HC Deb 15 July 1970 vol 803 cc1521-3
42. Mr. McNamara

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the future of the Humber Bridge project.

43. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the proposed building of the Humber Bridge.

50. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Minister of Transport what discussions he has had with the Humber Bridge Board; and if he will make a statement about a date for the construction of the bridge.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

We are studying the proposals for the Humber Bridge, but I am not yet able to make a statement.

Mr. McNamara

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government are not prepared to go ahead with this most important project, especially in the light of statements made by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology about the importance of infrastructure improvement within development and intermediate areas? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that what he has said seems to bear out the worst forebodings which many of us had at the last election, that the Tories would not build the bridge?

Mr. Heseltine

The bridge has, I think, suffered from a surfeit of statements, even if some of them coincided with opportune by-elections. It would be quite wrong for the hon. Gentleman to construe my remarks in the way he did.

Mr. Wall

The last Government promised us the bridge and then would not provide any money for its construction. Will my hon. Friend try to do better, and can he say when he hopes to be able to make a firm statement?

Mr. Heseltine

It was, perhaps, regrettable that the promise was made for votes and not with the intention of proceeding with the bridge. We fully realise that this is a matter of great concern. We are examining it. Obviously, it has important implications for the whole area.

Mr. Johnson

Will the hon. Gentleman take it that I was looking forward to the chance of thanking him today for reaffirming a pledge given by a former Socialist Minister to build the bridge?

Mr. Biggs-Davison

How long did the hon. Gentleman and his Government take?

Mr. Johnson

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that all sections of the public, all parties, and all commerce and industry on Humberside badly want the bridge? It is impossible to plan Humberside without linking the two banks. Why cannot he give a definite answer?

Mr. Heseltine

I have already explained that we consider the bridge project to be of great importance. We want to consider it in great depth. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want us to make statements until it has been thoroughly examined by the new Administration.

Mr. Bob Brown

It is not true that, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said, we sanctioned the bridge and were not prepared to provide funds. It is well known that we were interested in the infrastructure and the approach roads. When the Parliamentary Secretary speaks of reviewing the situation, does that mean that what he is determining is whether he will improve on the date which we had set as 1972?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman should be fully aware that, far from making money available, the previous Administration made clear that they would not do so and that the bridge would be financed by tolls. That is the situation, and it very much commends itself to us at this moment.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is my hon. Friend, perhaps, not able to give an immediate decision because he has in mind that intermediate areas in the region would be better served by, for example, improving the trunk roads between the Humberside ports and the Yorkshire wool textile district?

Mr Heseltine

My hon. Friend will expect us to consider those matters as part of our general survey.