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Minister behind 20mph limit blames Welsh Conservatives for ‘confusion’ over road regulation

11 Jan 2024 7 minute read
L: Lee Waters – R: Andrew RT Davies (Images Senedd Cymru)

Emily Price

The Welsh Government minister behind Wales’ 20mph default speed limit has blamed Andrew RT Davies and the social media team at Conservative central office for “confusion” over the new road regulation.

In the Senedd on Wednesday (January 10), Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters said the Conservative Senedd group leader had seen a “populist opportunity to try and create some division” when the 20mph speed limit was rolled out in Wales.

The controversial road regulation came into force in September 2023 and saw most 30mph roads switch to 20mph – although councils have discretion to impose exemptions.

The 20mph law been met with opposition and a petition calling for it to be reversed has reached over 467,000 signatures – the most in Senedd history.

The Welsh Tories have heavily opposed the change and the party has promised voters that if they were ever in power in Wales, they would axe it.

Support

Speaking in the Chamber yesterday, Mr Waters raised what he said was previous support from the Welsh Conservatives for a 20mph default speed limit in Wales.

Tory MS, Mark Isherwood argued that the debate introducing the 20mph default speed limit on July 15th led to a free vote which the Welsh Tories were split on.

He added: “I abstained, for the record. But on the binding vote on 12 July 2022, on the legislation that brought in the default 20mph limit, a vote on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Wales) Order, the Welsh Conservatives voted unanimously against, two years after the non-binding vote that you keep quoting.”

Mr Waters responded: “It was only a non-binding vote in the Welsh Conservative whip’s office. It was a binding vote of this Senedd on a motion from the Government based on their report, and this Senedd voted to accept the approach in the report.

“That was a binding report of this National Assembly. The fact that the Conservatives decided not to whip on it doesn’t make it a non-binding vote

“When the regulations came through, the Conservatives changed their position, and those who had supported the approach changed their view without explaining why.

“I think we can all guess why: because Andrew R.T. Davies and the social media team in the Conservatives central office spotted an opportunity to create division and launch culture wars.

“They misled people by saying this was a blanket ban, and created huge confusion when very clearly it is not a blanket ban. He knows that’s nonsense; he’s resolutely sticking to his position, but he’s wrong.”

“Blanket”

The Welsh Conservatives have maintained that although they support a 20mph speed limit in pedestrianised areas such as schools and hospitals – they do not support what they describe as a “blanket” approach.

The Welsh Government has argued that this characterisation isn’t accurate because local authorities have the power to exempt roads from the default speed limit.

However, the Tories have said that guidance set by the Welsh Government to exempt roads has left councils with limited discretion.

Mr Waters said the arguments made by the Welsh Conservatives on how 20mph speed limits should be approached in Wales are “very general and high level”.

He said: “They don’t tell us how they’re going to apply in practice. Now, the logic of their position is that we do it street by street, which is what we did before. In that case, you have to have a Traffic Regulation Order for every street.

“That would cost an absolute fortune, and they say we’ve wasted money on this process. It would have cost considerably more if we took their advice, and that’s why the independent expert taskforce recommended a default approach, which was supported by the Conservatives in this place.”

Welsh Conservative regional member for north Wales, Sam Rowlands raised the issue of Arriva changing every bus service in his constituency as a result of the new 20mph speed limit.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change argued that councils in north Wales such as Denbighshire only exempted 0.6 per cent of its roads from the default limit. Conwy exempted 0.8 per cent whilst Flintshire exempted 0.9 per cent and Wrexham exempted 1.2 per cent.

This is in contrast to south Wales where Swansea has exempted 10 per cent of roads from the 20mph default limit – similar to Bridgend which has 10 per cent exemptions and Blaenau Gwent which has almost 10 per cent of its roads exempted.

Mr Waters said: “The local authorities in north Wales have had the ability to create exemptions, and they’ve chosen not to. It may well be that’s what’s causing some of the difficulties for Arriva and a more nuanced, granular approach would be better.

“That is able to be fixed. That is something where we can work with them and they can work with the local authorities to apply some common sense.

List

Senedd Member for the Vale of Clwyd, Gareth Davies said the 20mph policy is having a “detrimental impact” on Denbighshire.

In November last year, the Tory MS submitted a list of roads in his constituency to made exempt from the default speed limit following the low number of exemptions imposed by the local authority.

Denbighshire County Council has confirmed it will consider the list.

Mr Davies said: “You’ve just mentioned the statistic itself that only 0.6 per cent of roads in Denbighshire have been subject to exemptions, and it’s been locally reported that it’s because of difficulties in navigating through the complexities of the exemption system and the qualifying criteria.

“Is it time to stop saving face and admit that you’ve got this policy wrong for people in Denbighshire and work in the best interests of my constituents, who largely continue to be up in arms with the 20mph policy and the arrogance from the Welsh Government.”

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change said he “rejected” Mr Davies’ words saying that the Welsh Government’s motivation for the 20mph law is to “save lives and reduce casualties”.

He said: “If this policy isn’t working, I am more than happy to change position and to change my mind. I want this to work because it will save lives, and it’s now about the implementation of it to make sure that we get that right.

“There is discretion for local authorities. He mentions a difficulty navigating the criteria; well, all those other local authorities in Wales haven’t had difficulty in navigating the criteria, so I don’t know what’s particularly troublesome for the six north Wales authorities that they’ve had difficulty navigating the same criteria that local authorities in south Wales and other parts of Wales have applied perfectly straightforwardly.”

The minister ended by saying that the Welsh Government wouldn’t have been able to just make it easier for local authorities to pass traffic regulation orders on individual roads.

He said: “That is not the legislative framework that we operate within on a UK level. We don’t have the power to change it, and that’s why we set up an expert group to look pragmatically within the powers we have at what we can do, in what order we do it, and how to work with delivery partners to do it pragmatically.

“That’s the report that we brought forward. That’s the report that was supported by this Senedd and a majority of the Conservative group.”

“No apologies”

Speaking after Plenary, Natasha Asghar, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, said: “The Welsh Conservatives make no apologies for holding the Labour Government to account for their failings.

“The Deputy Minister makes every attempt to avoid scrutiny for his half-baked ideas, if he does not like the criticism of his barmy blanket law, he should scrap it.

“It might be useful for the Deputy Minister to actually engage with the public to get an understanding of why there are such high levels of anger over this policy, rather than continuing to bury his head in the sand and ignore residents’ concerns.”


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Steve Woods
Steve Woods
1 month ago

Confusion has the same first syllable as CONservative.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Let’s face it, the Cons in Wales are trouble makers, this is all they have left and with the No10, far right think tanks and far right press and useful ….er….people on social media, they are gaming this for all its worth. Of course they will dilute this and try to pretend it wasn’t them.

GCJ
GCJ
1 month ago

Just spent a couple of days attending a funeral across the border in SW England. 20mph seems to be a norm in all the English towns, no mention of this by the Tory troublemakers!

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
1 month ago

Sadly the Tories think we are stupid. They think that by constantly repeating the word ‘blanket’ we will all start to believe it and then vote for them. The moderates in the Welsh Conservative party need to take a close look at the direction their party is going. To restore it’s reputation they need to take control and make the Welsh part separate from the UK part. Most people in Wales do not thing they have Wales at heart and are just follow their masters in London.

Huw
Huw
1 month ago

Constantly sniping and sowing misinformation, like Westminster devoid of ideas or solutions – the Conservative Party are yesterday – they continue practising for the future – sidelined nobodies.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

I feared that some people would take the word ‘blanket’ from Mr Misinformation and apply it on the M4 and A55. I’ve been on both roads this week and last and am pleased to report that drivers are getting on about their business in the usual way but that’s no thanks to life endangering Blanketboy.

Janis
Janis
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

A55 and M4 are not subject to the 20 mph law

blcollier
blcollier
1 month ago

So… Let me get this right… In plenary they told that having individual traffic regulation orders is far far more expensive and that we simply don’t have the legislative power to change the traffic regulation order process. They were also told that this was the very reason for having the report produced in the first place, which at least some of the Tories supported and voted for. But after the session, their own shadow transport minister continues to trot out the same “blanket” rhetoric and simply ignores both the history of this policy and the plenary which has literally just… Read more »

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago
Reply to  blcollier

Sunak won’t call an election now. He’s hoping the air strikes on the Houthi rebels will put him into Churchill/Thatcher war leader territory. Clutching at straws.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

Yes the fat oaf did cause confusion he called it a BLANKET that means everywhere typical lies or misinformation which ever you want to call it

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago

In west Wales it has largely been a success with hardly any delays to bus times.

Yes, councillors should review speed limits, at intervals, but a blanket 20mph roads being returned to 30mph would not work as some of our roads were 20mph before the act for a reason that that they were dangerous taken at speeds in excess of 20mph.

As for efficiency, the petrol and diesel transport are on their way out just as steam was in the last century, this should be happening by 2035.

The future is ELECTRIC. Clean air please.

Janis
Janis
1 month ago

Electric cars are going to be beyond the reach for us ordinary people for many years – with insurance fuel and garage costs it’s bad enough keeping our cars on the road as it is.

Last edited 1 month ago by Janis
Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

The top down, one size fits all way in which a great idea 💡 was launched and rolled out offers lessons for ALL in Cardiff Bay… ?

Well intended initiatives are to be welcomed as is the understanding that twisting and turning to achieve their aims will always be the modus operandi of ARTD and co.

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago

Out of touch, out of ideas, out of time, out of order, out of their tiny selfish minds. Let’s kick them out.

Karl
Karl
1 month ago

Well I know many who have bleeted the blanket rubbish. So defintely the Tories screwing up via vast misinformation online. But the ad by the Welsh government is also stupid. The one about see lights, doesn’t help the A470 for instance has lights on it and is not a 20mph when its dual carriage. Plus the blinkered hate spewed by fakes, has led to a pathetic toddler and toys situation.

Mai
Mai
1 month ago

Yawn! Still utter semantics on ‘Blanket 20’ or ‘default 20’ for current 30 + 40’s – such a red herring. And continuing peak authoritarian arrogance in dismissing the view of the biggest petition ever (from people that would have supported a more measured policy at 10% of the outrageous cost + then spending more unpicking it after actually thinking about). Absolute car crash the way WG have done this and squandered our hard earnt – now championing a review by the ex Sustrans mate that pushed it – comedy gold.. They must think we are such dull sheep :-(.

colin hughes
colin hughes
1 month ago

This man is totally deluded

Pmb
Pmb
1 month ago

Wales is now a backward country yet the Welsh do not see it , such is life , nothing will change whilst the dog in the manger attitude persists . Never mind can always blame it on Westminster and expect more money even though we don’t have and won’t have an economy.

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