The First Minister has affirmed that the Welsh Government’s decision to lower the default speed limit to 20mph will not result in a loss of support for his party.
During his address at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Mark Drakeford also emphasised that Labour’s performance in Welsh government should not be seen as a direct blueprint for Westminster governance.
The recent implementation of the new speed limit, which took effect last month, has faced criticism from some quarters. Senior Conservatives, at their conference, raised concerns that similar measures might be introduced under a Labour government at Westminster.
Although Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has distanced himself from previous statements that described Mr. Drakeford’s administration as a “blueprint” for his own government agenda, Mr. Drakeford appeared unperturbed.
He expressed his anticipation that Sir Keir would consider all the efforts undertaken by Labour politicians across the UK, including metro mayors like Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham, as well as Welsh Labour.
Mr Drakeford went on: “Then to look at all those things and then to draw on them informing the policy prospectus of the next Labour Government.
“Wales will certainly play our part in that, but the idea that the United Kingdom was going to be Wales writ large, I don’t think that was ever a serious idea.”
Mr. Drakeford also expressed his willingness to support additional devolution of powers if Labour were to secure victory in the upcoming general election. This includes the proposed devolution of youth justice and probation to Wales, as endorsed by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
However, he emphasised that the primary responsibility of a Labour government would be to safeguard the existing devolution agreement against what he referred to as “rogue” Westminster administrations.
Mr. Drakeford has previously criticized former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, along with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for their lack of engagement with devolved authorities and perceived attempts to override decisions made in Scotland and Wales.
“In a constitutional sense what we really need the next Labour government to do is to entrench the devolution settlement so that it is no longer vulnerable to the actions of a rogue government of the sort we have seen since 2019,” Mr Drakeford said.
“So the first job of an incoming Labour government in this case is actually to use the Brown report’s prescriptions to put the devolution settlement on a footing that is protected against a future government of the sort we have just seen.”
The Labour First Minister said that he had no doubt that the 20mph default speed limit introduced in Wales would not result in a loss of Labour votes in the upcoming general election or the next Senedd poll.
He said: “What we are accused of is a policy that saves people’s lives, a policy that will prevent people from dying and will prevent thousands of serious accidents on our roads and will save the time and the money of our emergency services, will give people back the streets that they live on so that they become more liveable.
“What we are asking everybody to do is to drive a little bit more slowly in order to achieve those aims. I think that bargain, as people see it practically, they will see it for the modest bargain it is.”
He further noted that comparable initiatives were being pursued by local councils throughout England, emphasizing that these decisions were merely a component of a broader movement extending well beyond Wales and even beyond the United Kingdom.