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Prime Minister criticised for misleading claims over Wales’ 20mph default speed limit

01 Oct 2023 5 minute read
Rishi Sunak (L) Photo Lucy North/PA Wire. 20 mph sign Photo Edinburgh Greens is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Prime minister has been criticised for making misleading claims about Wales’ recently introduced default 20mph speed limit, during an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday morning.

His comments come as the Conservative Party prepares for its annual conference, in Manchester, with Rishi Sunak claiming he is “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists,” after announcing a slew of pro-driving policies ahead of the conference.

The new speed limit has sparked a fierce backlash among some drivers in Wales with over 450,000 people signing a Senedd petition.

Campaigners against the default speed limit also staged a slow-driving protest on some roads across Wales yesterday (30 September).

Blanket limit

During the interview on the BBC’s flagship politics programme, Mr Sunak parroted the discredited claim that Wales has introduced a blanket limit and suggested that the speed limit, which was a Welsh Labour manifesto commitment was “imposed on local people” without their consent.

“What we have seen in Labour-run Wales is a blanket imposition of a 20 mph speed limit and hundreds of thousands of people have risen up against that,” he said.

Laura Kuenssberg pointed out to the Prime Minister that the changes introduced in Wales are very similar to those proposed by the conservative council in Cornwall, adding “even in your own part of the words in North Yorkshire, there are, I think more than 100 parish councils who want to have a 20 mile an hour limit”.

Clarifying the Conservative Government’s position later in the interview, Mr Sunak indicated that councils in England will still be able to implement 20mph zones for drivers, if they have local consent and follow Government guidance.

“What this is about is making sure that the statutory guidance that goes to local councils from Government is clear about making sure that councils – which are obviously in charge of what’s happening in their local areas – are doing things with the support and consent of their local communities, taking into account the needs of their communities, and not imposing things on them without their consent and say so,” he admitted.

“What they (councils) should be allowed to do in all cases is act in accordance with the Government guidance.”

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Disappointing to see the Prime Minister misleading people on 20mph, whether intentionally or inadvertently.

“This isn’t a blanket restriction. Speed limits on a large number of Welsh roads are unchanged, with journey times taking up to a minute longer.

“This will save lives”.

A Welsh Government Spokesperson added: “It is profoundly disappointing the prime minister is inadvertently or intentionally, choosing to mislead people about the introduction of 20mph.

“It is not a blanket restriction. Speed limits on a great number of roads in Wales are unchanged and journey times take around a minute longer. This will save lives and make our communities safer.”

Welsh Conservatives

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has been at the forefront of claims that the new default speed limit is a “blanket ban”.

Andrew RT Davies, who previously supported the introduction of the 20mph limit, along with most of the party’s MSs, always characterises it as “blanket 20mph” and even uses the hashtag “blanket” in social media posts.

As Nation.Cymru revealed in an analysis of the claims being made by Mr Davies, it can be fairly argued that the trail of the government’s default speed limit in Buckley between 2021 and 2022, was most definitely a “blanket” approach.

But during the pilot, the Welsh Government found that changing all 30mph roads to 20mph wouldn’t work.

Subsequently the guidance was strengthened, allowing local authorities the flexibility to keep some roads at 30mph where appropriate.

Legally, local highway authorities are responsible for local roads – the Welsh Government is not.

In theory, if a local council wanted to revert every 20mph road back to 30mph, they could and there would be nothing to stop them from doing that in law.

Some councils have chosen to rigidly stick to the exact wording of the Welsh Government guidance – even though there is the option to exempt roads from the default.

Other councils in Wales have been fairly bullish with their approach to road exceptions and have chosen to keep all main roads at 30mph.

With the new road regulation still settling in, it’s anticipated that changes to and from 20mph roads will continue for some time.

The Welsh Government has also said that in a year, the guidance for local authorities will be reviewed to decide whether the current flexibility is enough for councils.


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Jeff
Jeff
7 months ago

Business as usual for a party that continually lies to the HoC without correcting the record immediately. Par for the course when a home sec says millions upon millions of refugees want to “invade” us. What I expect from a party that supported Johnson and Truss. But lets forget the damage they have done to the UK and try to make 20mph a wedge issue eh.
I don’t watch “that’s quite a charge” LK show, she has a habit of giving the cons a free pass.

Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
7 months ago

What do the tories think of 20 mph limits?

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/tory-politicians-impassioned-plea-introduce-27813693

They are opportunist liars.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago

The Ministry of Liars, HQ 10 Downing Street.

Present CEO Rishi Sunak

Chief Wizard (of Oz) Michael ‘Moral Maze’ Gove…

Press Officer The BBC News Dept.

Loo Paper supplied by Murdoch, Mail, Express and Telegraph

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

The lie & disinformation told about the 20mph default speed limit blanket ban in Wales goes right to the top of the tainted Tory pyramid with Rishy Sunak. Today we saw the Prime Minister in Manchester interviewed by political journalist Laura Kuenssberg. She challenged him not only about scrapping the 2nd leg of HS2 in which he refused to answer dodging the question like a confidence trickster, , but also his claims that the Welsh Government was waging a war on motorists in Wales. It was later revealed during the interview how numerous councils in England, including a Tory authority… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
7 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

When England voted Tory in 2010 they opened Pandora’s box and the nastiest of creatures crawled out, Sunak and Braverman the worst of them so far…

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
7 months ago

The 20mph campaign has been a brilliant success. The WG have managed a very difficult logistical issue rather well.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
7 months ago

Of course its misleading the headline is to POLITE it should say LYING its in Tory D N A they are not programmed to tell the Truth

Mike
Mike
7 months ago

Can we stop talking about that petition? Literally anyone on the internet, anywhere in the world, can ‘sign’ it, and any number of times. It really is a flight of fancy to imagine that this (or any) issue can motivate almost 1 in 6 people resident in Wales to sign up.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
7 months ago

I’m glad the Tories have finally been pulled up over their misleading, lying comments.Councils in both countries have a say in what roads change, there is no ‘blanket’ concept, enough of the lies. The Tories are just desperate for votes – deny them.

Richard 1
Richard 1
7 months ago

Sunak; out of touch and soon out of office

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
7 months ago

Mr Drakeford, you are right on this issue. Council’s should have the right to impose lower speed limits. In our village (a seaside town) any faster than 20mph would put residents in fear of vehicles crashing into their front rooms. The speed limit is not a blanket one and has never been or never will be. The UK prime minister is intentionally trying to mislead the population of Wales, you really know this in your heart, don’t you? It is part of the continuing toxic relationship between the people of Wales and the English UK government. This UK government is… Read more »

RJay
RJay
7 months ago

So in responding to misinformation, Mr Drakeford himself appears to be spreading misinformation? The “journey times up to one minute” increase claim appears to come from either the Pilot Studies report or the Agylisis report (as reported here last week), both of which are based on the increase in time to travel short sample stretches of roads (appears to be an average of 2.1miles in the former, or 1.58miles in the latter) and NOT total average journey time (it is not scaled up and assumes no other 20mph/former 30mph road is travelled). The actual increase for an average journey could… Read more »

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
7 months ago

Shifty Sunak is taking lessons from the Boris Johnson PlayBook “Liars Win” – let’s hope we have a grown up electorate in Wales and elsewhere who will see through their falsehoods and false claims.

Marc
Marc
7 months ago

Let’s introduce a blanket ban on voting Tory

Dewi Evans
Dewi Evans
7 months ago

The reaction of the Tories’ introduction of the 20 mph limit in Wales is quite appalling. The roll out could be better but I expect matters to be clearer over the next few months. The flexibility allowed to Local Authorities is welcome, but I would discourage any significant changes too soon. A review after 6 months at least perhaps? I am a motorist. I’ve also got 4 grandchildren of 11 years or less. They do not hang around school at 3.30 pm. They walk home, thus the usefulness of extending the limit beyond the school gates. It’s also worth noting… Read more »

Polly Homeless
Polly Homeless
7 months ago

Clearly, the majority of commenters and the author are not familiar with the Transport Strategy and Future Wales 2040 plan if they think that this is about safety. Welsh Labour are not being transparent with the electorate. Few people read manifestos, even fewer read WG publications. Not even going to comment on Sunak as he is simply part of the ‘two wings; same bird’.

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