Transport Infrastructure: Devon and Somerset

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 4:00 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Ceidwadwyr, Bridgwater and West Somerset 4:00, 23 Ebrill 2024

I am incredibly grateful to the Minister, as always. He is right, and I was going to come on to HS2. I know that he sympathises with this, because he has a huge rural constituency, bigger than any in Devon. The road system up there is challenging, as I know—I used to live in it—not least because he has got the military running all over a part of his constituency.

The Minister is right: we have got to embrace that money. If nothing else, the message I give today to all colleagues is that Devon, Somerset and other counties need to get together, to start buying very expensive but very clever machines. There are ways to do that, and the Minister is right that the Prime Minister has led the way with this windfall, thank the Lord. It is marvellous to have it, and we should use every penny we can.

There is no secret that in Somerset we have a financial crisis. It is very difficult at the moment. We have managed to get through this year—we are fine—but next year is not looking so good. We have a lot of work to do, and if we do not do the work on roads, they just get worse. Then more money is required, and it a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have to help places that do not have the money—the same goes for Buckinghamshire and other counties that have the same problem. Devon is not in the same position, as my hon. Friend has already said—the county has been extremely generous and has got extra money out of its own resources, as we are all aware, which is tremendous—but we do need a better system.

One thing that has always struck me is that it is up to us—not just MPs, but county councillors—to ensure we work to try to resolve this. All of us walk or drive round our areas. How many times have we been down potholes? I quite often end up in hedgerows with punctures—as you can well imagine, Mr Streeter, knowing that my driving does not bear much scrutiny. It is infuriating but, if we do not say where the potholes are, we cause a problem for ourselves.

One of the biggest problems we all face is the size of tractors, which has increased enormously since we were young, dare I say. Tractors are now lane-filling. Devon and Somerset roads were never designed for that size of tractors, big lorries or some big cars. The weight of tractors has gone through the roof. What they now haul is hugely heavier than it used to be. That is one of the biggest problems we face, because they cause more and more damage. As one drives around both counties, it is the structure of the sides of the roads that is causing the problems. We have to be much more aware that farming damages roads, but there is nothing we can do about it. The farmers have every right to be there and need to be, but we need to cover that up.

This is my last point before I sit down and give way to the Minister, who I know has a lot to say on this. I am really disappointed about certain parts of Devon, which I am beginning to learn about, and especially Mid Devon District Council, which I find iniquitous. It should be scrutinising this, as should everyone else. I know it happens in Somerset and Devon counties. We would not have got the money if it had not. That is the point: they should scrutinise. To learn that the head of scrutiny has now legged it because it all got a bit tough and hard is pathetic. We need proper scrutiny.