A decision on the M4 Newport bypass likely by December

(Title Image: Welsh Government)

Transparency

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E .& Dinefwr) asked whether Aston Martin had entered into a guarantee fee agreement with the Welsh Government?

The Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said commercially sensitive information couldn’t be disclosed, but officials have been asked to consider what information can be released.

Adam then revealed Aston Martin is willing to reveal the information themselves and it involves a debt agreement similar to the one proposed for the Circuit of Wales – putting the Economy Secretary on the spot; Ken said the whole thing was down to skilled negotiation by Welsh Government officials and (effectively) congratulated himself.

“Look, Cabinet Secretary, this really isn’t good. Instead of a few words of congratulations, how about a few words of contrition….about the failure to be transparent, having, basically, the information dragged out of you because the company has decided it is right and proper to put this information in the public domain, and yet you’ve stonewalled right throughout?”
– Adam Price AM

The Economy Secretary was disappointed the AM wasn’t as quick to congratulate investment as he is to condemn and said Adam would be “impressed” by the agreement.

Postponement

Shadow Economy Secretary, Russell George (Con, Montgomery), asked why a proposed rail service between Liverpool and Chester – due to start in December under the new rail franchise – has been delayed due to a shortage of available trains?

The Economy Secretary blamed the situation on the abandonment of electrification by the UK Government, which has resulted in a shortage of new diesel trains; it’s not a problem unique to Transport for Wales. He also confirmed that additional services between Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Cardiff and between Llandudno and Chester were still on schedule to run from December 2018.

Carwyn’s final big decision?

Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East) asked whether the current First Minister will make the decision on whether to give the proposed M4 Newport bypass the go ahead?

“I’m pleased to be able to tell the Chamber today that the public inquiry inspector’s report has now been received by officials. Following due diligence, a decision will be made by Welsh Ministers and, ultimately, the current First Minister on the statutory orders process—effectively, whether planning permission is granted. An open and robust debate will then take place before a final investment decision.”
– Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates

In practical terms, this means a decision will be made by this December when Carwyn Jones is due to stand down as First Minister.

The Secretary rejected suggestions from Mark that the Welsh Government were dragging their feet; decisions have to be made based on the available evidence and it’s pointing towards the Newport bypass having a high return on investment, but he accepted it was a divisive project.

He also confirmed to Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) that the Welsh Government are actively considering whether the final binding decision should be put to a vote in the Senedd; a debate to “note” the final recommendation is already set to take place.

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