Analysis: Welsh Conservative opposition to 20mph limits a partial U-turn, record suggests
The Welsh Conservatives’ opposition to the Welsh Government introducing 20mph speed limits in urban areas represents at least a partial u-turn, the Senedd record suggests.
In 2020 all but four Welsh Conservatives voted for a motion supporting Welsh Government plans to consult on a national roll-out of 20mph speed limits, subject to a future Senedd vote.
A Conservative Senedd member who contributed to the debate called the move to 20mph speed limits at the time a “common sense” and “a safe move”, as reported on Nation.Cymru at the time.
The motion included the clause: “Notes international research which demonstrates the road safety benefits, including a reduction in child deaths, of reducing default speed limits to 20mph.”
Only one Welsh Conservative, Darren Millar, voted against the 2020 motion. Suzy Davies and Mark Isherwood abstained and current leader Andrew RT Davies was not present.
Welsh Conservatives have subsequently heavily criticised the rollout of the 20mph in built up areas across Wales as “frankly ludicrous”. The Senedd voted for the roll-out yesterday.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said that the move showed that Labour were “slowing Wales down”.
“Local people know their roads best. They should have a say on speed limits,” he said.
It was great to talk to @AndrewRTDavies leader of Welsh Conservatives yesterday about popularity and benefits of #20splenty for community streets. Thank you for the time Andrew and also cllr @georgecarroll1 of Vale of Glamorgan Council pic.twitter.com/dOXsMemIFX
— Rod King MBE 30kmh/20mph limit champion (@20splentyforus) May 3, 2018
The new legislation will not apply a blanket speed limit on all roads, but rather will make the default limit 20mph, leaving local authorities to engage with the local community to decide which roads should remain at 30mph.
The original motion voted for in 2020 by the Senedd:
- Welcomed a report setting out recommendations on how to change the default speed limit for restricted roads in Wales to 20mph.
- Noted international research which demonstrated the road safety benefits, including a reduction in child deaths, of reducing default speed limits to 20mph.
- Supported the Welsh Government’s intention to consult on making of an order (requireing Senedd approval) reducing the general speed limit for restricted roads to 20mph.
- Called on the Welsh Government to set out its proposals as part of the consultation to ensure enforcement agencies have the appropriate resources to respond to the proposed order.
Speaking in the Senedd during the debate in 2020, Welsh Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders called it a “common sense” and “a safe move”.
“Action is being taken globally to implement 20 mph, so I’m eager for us to speed up the process here,” she said.
“It simply cannot be right that, whilst it has been possible to introduce 20 mph limits for many years, only around 1 per cent of the urban road network in Wales is currently subject to them.”
Russell George MS meanwhile said there would need to be a “significant media campaign” to ensure the changes were enforced.
“And the longer term reduction in speeds will only, of course, come from a generational change—that’s certainly my view,” he said.
“We saw that with seat belts, for example. I’m not suggesting we don’t do this because of that, but there is a generational change, so that perhaps does put some expectations on how long it may take for change to occur.”
He did however raise concerns that they might be “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with this proposal”.
‘Twenty not plenty’
Yesterday however both Janet Finch-Saunders and Russell George voted against the propsal.
Russell George spoke to say that here were “other areas that we could spend money on that would potentially save many, many lives. Do you not accept that principle?”
The Welsh Conservatives’ shadow Transport Minister Natasha Asghar, meanwhile, raised concerns about how much of a difference the 20mph speed limit would make and how it would be enforced.
“I urge the Welsh Government today and everybody here who’s going to be casting their vote to listen to the concerns of local residents and businesses, owners of various properties as well those who are on the roads consistently before permanently imposing these damaging and counterproductive 20 mph limits on communities across Wales and think long and hard,” she said.
“Twenty is not plenty. Minister, if you’re really serious about road safety, then bring in the 20 mph in areas that they are really needed and please spend the money on deterring drink drivers off our roads once and for all.”
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