MARK Drakeford has defended his decision to ditch the M4 relief road in his final moments as the first minister of Wales.

Speaking to Senedd members today, March 19, he doubled down on his belief that an M4 Corridor around Newport (M4CAN) was “not in the long-term interests of Wales”.

He admitted the “easy decision” would have been to give the project the go-ahead after ministers forked out £144 million on planning and preparation.

But, he said, it was his job to “stick to the things he believed will make the greatest difference” to future generations.

South Wales Argus: Mark Drakeford said the M4 relief road decision was his first 'major' choice as first ministerMark Drakeford said the M4 relief road decision was his first 'major' choice as first minister (Image: Senedd)

Mr Drakeford was appointed first minister on December 12, 2018, and announced he was stepping down on December 13, 2023, after five years in the role.

He led the Welsh Government’s response to the Covid pandemic and enacted bold reforms such as the 20mph default speed limit, all of which raised both his personal profile and that of devolved powers in Wales.

Reflecting on his tenure just hours before tendering his resignation to King Charles III, he identified his “first major decision” was on whether to build the M4 relief road.

READ MORE: Newport gridlock - days of traffic chaos prompt calls for a relief road

The former university professor decided to scrap the plans in spite of the conclusion reached by planning inspector Bill Wadrup, who said there was a “compelling case” for it.

The Welsh Conservatives still lament the decision - and say the government should shake its reluctance to roadbuilding elsewhere.

Mr Drakeford’s presumptive successor, economy minister Vaughan Gething, was also an ardent supporter of the M4CAN plans.

Asked about it on a live TV debate during the leadership race, though, he said: “That ship has sailed. We don’t have the money to do it.”

Both Mr Gething and his defeated rival, education minister Jeremy Miles, said they would not even entertain the idea if a future UK government provided the funds.

Mr Drakeford told the Senedd: “In politics, you will always face vested interests - some of them benign, others determined not to surrender their own positions of power and of privilege.

“And that has been a feature of the whole of my time as first minister. The first major decision that I faced was whether or not to proceed with an M4 relief road. The easy decision would have been to say go ahead. The powerful voices in Wales were lined up in support of it.

“My decision, having spent many, many days reading and thinking about it, was that was not in the long-term interests of Wales. And even in this last couple of weeks, the debates that we have been having about reforming council tax, reforming the school year, eliminating profit for the care of looked-after children - every one of those will be opposed. We know that.

“But, if you’re in the business of progressive politics, and if you’re in the business of using the opportunity that comes your way, your job is to stick to the things that you believe will make the greatest difference today, of course, but especially for the generations ahead of us.”