AN M4 relief road in Newport could be funded from Severn Bridge tolls, a Welsh Government minister said today.

Appearing before the Welsh affairs select committee, finance minister Jane Hutt told a group of MPs today, if the Welsh Government were to take on responsibility for the Severn Crossings, any profit from tolls would go towards funding enhancement of M4, .

Ms Hutt said priorities for the Welsh Government-run crossings would be maintenance and reducing tolls to ease the burden on the Welsh economy.

She added: "Any money left after repair and maintenance costs were dealt with would be used specifically to fund a project, and 'M4 enhancements is the project."

Ms Hutt's opposite number in the Assembly said she and the Welsh Labour Government had "dithered’’ over the project for too long.

Conservative AM Byron Davies said: "Their complete lack of foresight ultimately cancelled the M4 relief road and it's only because of pressure from both sides of the Severn Bridge that they have been forced them to act.

"Progress towards finally building this relief road is well overdue and its absence continues to impede economic growth along the length of the M4 corridor.

"The only reason we are seeing any progress on the M4 relief road is because of the intervention of the Conservative-led coalition and the Chancellor's commitment to what he sees as one of the UK's most important road schemes.’’ But Mr Davies admitted that Ms Hutt's calls to devolve the Severn Bridges to the Assembly and use the tolls as a cash cow for future projects could be "a very positive move’’.

However, the Federation of Small Business Wales balked at the idea.

The organisation's head of external affairs Iestyn Davies said: "We are vehemently opposed to tolls from the Severn Bridge being used to fund a new M4 relief road in south-east Wales.

"We are surprised if this option is being considered by the Welsh Government, given the First Minister's comments at the Council for Economic Renewal on June 3 when he suggested that borrowing powers would not be dependent on toll income from the M4.

"We believe it is grossly unfair that small businesses and other motorists should be forced to bear the financial burden of projects such as this.

"Such projects should be funded by appropriate Welsh Government borrowing powers, as suggested by the Silk Commission, rather than hitting the pockets of hard-pressed road users.’’