What next for the record-breaking Senedd petition opposing Wales’ 20 mph default speed limit?
The petition calling for the Welsh Government to scrap the new 20mph default speed limit is the most signed petition since the Senedd was created back in 1999.
The previous most signed petition in Senedd history was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic and called for the Welsh Government to allow non-essential items to be sold in supermarkets during lockdown.
The “non essential items” petition amassed 67,940 signatures whereas the petition to “rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law” has now reached an eye-watering 448,000 signatures and shows no sign of waning.
But what happens next for the record breaking petition and how does the process of a Senedd petition actually work?
A person looking to start a Senedd petition must live in Wales and have the backing of at least two people.
At the 250 signature milestone, the Petitions Committee will decide what they can do to help – this can include pressing the Welsh Government for action.
At the all important 10,000 signature mark, the Petitions Committee will decide whether to ask for a debate in the Senedd chamber – but this is not guaranteed.
It’s safe to say the 20mph petition has not only reached these two magic numbers but it has raced past the mark, leaving smoke and dust in its wake.
But where are all these signatures coming from and are they all valid?
There is no standing order or requirement for signatories of a Senedd petition to live in Wales and in the case of the 20mph petition signatures have so far been recorded from over 60 countries.
Petition signatures from other countries were a feature of a previous Senedd petition calling of a ban on greyhound racing. This was thought to be because the controversial issue is one that has been widely campaigned against in other parts of the world.
If the majority of signatures on a Senedd petition are recorded from outside of Wales, the Senedd Petitions Committee would take that factor into account when considering it for debate.
With the 20mph petition, an investigation was launched to look at where signatures were coming from and if the system was being tampered with in any way.
The investigation found that there has been some small scale duplication of signatures and some rather bizarre names recorded such as Rupert the Bear.
Overall though, the majority (around 94%) of the signatures recorded came from people in Wales with valid postcodes and email addresses.
In short, there has been no overwhelming evidence of tampering with the Senedd petition system in respect of the 20mph petition.
So why is the 20mph Senedd petition still gaining signatures even though it’s met the 10,000 threshold?
A lesser know Senedd petition which called for the Welsh Government to reconsider the roll out of the 20mph speed limit gained over 20,000 signatures.
It was closed early by the petitioner so the Welsh Government could debate the issue before the new speed limit came into force.
With the more recent record breaking 20mph petition, things are slightly different as the new default speed limit already exists. The fact that driving at 20mph is already a part people’s day to day is likely the reason the petition has attracted so many signatures.
It’s worth noting though, not all Senedd petitions just become active with no questions asked and there is a criteria that must be met before a petition can go live.
During the first week of the 20mph speed limit roll out there was an influx of Senedd petitions being rejected.
Here’s a flavour of the some of the petitions that were refused:
- “Call an election as the public no longer have confidence Mr Drakeford is acting in our interest.”
- “Remove Mark Drakeford from Government.”
- “Mark Drakeford to resign as First Minister.”
- “A new referendum vote to abolish the Welsh Government for good.”
So why were they refused? If a petition concerns an issue that calls for someone to be given a job, lose their job or resign, or is a petition that calls for a vote of no confidence, the petition will be rejected.
The record breaking petition meets the Petitions Committee’s criteria because it calls for support from signatories on an issue that the Welsh Government are directly responsible for.
So what happens next for the 20mph Senedd petition?
When it reached the 10,000 mark and became eligible for a debate, an automatic email was generated to the person who launched the petition inviting them to end it early.
However, the petitioner has expressed he wishes to let it run all the way up until its scheduled closure in March meaning any debate wouldn’t take place in the Senedd until the spring.
Chair of the Petitions Committee, Jack Sargeant MS has said that due to the significant number of signatures he plans to recommend that the petition goes for debate – although he can’t guarantee his request will be approved.
If the Committee are in agreement, they will write to the Business Committee in the Senedd with the request and a date for debate will be scheduled.
The Welsh Government takes the process of a Senedd petition seriously and a debate will most certainly raise awareness of the issue and could even influence changes in the policy or help shape a review of the road regulation.
So will a debate result in the 20mph limit being scrapped? Although debates don’t always end with the petitioners desired outcome, Senedd petitions are powerful things in Wales.
They act as vehicle to get important issues on the floor of the Welsh Parliament, this in a nutshell is the whole point of democracy.
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