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Severn Bridges Tolls

Volume 653: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2019

4. What assessment he has made of the effect on the economy of Wales of removing the tolls from the Severn bridges. (908673)

The removal of the tolls from the Severn river crossings will drive the biggest economic stimulus Wales has seen in decades, putting over £1,400 a year back into the pockets of hard-working motorists and boosting the south Wales economy alone by £100 million.

I am delighted to hear that positive assessment from my right hon. Friend of the impact of removing the tolls, which add a significant cost to doing business between the south-west of England and Wales. Will he advise on what discussions he is having to exploit this opportunity by identifying any job-creating developments this might inspire on the M4/M5 corridor?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in this area to encourage closer working between this super-region that is being developed. The great western powerhouse allows the south-west of England and south Wales to market themselves jointly to start competing with the northern powerhouse and the midlands engine. I know that he has a strong interest in the M5 and the business around it. I obviously have a strong interest in the M4, and together we will attract more investment.

May I begin by associating myself with the comments that the Secretary of State made about Steffan Lewis? As his local MP, I always admired and respected him, and his passion for Wales will be greatly missed within the Assembly. It is a loss to Welsh political life.

The closing of the tolls at the M4 bridge creates massive opportunities. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with other Government Departments to bring regional offices and Government jobs to Wales?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for such a question. A number of discussions are going on across Government Departments about the drive to decentralise civil service opportunities from London. He will be aware of the Cardiff hub, and we are looking to where other opportunities exist. But abolishing the Severn tolls has also created challenges. We need better integration for projects such as the Chepstow bypass and other road projects that work cross-border, and we need to harness those as priorities.