SEVERN Bridge tolls should not be used as a “cash cow”, junior minister at the Wales Office Alun Cairns said.

Newport East Labour MP Jessica Morden asked Mr Cairns if he agreed tolls should come down substantially when the bridges come into public ownership in 2018.

Giving evidence at the Welsh Affairs committee in parliament today, Vale MP Mr Cairns said: “They should. One of the ministers already said VAT will come to an end when the concession ends. We are looking at the range of options and hopefully we will be able to make the case on behalf of businesses both sides of the border. It’s particularly important to South East Wales and the South West of England.”

Ms Morden asked what he had done to lobby the Secretary of State for Transport on reducing the tolls.

Mr Cairns replied: “We have had good discussions with the Department for Transport. The evidence from the Welsh Affairs select committee has been quite important in that. It’s ongoing work.”

Conservative MP for Monmouth David Davies said: “Perhaps this represents a unique case for public ownership? We all accept it is expensive to keep the bridges up and running. While there may be arguments for a toll that covers the cost of maintenance, it would be entirely wrong if the Treasury were to be benefitting financially from the profit on the tolls levied against people who use it.”

Mr Cairns said: “A debt of £88million will remain even when the concession ends. That needs to be paid somehow in 2018.

“I think you’re right the tolls shouldn’t be used as a cash cow by anyone in terms of raising cash from hard pressed motorists who like to work either side of the border. Of course we will do everything we can possible to alleviate that pressure.”