In a heated session of the Welsh Parliament’s FMQs (First Minister’s Questions) on Tuesday, First Minister Mark Drakeford reaffirmed the Welsh Government’s commitment to the controversial 20mph default speed limit, dismissing calls for its withdrawal from Conservative MS and Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Tom Giffard.
Giffard, a vocal critic of the speed limit policy, raised concerns about its impact on Wales’ public transport system. He argued that the policy, coupled with cuts in bus subsidies, has led to operational challenges for bus companies and disruptions in timetables across the country.
Addressing the chamber, Giffard stated, “As the Welsh Government moves towards a policy of modal shift, taking us out of our cars and onto public transport, you’d think the Welsh Government would provide a decent public transport system to ensure that could happen.”
He further criticised the Welsh Government’s approach, citing statements from bus companies like Arriva Bus and Adventure Travel, who highlighted the difficulties caused by the new speed limit. Giffard’s question to the First Minister was met with a succinct response: “No, Llywydd,” eliciting laughter from fellow Members of the Senedd.
This exchange marked the latest episode in an ongoing debate between Giffard and the First Minister regarding the 20mph speed limit. On September 19, shortly after the speed limit’s implementation, Giffard questioned the First Minister about rescinding the scheme, receiving a similar one-word response: “No, Llywydd.”
In addition to expressing concerns about the policy itself, Giffard also raised the issue of vandalised 20mph road signs across Wales, citing public frustration as the driving force behind these acts. He challenged the First Minister’s stance, referencing past comments where Drakeford had endorsed similar actions during Welsh language protests in the 1960s.
Drakeford, however, declined to engage with the accusation directly, stating, “I don’t intend to be drawn into the trivialising of an important debate in the way that the Member has attempted this afternoon.”
The Welsh Conservatives have consistently opposed the 20mph speed limit and rallied behind a petition against it, which has garnered over 465,000 signatures, making it the most signed petition in Senedd history.
In response to the First Minister’s steadfast position, Giffard expressed disappointment, stating, “It’s disappointing that the First Minister repeatedly refuses to answer my questions on his default 20mph scheme. In refusing to answer time and again, the First Minister is disrespecting both the Senedd as an institution and the people of Wales.”
Despite mounting opposition, First Minister Mark Drakeford has chosen to maintain the Welsh Government’s stance on the 20mph default speed limit. As the debate rages on, Wales remains divided over the impact and necessity of this contentious road regulation.