The Welsh Government has refused to discuss its proposals for an M4 relief road around Newport, after Plaid Cymru called an Assembly debate on the issue. The Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, said she and her colleagues would not even vote at the end of the debate to avoid any suggestion of bias.
The Welsh Government has not tabled any amendments nor will be voting this afternoon.
– Economy Minister Edwina Hart AM
The government risks a legal challenge if there's any suggestion that it took the decision before hearing all the arguments. The choice is between a £1 billion new motorway, which the government originally proposed, or the cheaper 'blue route', an upgrade of the Newport southern distributor road).
We all agree that the M4 around Newport is a problem area for traffic that needs to be solved. Traffic jams cause delays for road users and have a negative impact on the economy. Plaid Cymru is pressing for a solution which is sustainable and represents value for money. The ‘blue route’ option is cost effective and can be delivered quickly. It’s the best option for Wales, for road users and for Welsh business.
– Plaid Cymru Economy Spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
Labour AMs argued that it was wrong to decide Assembly policy on the M4 relief road when its environment committee is still looking at the options. One Labour member of the committee, Mick Antoniw, said he would abstain in today's vote in order to preserve his impartiality.
This motion is irresponsible and shows a serious lack of judgment. Before the inquiry is complete ... it says 'this is the option we must take'. Plaid Cymru members [of the environment committee] can have no credibility on this issue.
Carwyn Jones has told AMs that calls to replace the proposed M4 relief motorway with a cheaper option are prejudging the inquiry by the Assembly's Environment Committee. The First Minister said they should also wait for the response from the Economy Minister, Edwina Hart.
Any way of resolving the problem has to be done in a sustainable manner and not have to be revisited after 5 or 6 years.
– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM
Both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats are critical of the £1 billion scheme, as are the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors. They all argue that an upgrade to Newport's southern distributor road could provide a much quicker and more cost-effective solution.
The Chair of the Environment Committee, Alun Ffred Jones, has written to Edwina Hart, asking for an assurance that the alternative road is considered. Plaid Cymru will open an Assembly debate on the issue tomorrow. Plaid can expect the backing of the Liberal Democrats but not the Conservatives.
The UK government has put the tools in place and we are convinced of the need for a new relief road. The southern distributor road has huge obstacles to being developed. The M4 relief road needs to offer the best long term solution.
Plaid Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to reopen its consultation on an M4 relief road around Newport, to allow consideration of the so-called blue route - an upgrade of the city's existing southern distributor road.
Plaid argue that it would be cheaper and quicker to build.
This would be a significant and exciting boost to the economy around the city, and would give traffic an alternative route when the M4 becomes too congested.
The FSB and IoD have backed this proposal and it is a much quicker and decisive way of dealing with the congestion than building a new M4, which would not open until 2031.
The other benefit of the Blue Route is that it protects the sensitive environmental sites on the Gwent Levels.
It is hard to put a financial cost on saving the Gwent Levels, but the Blue Route also saves around £620m which Plaid Cymru would want to see reinvested in projects elsewhere in Wales.
We are giving the Labour government a chance to back out of its plans to borrow and spend £1bn on a 14km stretch of motorway; a totally disproportionate way of dealing with congestion.
Plaid Cymru’s alternative plan would be completed more quickly and would leave more money for the infrastructure needs of the valleys, west and north Wales.
– Plaid Cymru Economy spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth AM