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National Transport Infrastructure (M4)

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2013

7. What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues and others on the contribution of the M4 to the UK’s national transport infrastructure. (153891)

I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues, Welsh Ministers and others on the strategic importance of the M4 to the UK road network.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is excellent news that the talks between the Welsh Assembly Government and the UK Government have resumed after 10 years of inactivity on this subject? Is he aware of the recent remarks of the director general of the CBI, who indicated that progress on this issue, coupled with electrification of the line through to Swansea, would represent the biggest investment in the Welsh economy for a generation?

I certainly agree with that. Furthermore, I would point out that the M4 is an extremely important UK national asset and it is a great pity that it was not upgraded long ago. Recently, I have had discussions with Welsh Assembly Ministers on this issue, and I hope that we will be able to make further progress.

Will the Secretary of State press the Treasury to invest now in the M4 above Newport and Port Talbot, going westwards, and to reduce the Severn bridge tolls, to give a real stimulus to the south Wales economy?

I am heavily engaged with the Treasury on that very issue. However, I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the road network in Wales is a devolved competence, and it is a great shame that the Welsh Government have not attended to this problem sooner, before the situation declined to the extent that it has. We are certainly engaged with the Treasury, and I hope that we will be able to make announcements in the future.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the M4 in south Wales is in desperate need of improvement, to relieve congestion that is hampering economic development there?

Yes, the congestion on the M4 is causing significant difficulty to Welsh commerce and, of course, to Welsh motorists. I repeat that it is a great pity that the Welsh Government did not carry out their statutory function by upgrading that road long ago. This is a matter on which I am engaged with the Welsh Government, and I hope we will be able to make further announcements in due course.

I must point out that the Assembly Government already have the competence to introduce road tolls, under the Transport (Wales) Act 2006. That is, of course, a matter for the Assembly Government.