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Welsh Minister points to Tories for confusion over 20mph speed limit

A WELSH GOVERNMENT minister has accused Andrew RT Davies and the Conservative Party’s central office of causing confusion about the newly implemented 20mph speed limit across Wales. Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, charged that the Conservative Senedd group leader exploited a “populist opportunity” for political gain, leading to division over the regulation.

Implemented in September 2023, the contentious law changed most 30mph roads to 20mph, allowing councils to grant exemptions. The shift has sparked substantial opposition, evident from a petition to reverse the law garnering over 467,000 signatures, a record for the Senedd.

In contrast, Mr. Waters highlighted an earlier instance of support from the Welsh Conservatives for the 20mph limit. However, Tory MS Mark Isherwood noted that while there was a split in the Tory vote on a non-binding decision in 2022, the party unanimously opposed the legislation when it became binding.

The Deputy Minister criticised this change in stance, suggesting it stemmed from a strategy by the Tories to stir cultural conflict. He refuted the notion of a “blanket ban,” a term frequently used by the Conservatives, who favour a 20mph limit only in pedestrian-heavy areas like schools and hospitals. According to Mr. Waters, the guidance provided to local councils for exemptions leaves little room for flexibility.

The impact of the 20mph limit on local services was also raised, with Sam Rowlands, a Welsh Conservative regional member, pointing out changes to bus services in his constituency due to the new speed limit. Mr. Waters acknowledged the varied exemption rates across Wales, suggesting a more nuanced approach might resolve such issues.

Gareth Davies, Senedd Member for the Vale of Clwyd, criticised the policy’s impact on Denbighshire, citing the low exemption rate and complexity of the exemption system. The Deputy Minister maintained that the policy’s primary aim is to save lives and expressed willingness to adjust the approach if necessary.

Wrapping up the debate, Mr. Waters highlighted legislative constraints at the UK level that affect the ease of passing traffic regulation orders. In response, Natasha Asghar, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, defended the party’s criticism of the policy, urging the Deputy Minister to address public dissatisfaction.