Cleddau Bridge

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1976.

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Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen 12:00 am, 1st November 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has reconsidered his decision about the costs of the Cleddau Bridge.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

No new facts have emerged to warrant this.

Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the £1¼ million burden of interest which has to be borne by Dyfed, which includes the old counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen, which had no responsibility for building this bridge—in fact, this burden should be borne by the Government—is equal to the total of the cuts in roads and almost equal to the total cuts in education? Is not this totally unjust?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

As regards the responsibility of Carmarthen and Ceredigion, we—I am one of them—must carry the burden for the activities of the old county council of Pembroke. This is the result of local government reorganisation perpetrated by the Administration of the Conservatives. I understand that for the past year the net expenditure for the county was just over £1 million, not £1¼ million.

As for the Government not doing anything, I must make it clear that the combination of the resources element and the needs element of the rate support grant which the Government make means that three-quarters of the total of that cost has been met by the Government and only one-quarter by the ratepayers. That should be put in its right perspective, too.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

Should not the Secretary of State make it clear that the responsibility for the present situation rests not on the old authority but on an unforeseeable disaster which added £7 million or £8 million to the cost of the bridge? I understand that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to meet local authority representatives this week. Will he take this opportunity of transferring the burden even more equitably to the taxpayer than he has just suggested? Is there not a special need to do so at a time when unemployment in the area is at the shocking level of one in five?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have welcomed the fact that three-quarters of the burden is now being carried by the central Government. We all know the history of the building of this bridge. Pembrokeshire County Council decided to go it alone on the building of the bridge. There was no question of central Government financing while the Conservative Government were in power from 1970 to 1974, except for the statement by the hon. Gentleman on the eve of the 1974 General Election, with all the authority of a Conservative spokesman, that if they were elected to power there would be no toll charges. I greatly look forward to seeing what will happen about that statement.