The schemes, which will cost pounds 93m, were welcomed by MPs, but John Prescott, the Labour spokesman, accused the Government of lacking a coherent transport policy.
On the day after the Department of the Environment raised the prospect of anti-pollution measures to curb car use - including speed governors to limit car speeds and a 10 per cent increase in fuel prices - Mr MacGregor made it clear the transport department was committed to the car economy.
Mr MacGregor, who is also studying car fees to tackle commuter jams in cities, told Robert Adley, Tory chairman of the cross- party Commons select committee on transport, that bypasses substantially reduced air pollution in towns and catalytic converters would be compulsory for new cars in a fortnight.
While it was essential to reduce air pollution, Mr MacGregor said: 'There will have to be a substantial road building programme because we see more and more people wishing to move around the country and we have to cope with that . . .'
The pounds 1bn on road schemes was part of the Autumn Statement, including some which were rescued from the Treasury squeeze on spending by the Prime Minister's decision to put more emphasis on growth and job-creating capital projects.
Mr MacGregor said the pounds 93m cost of the new schemes to be started in 1993-94 was an increase of 55 per cent over 1992-93.
'The list strikes a sensible balance between the needs of rural and urban areas and offers a fair share-out between the counties,' he told MPs in a Commons statement.
The 24 new bypasses and relief roads include an M3 link to the A31 at Farnham. About pounds 150m will be allocated to roads and road safety schemes in London, including pounds 3.3m - three times the amount spent in the past year - on bus priority schemes.
NEW SCHEMES: East Sussex: A22 Nightingale Farm to A27; Surrey/Hampshire: A331 Blackwater Valley route (centre portion); Oxfordshire: A44 Woodstock bypass; West Sussex: A24 Ashington bypass; Avon: Weston-super-Mare primary distributor road stages 4B, 5C & 6; Cornwall: A388 Carkeel-Callington phases 1,2 & 3; Devon: B3199 Tiverton southern relief road; Dorset: A350 Sterte Road/Hungerhill improvements; Somerset: A39 Cannington southern bypass; Coventry: A444 North-South Road phase 2; Wolverhampton: A4124 Wednesfield bypass and industrial access; Staffordshire: A527 Tunstall western bypass phases 1 & 2; A520 Stone bypass; Manchester: Manchester/Salford inner relief road phase 2: Chester Road roundabout; Liverpool: Russell Street-Berry Street link; Wirral: A5027 City Challenge-Birkenhead freeport route; Cheshire: Chester park and ride phase 2; Lancashire: Squires Gate link road phase 2; Newcastle: A1058 Cradlewell bypass; Cumbria: A689 High and Low Crosby bypass; Durham: A6072 Bishop Auckland/Shildon link; Northumberland: A1061 South Newsham diversion; Sheffield: A61 Penistone Road/Middlewood Road junction improvement; Bradford: A650 Canal Road stage 1; Leeds: City centre loop road phase 2; Humberside: A16 Grimsby Peakes Park Way; Leicestershire: A563 Braunston Way underpasses; Lincolnshire: A52 Grantham inner relief road; Northamptonshire: A45 Nene Valley Way widening; Nottinghamshire: A6009 Mansfield inner ring road; Buckinghamshire: A421 Buckingham-Milton Keynes various improvements; Cambridgeshire: A15 Werrington to Glinton bypass phase 1; Essex: A133 Little Clacton bypass and Gorse Lane link stage 2; Hertfordshire: A414 Cole Green bypass; Norfolk/Suffolk: A143 Scole/Stuston bypass.
LONDON: Croydon: A232 Chepstow Road-Fairfield Road-Barclay Road widening; Hillingdon: A437 Bournes Bridge; Hounslow: A315 Hounslow town centre urban relief road; Merton: A219 Wimbledon town centre-Alexandra Road junction improvement; Newham: A11 Stratford gyratory modifications; Waltham Forest: A503 Forest Road/Blackhorse Road junction.