M4 relief road decision may be delayed – again
A decision on the M4 relief road may be held back until after the Newport West by-election.
Last week it was announced first minister Mark Drakeford had been handed the inspector’s report following the public inquiry into the scheme, as well as advice and recommendations of Welsh Government officials.
But, speaking at a press conference on Monday morning, Mr Drakeford said electoral rules around major decisions may prevent him from making a decision on the scheme until after the by-election – to be held on Thursday, April 4.
Under electoral rules, governments are banned from making major decisions while elections are in process. But, as the by-election relates to a Parliamentary seat, while the M4 falls under the responsibility of the Welsh Government, it is unclear whether this applies to the M4 while the by-election campaign is in process, and Mr Drakeford said he was awaiting official guidance on the rules.
But he added a lot remained to be done before he was in a position to be able to make a decision on the long-awaited scheme.
“I spent almost the whole of yesterday reading the inspector’s report,” he said. “I am yet to complete even a first read of a document that is almost 600 pages long and refers to other documents that are not part of the report itself, but support the conclusions that are set out in the report.
“The process will be one that I follow in any other case of this sort – as I read the report and I read the advice there are a series of questions that I am compiling that I wish to understand better, that I wish to get further advice on. At the point where I have done all the reading I will want to meet the key officials who are preparing that advice.
“I will reach that decision when I feel I have the best possible understanding of the issues at play, the best possible advice on those issues which, even on a first reading, I need to explore further, and then I will come to the decision which it lies with me to make.”
Mr Drakeford’s predecessor Carwyn Jones had said before he left office he hoped to be able to make a decision on the scheme within a week or receiving the report.
But Mr Drakeford said: “I am certainly not going to be able to do it justice and do it properly within a week. I am not saying it will take a month either.”