It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. I am very grateful to Yasmin Qureshi for securing this debate. She describes the topic as not sexy, but I regard it as extraordinarily important and alluring. Its importance has been well brought out by the number of colleagues from across the House who are sitting here for a half-hour debate to register their concerns. I am sure many will wish to intervene on my speech, as they have already done during the hon. Lady’s speech.
In her speech, she ran two things together: the general question of funding for local authorities and the question of roads funding. I am not going to engage with the wider issue; she can raise that in a different debate if she so wishes. I will engage with the questions raised under the heading of the debate. Both are important—it is not just about potholes; it is also about road maintenance. I hope I will be clear in my remarks that far from nothing being done, an enormous amount is being done. I will set out exactly how.
Let me start by saying that I think everyone recognises the great importance of the local road network to the British economy—the Government certainly do—and it is going to become more important in the future as we see autonomous vehicles come in. After all, local roads form something like 98% of our national highways network. As the hon. Lady says, local authorities have an existing legal duty to maintain local roads under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980. Responsibility lies with them in the first instance, but I absolutely recognise, as I said in Transport questions the other day, that there is a case for a more long-term, strategic approach to local roads.