asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the standard of those trunk roads in Wales principally used by traffic whose destination is the South-East of England.
Yes, Sir. With the opening of the M4 Bridgend northern bypass in September last year, there is now a road of dual carriageway standard from the South-East of England into Dyfed.
Does the Minister appreciate that everyone in South Wales is asking about the Severn bridge? Any long-term closure of the bridge would place the whole economy of South Wales in jeopardy. What are the Government's plans for repairing the defects and strengthening the bridge, and is there long-term provision for a new bridge?
Work on strengthening the bridge is in hand, and my right hon. Friend is awaiting the report of the consultants who were asked to appraise the whole bridge. I think that the House and those of us associated with South Wales recognise the great importance and significance of the smooth use of the Severn bridge for the economy of South Wales.
Will the Minister look again at his Department's priorities for the A5 in Wales, in view of the construction work that the Department of Transport is now doing on the M54?
That matter does not arise from the question.
Does the Minister appreciate that a considerable percentage of this traffic to the South-East of England is en route to the Continent? Does he further appreciate that if the Channel tunnel were built a considerable amount of that traffic could go by rail, which would be very much to the satisfaction of the people of Kent? What consultations is he having with his right hon. Friend on the building of the Channel tunnel?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I am not at present engaged in such discussions.
I drove across the Severn bridge this morning. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of yet another set of restrictions on that bridge? How many times and how many days in the last 12 months has that bridge been free to traffic as opposed to being heavily restricted, as it was again today, with little evidence of much work being done?
First, I apologise for my answer to the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) a few minutes ago. I did not interpret that question as widely as I should have. Of course, we take that matter into consideration.I cannot give the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) information about how many days the bridge has been completely free from restriction, but clearly it has not been sufficient. There have been technical troubles associated with the bridge, and for safety reasons we have had to impose these restrictions. We shall, of course, clear the bridge as soon as we can, because we recognise its significance and importance.
Will the Minister make an authoritative public statement regarding the present condition of the Severn bridge, the steps that are shortly to be taken to improve it and the long-term view regarding the possible need for a second bridge? There is considerable disquiet among industrialists in South Wales, who fear that any closure of, or restrictions on, that bridge would adversely affect industrial development and growth in the area.
That, of course, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, and he has promised to keep the House properly and fully informed.