Wales politics

Prince of Wales Bridge name: Labour 'took eye off the ball'

The Second Severn Crossing opened in 1996 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Second Severn Crossing opened in 1996 and passed into public ownership in January

The Welsh Government took its eye off the ball by not objecting to the UK government's renaming of the Second Severn Crossing, Plaid Cymru has said.

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition objecting to the decision to call it the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Adam Price said Welsh ministers should put pressure on the UK government to hold a public consultation.

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was a matter for Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

But one backbench Labour AM said the renaming may do "no harm".

The Queen and the prime minister have approved a plan to rename the bridge to mark Prince Charles's 70th birthday, and the 60th anniversary of him taking the title Prince of Wales.

First Minister and Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones did not oppose the idea when he was told about it last year, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

The UK government said Mr Cairns had "corresponded regularly" with Mr Jones about the decision, adding: "Throughout the process, the Welsh Government has been in full support of the announcement."

Mr Price claimed the "strength of feeling" about the issue had "probably taken the Wales Office and Welsh Government aback".

"It's rare in Wales for tens of thousands of people to sign a petition on an issue like this, with such an emotional and defiant reaction," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prince Charles turns 70 in November and was given the title Prince of Wales in 1958

"Of course it's not just about the name of the bridge, but the symbolism, and the way the decision was made.

"Attention will rightly turn to the Labour Welsh Government and the first minister in the coming weeks, as they failed to raise objections or to recommend that the public's views were sought.

"We potentially have a position where Labour politicians, as well as Plaid Cymru, will be disappointed in their own first minister, and will be left scratching their heads about why some kind of wider consultation wasn't proposed.

"Serious questions need to be asked of why the Labour Government took its eye off the ball and, given the strong public reaction, we should now at the very least expect the Welsh Government to make formal representations to the UK government in favour of public consultation."

'No harm'

One backbench Labour AM, Jenny Rathbone, suggested however that renaming the bridge would do "no harm".

"If it encourages the Prince of Wales to promote more investment in public transport to achieve the modal shift we need to meet our climate change obligations, then it could do some good," he said.

Jack Lopresti, the Conservative MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, where the bridge enters England, supported the announcement.

"The abolishing of tolls later this year will bring many £100's of millions of investment and spending into our local economy," he added.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Cairns said he was not surprised by opposition to the plan, but claimed the "wider, silent majority is absolutely with us".

In December, independent AM and culture minister Lord Elis-Thomas sparked controversy when he said he intended to promote Wales as "a principality within the UK" for tourism purposes.

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