Tories will repeat their snake-oil salesman Severn Bridges tolls stunt of January 13th 2017.
David T C Davies Monmouth MP, SOS Alun Cairns, Transport SOS Chris Grayling January 13th 2016.
Confused on tolls? ............Understandable.
It's sorry saga of confidence tricks and an election bribe. As a bribe it failed to win any extra seats for the Tories but it has forced them into honouring the Severn Bridges Toll Act 1992 that says the tolls should be zero this month. The £5.60 charge is an imposed ALUN CAIRNS TAX, that is unnecessary. From January 2018 the Bridges will be in public ownership and should be treated in the same way as the rest of the national road system that is toll-free.
Tolls will be £3.70 they said (Dec 2016), then £3.00 (above 13th Jan 2017), then Election Bribe £0.00 (May 2017, Now £5.60! For another year.
An extract from a recent evidence session of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee December 2017:
Paul Flynn: Do you think the political cartwheels that you performed on the Severn bridges toll are likely to bring cheap political opportunism into disrepute. Could you explain why you changed your policy from a £3.70 toll in the middle of the election campaign?
Alun Cairns: I always recognised that there was a symbolic and economic issue surrounding tolls.
Q63 Paul Flynn: Could you answer that? I have got a few questions but why did you do it at that particular time?
Alun Cairns: We have to work across Government.
Q64 Paul Flynn: It was sheer coincidence that it was at election time, was it?
Alun Cairns: It became a manifesto commitment.
Q65 Paul Flynn: Why? It was a cheap attempt to gain seats, which failed spectacularly, because you actually lost three seats. As a party, just think on terms of political morality, your Government is there on the basis of mercenary MPs from Northern Ireland who have been bribed with £1 billion. The situation with the Severn bridges toll—
Chair: I am not sure that I can allow references to mercenary MPs and bribery to pass unchecked, Mr Flynn.
Paul Flynn: I think they are entirely accurate statements. A mercenary is someone who can be bought and does a job for money. I believe that the Northern Ireland Members would generally acknowledge that they wouldn’t have taken up their new-found loyalty to the Tory Government without the £1 billion that was paid to them. I think that is an accepted fact.
Chair: I enjoy robust questioning, but we should all be careful, because I might get advised that those terms are out of order. Do continue, because I am enjoying this.
Q66 Paul Flynn: I have opposed the Severn bridges tolls since before you were born, Secretary of State. It is welcome that they are ending. The Severn Bridges Act 1992 set out an agreement—a deal—which comes to an end on 8 January, when the Severn bridges tolls end. The Severn bridges are exactly the same as any other part of the motorway system: they are owned by the public. Isn’t continuing paying the tolls for another year accurately called a Cairns tax?
Alun Cairns: I am grateful for the recognition that the tolls are being cut. When I was a member of this Committee, the impact of the Severn tolls was the first issue we considered. Ever since then, I have been convinced that something needs to be done about it. Going back to the question of why it was to be halved, and then why we came forward with a commitment
Paul Flynn: Why don’t you confess—it would feel a lot better—that this was a crude attempt to buy votes during an election? It is the sort of thing that voters rightly spurn. They recognised it to be a cheap election bribe.
Alun Cairns: Well, no. It was something I made a priority when I became Secretary of State. At the time I was here last year, I had not quite convinced all my colleagues—
Paul Flynn: You changed your mind in six months.
Alun Cairns: I had not quite convinced all my colleagues that abolishing them was the best way, and I managed to get halfway by halving the tolls. I am pleased that my colleagues responded to my request. I am supported by the Committee and by business in Wales. The outcome is positive. When we talk about the Welsh economy, I hope we can talk about the south Wales economy and the south-west of England in an optimistic way. There is one haulier very close to your constituency, Mr Flynn, that has said that it has saved it £500,000.
Paul Flynn: We know about the advantages. Can I go on to something else?
Alun Cairns: I can give countless examples of businesses that welcome it. We need to focus on it to help attract further investment into Wales.
Q68 Paul Flynn: We all agree on the advantages. What we are discussing is the political morality of your party in the election campaign, the reasons why you did this and whether it brings politics into disrepute. You told us last year that the tolls were going to be £3.70. You appeared on the Severn bridge—I have a charming photograph on my website of the Chairman and you—announcing, “Hallelujah! It is going to be a £3 toll.” Strangely enough, a surprise election comes along, and suddenly they are going to go altogether. Is that what you are trying to tell us happened?
Alun Cairns: My Flynn, I think you are asking me to apologise for abolishing the tolls.
Q69 Paul Flynn: No, I am asking you to apologise for a crudely political way of conning the voters. It didn’t work. To take the next con that is on now, the majority of the people of this country are very alarmed about many of the aspects of Brexit, now that it is coming in. I sit on other Committees, and they take a line, which is that they have great concern about the effect on the Welsh farming industry.
Alun Cairns: If I may, there is a serious issue here. If you are asking me to apologise for a manifesto commitment that we made and are delivering on, I absolutely will not do so. This is a positive announcement. We should all be taking it in the spirit it was meant and using it as an economic measure to boost investment.
Paul Flynn: There is such a thing as doing the right thing for the wrong reason. My question was not about the advantages of the Severn bridge tolls—they should have gone in ’66, as far as I am concerned—but about the way you did it, what it does to political faith and the way that your party is in power because of the deal they did with the DUP.