects to make a statement on his review of the future of domestic rates and possible alternative sources of local revenue.
Mr Alan Fitch: Will the Secretary of State admit that the Government have not the faintest idea how to deal with the future of rates or, indeed, the whole local government financial structure? This is a very urgent matter. What plans for reform does he intend to introduce in the very near future to put local government on a better and more satisfactory financial basis?
Mr Alan Fitch: asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make financial resources available to help to ensure that the Grand National horse race continues.
Mr Alan Fitch: If this assurance is not fulfilled, will the Government be prepared to give some financial support? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is not a parochial event, but a major event in world sport that is watched on television by 49 countries and therefore should not be allowed to die?
Mr Alan Fitch: Will the Under-Secretary confirm that during the last financial year the road construction budget was £100 million underspent? Does she agree that that money could have been spent on bypasses and a better road maintenance system?
Mr Alan Fitch: I find it difficult to disagree with the contents of the Minister's speech, but I was concerned about its emphasis, which seemed to suggest that the coal industry did not have the future that I and many of my hon. Friends believe that it has. The hon. Gentleman was pessimistic, but I should add, to be fair to him, that as his speech went on he became a little more enthusiastic. We are...
Mr Alan Fitch: asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he expects to spend the full cash limit for the trunk road programme this year.
Mr Alan Fitch: Does the Minister not agree that in this period of severe unemployment in the construction industry such an answer is deplorable? Does he not further agree that we should spend all available money on necessary road construction, and particularly on trunk roads?
Mr Alan Fitch: asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he is satisfied with the progress of schemes in the trunk road programme.
Mr Alan Fitch: Does the Under-Secretary agree, in view of his brief reply, that it is very slow progress? Since only six bypasses were opened in the year 1980–81, compared with 17 in the year 1975–76, and since there is considerable unemployment in the construction industry, with men and machines idle, could the Government do something at least to pursue a bolder programme for the construction of bypasses?
Mr Alan Fitch: asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has any further plans to increase transport investment.
Mr Alan Fitch: Will the Minister include in his proposals financial support for the 225 route from Orrell to Bolton?
Mr Alan Fitch: It may seem odd that I should raise the question of the road needs of the North-West when I live 10 to 15 minutes drive away from the M6, the M61, the M62, and the M63. Those of us who live in South-East Lancashire could not be better served by motorways. The problems that we face are more fundamental and deep. They apply to the country as a whole and not just to the North-West. It is the...
Mr Alan Fitch: I give a cautious welcome to this Bill—not because I am in disagreement with any particular provision, but because I would like to have seen a more comprehensive Bill. In its present form the Bill is too bitty—a little bit of this and a larger bit of that. I welcome the direction in the Bill to non-metropolitan county councils to prepare and publish a public passenger transport plan for...
Mr Alan Fitch: I must think about the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I think that there is probably something in what he says. The Leitch Report is a masterly review of the whole subject of road building procedures. It is not a comprehensive attack on the trunk road programme or a vindication of the protesters at public inquiries. I hope that it will be read by all those who are involved in the wide debate on...
Mr Alan Fitch: When working on an integrated transport policy will the Minister consult Mr. Jack Jones, who believes that the case for road transport has not been put strongly enough?
Mr Alan Fitch: Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is coming close to criticising the Chair for its selection of these amendments.
Mr Alan Fitch: Before calling the Minister of State to move the new clause, I ought perhaps to mention that right hon. and hon. Members will have read in Hansard a point of order which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) raised last Tuesday. I think that I can set the hon Gentleman's mind at rest. The Chairman of Ways and Means has asked me to say that, in his view, were the referendum paper...
Mr Alan Fitch: With this, we are to take Amendment No. 111, in page 2, line 22, at end insert: '(2A) Elections to the Scottish or Welsh Assemblies shall not take place within two months of a Parliamentary general election or any election to the European Parliament'
Mr Alan Fitch: We ought to see how we get along. I do not want the debate to widen on the question of direct elections to the European Parliament.