Priority is being given to the Chepstow inner relief road scheme on which work is at present planned to start in 1985. There are also schemes to relieve traffic in Brynglas tunnels and Malpas road, and to bypass Llantarnam, Penperlleni and Llanellen on the A4042. Any start on these schemes, however, would not be until after 1988.
My hon. Friend will be aware that a public participation exercise has been held in my constituency—it took place last week—on the Brynglas tunnels and Malpas road bypass. The exercise was attended by many hundreds of people. Will my hon. Friend give me an assurance that their views will be taken seriously into account before the final route is published?
I readily give my hon. Friend the assurance that when public participation exercises take place my Department and ministerial colleagues consider them thoroughly and consider all views and objections.
What use is all this talk of priority for roads in Gwent or anywhere else if incoming traffic is unable to cross the Severn bridge without congestion, hazard or danger? Is the Secretary of State to dodge behind the indolent view of the Department of Transport and fail to make a statement about the Severn bridge, a statement which is being demanded throughout Wales as a consequence of the dangerously conflicting engineering reports that have been published within the Principality?
I am giving the House accurate information. I would never wish to mislead the House. The Wye bridge takes traffic on into Wales, but that is not my main point. The Minister of State, Department of Transport was responsible for the issuing of a press statement at lunchtime. I shall take the matter no further this afternoon.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it must be obvious that there were faults in the construction of the bridge and that successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have either been badly advised or unduly complacent about a vital connecting link between the south-west and Wales? As the link is vital to south Wales, Bristol and the south-west of England generally, will my hon. Friend be in early touch with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that the matter is given maximum priority and great urgency?
The Minister has answered a number of questions on unemployment in Wales and on possible difficulties in future. Does the Minister appreciate that a terrible situation would be created in south Wales if anything were to go wrong with the Severn bridge? Has the Secretary of State for Wales received the most recent and important report on the bridge? If so, what action is he proposing to take?
The Minister should realise that he does not inspire confidence in himself in the House when he tells us that one of his ministerial colleagues in another Department has made a press statement about an issue that is extremely relevant to Wales. Will he give a guarantee that in future he will do much better when dealing with matters that are equally important to the Welsh economy?
I think that there is deliberate misunderstanding. I am concerned, as is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, about the effect on the economy of south Wales if anything were to go wrong with the bridge. We are in constant touch with our colleagues at the Department of Transport. The responsibility for the bridge and its management rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and not with the Welsh Office.
Let me clear up that confustion, which may be deliberate or a fault on my part. I was fully aware of that statement. I told the House that I had not seen the report that was raised in the Adjournment debate last Friday by the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes).