7. Debate on petition P-06-1407, 'We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law'

– in the Senedd at 4:40 pm on 22 May 2024.

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Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 4:40, 22 May 2024

(Translated)

Item 7 is next, and it's a debate on the petition, 'We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law'. To present this debate and to move the motion, the Chair of the committee, Jack Sargeant.

(Translated)

Motion NDM8587 Jack Sargeant

To propose that the Senedd:

Notes the petition P-06-1407, 'We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law’, which received 469,571 signatures.

(Translated)

Motion moved.

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour 4:40, 22 May 2024

Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. On behalf of the Senedd's Petitions Committee, thank you for the opportunity to introduce this debate today on what has become the single biggest petition we have ever received. Presiding Officer, it's titled, and I quote, 'We want the Welsh Government to rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law'. The petition was started by Mark Baker, and has a total of 469,571 signatures. Presiding Officer, that includes over 17,000 signatures in my own constituency of Alyn and Deeside. There has been an unprecedented response to this petition and I congratulate the petitioner for amassing the highest number of signatures this Senedd has ever seen.

It's a petition that has generated headlines and inspired other people to create their own petitions. There were twice as many petitions created in our system in the first week this petition started breaking records than we normally see in a month. Petitions provide an opportunity for people to bring their priorities to the attention of their parliament, and this petition quickly became a focal point for people who wanted to express their opposition to the policy. Our debate today gives the Parliament another chance to ask Government how they are responding to the concerns of thousands of people across Wales. Whilst this petition was the one that hoovered up the signatures, it is one of dozens on the central theme of the default 20 mph limit on restricted roads in Wales. Presiding Officer, we've had petitions seeking a referendum, seeking exemptions on a particular stretch of trunk road and questioning the public confidence in Government and in devolution itself.

This is not the first time this issue has been debated in this Siambr. It is not even the first debate brought forward by the Petitions Committee. We debated a petition, 'Stop the change of speed limits to 20mph on 17th September' back in June 2023. There have been opposition day debates, and ministerial statements too. It is not an issue that has been ignored on the floor of this Parliament, but one that needs to be aired again. The last time a 20 mph speed limit petition was debated in this Chamber, I talked about the need for an exemptions process that gave power to residents to say where the policy wasn't working in their own communities. I am pleased to say that the recently appointed Cabinet Secretary for transport, Ken Skates, was listening and he has announced recently a review that clearly has a focus on making those changes.

From my own inbox, I can tell you this: residents have a real grip on the roads that are better suited to 30 mph than 20 mph. From the beginning of the trial in Buckley in my own constituency, I had people contacting me about a small number of main roads where they felt the policy just did not make sense. As I said in my speech in June 2023, those roads in Buckley, in particular the B5125 and A549, were those roads where residents felt that this policy did not work. There will be examples in every single community across Wales, and residents will have examples of their own.

Presiding Officer, I always refer to the petitions process as the people's process, and wherever you sit on this issue, Members should show real respect for the process and a petition that was so heavily supported by residents in Wales. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to open today's debate. I'm interested in all contributions from Members on all sides of this Chamber, and, in particular, the Minister's response, as I know in particular he recognises the importance of this petition. Diolch.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 4:45, 22 May 2024

Can I thank the Chair of the Petitions Committee for bringing this important debate to the Chamber this afternoon? I'd like to start by taking a moment to thank Mark Baker, who created this petition, as well as every single person who has signed various petitions, including this one, attended protests, created campaign groups, written letters to their representatives and truly made their voices heard over this Labour, Plaid and Lib Dem 20 mph policy. Just shy of 500,000 people put their name to this petition to have the Welsh Labour Government's 20 mph speed limit project axed, smashing records to become the most signed petition of this Parliament's 25-year-old history. The sheer number of people who signed this petition in such a short space of time highlights the strength of feeling amongst the Welsh public towards this policy and, as the regional Member for South Wales East, I commend all of you, from every single corner of Wales, for your sheer dedication.

The frustration with this policy has stemmed from the fact it is draconian in every sense of the word. The consultation process has come after the policy was implemented, which is, quite frankly, the wrong way around. I've said it on many occasions, and many may boo and deny it, but this policy is poised to deliver a £9 billion blow to the economy. It's hampering our emergency services, it's hindering our public transport network and it's making Wales a less attractive place to live, work, visit and invest. In short, it's quite literally bringing Wales to a standstill.

My team and I have spoken with countless transport and road safety researchers, as well as experts, who have provided us with evidence accumulated over decades on accidents, common themes and ways in which Wales can be a safer place. They unanimously agree that a default 20 mph scheme is not the way forward. Based on correspondence from constituents across the country, they've all noticed a dramatic hike in road rage incidents, and there's a fear motorists are now spending too much time checking their speedometers.

Just days ago, a report was published casting serious doubt on the argument that 20 mph speed limits will, in fact, improve air quality. Now, it found that there was little difference in particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide levels were higher in 20 mph zones. At 50 per cent of the locations monitored, it was deemed that air quality has, in fact, worsened. Having spoken with many mechanics and engine specialists about 20 mph, it seems to be broadly recognised that petrol and diesel vehicles reach what we call a sweet spot, where they're running most efficiently, hence produce less emissions than those at 20 mph. So, if you're driving at 20 mph, your car will probably be between second or third gear. Now, in second, the engine will be running at higher revolutions, burning more fuel, and, in third, well, it could be struggling to maintain this lower speed, hence it will be inefficient and produce more emissions, therefore shortening the lifespan of an engine over time.

I've said it on more occasions than one that there are alternatives to the Welsh Government's 20 mph policy. Yes, I totally agree, as well as my colleagues, that 20 mph should be kept outside schools, hospitals and areas of increased footfall, but the Welsh Government's current approach is just too extreme and unnecessary in so many cases. Since the new Government was formed in March this year, there has been a clear shift in rhetoric, with Ministers emphasising changes coming, almost like the holidays are coming, as we see at Christmas. The Welsh Government should, I believe, now—they have to listen to the concerns of the public and ditch this extremely divisive policy. There is real opportunity here today for the Government to show it is working for the people, by not dismissing this petition, and making genuine meaningful change. Thank you so much.

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:48, 22 May 2024

Signing petitions is a really important part of our modern democracy, and it is very welcome to see this level of interest in our politics. Llywydd, I'm going to read you a part of an amendment that I put to this Senedd last September. The amendment noted the importance of community support to any speed limit changes to ensure genuine concerns can be alleviated, and further noted more exemptions may be identified. It further called on the Welsh Government to continuously review the impact of new limits, to empower local authorities to make any further exemptions and provide local authorities with adequate funding to facilitate the introduction of new limits. Now, that amendment was passed. It's still not absolutely clear to me whether the Government acted on this, or how, because it seems the review that's been announced recently could have been kickstarted months ago—indeed, it was provided for.

There were problems with how this policy was implemented—they are well rehearsed. Many roads that should not be 20 mph have been wrongly designated as such, including trunk roads and places where there aren't houses on streets. That has eroded public support for this measure. It's been regrettable. But whilst the implementation of this plan was flawed, the idea behind the policy itself was not. The petition uses the word ‘disastrous’. Now, that is an emotive word. I’d like to share a story with the Senedd of a little girl who lived in a village near me when I was growing up. One day, she was in a parked car on one side of a residential street, and another family member was on the pavement opposite her. And she opened the car door and ran out into the road and was knocked down and killed by a car. Now, the poor driver didn’t have time to stop. I don’t think he was doing more than the speed limit at the time. But his life, and the lives of that family, were changed forever by that disastrous moment. Because here’s the thing: for those people arguing that the limit should only apply outside schools and hospitals—children don’t live in schools, children live on streets. They run into the road from their houses to pick up a ball, to run to their friends, to run to greet their mother or father who’s parked just across the street. We talk about ‘disastrous’; surely that is a word more fitting for the pain inflicted on a family that loses a child. The pain inflicted on a driver unlucky enough to have been driving a little faster than normal, whose life will also forever afterwards be tainted, be broken up into two parts—the part before they knocked down that child, and the part after it.

Now, this policy, implemented properly, not including trunk roads or places where there aren’t houses, but implemented in those places where children and cars are most likely to be together—that policy will save lives. It will stop avoidable disasters like what I’ve mentioned ruining people’s lives and ending the lives of children, and I will give way.

Photo of Mike Hedges Mike Hedges Labour 4:51, 22 May 2024

When you were speaking then I was taken back to Adam Price speaking in here when he talked about his cousin being killed. That brought a tear to my eye, and, I'm sure, to other people in here as well. I think that's something—. It's about real people getting killed. 

Photo of Delyth Jewell Delyth Jewell Plaid Cymru 4:52, 22 May 2024

Diolch, Mike. I think it was Malcolm—for anyone who wasn’t in the Senedd, or anyone listening who hasn’t heard that contribution, Adam had spoken about his four or five-year-old cousin, I think, called Malcolm, who had run out—. I think his parents had been on a bus, and Malcolm had been on the other side of the street with his aunt, or another family member, and he had run across the street to say good night one more time to his parents, and that was it. Adam talked about—I’m sure he wouldn’t mind us rehearsing this—how, the next morning, his parents had had to sit him down on his bed and say that Malcolm bach had gone to be with God. And it’s those moments that, again, we are not talking about—. We talk about money that will be saved for the NHS, of course, in the long term from this policy, and of course there will be investment that has gone into this, and the money is vitally important. But children’s lives are something that you cannot put a price on, so thank you, Mike, for reminding us about that.

There are lessons the Government has to learn from how poorly this was implemented in places. But there are also lessons I would caution that others should learn in this place, about the effects that the language we use, and sometimes what we put up online, the targeting of individual Ministers, perhaps, that can court something perilous. I hope we can all learn lessons from this policy, perhaps learn to amend the way that we deal with these issues, to be motivated not to cause or whip up anger and rage, but to want to change things for the better. It is a quieter way of doing things. It might get fewer headlines, fewer hits on social media, but it might just get things done, and our constituents will thank us for that.

Photo of Mike Hedges Mike Hedges Labour 4:54, 22 May 2024

This issue has generated the largest ever Senedd petition and also substantial discussion in communities. One of the weaknesses of the petition system is that, after you sign, you cannot change your mind—or cannot change your mind easily. And some of my constituents who live on roads that used to be 20 mph discovered they didn't want them to go back to 30 mph, which they hadn't been for decades. Pre the 20 mph default limit, I regularly travelled around Swansea and found I needed to drive at no more than 20 mph on estate roads, when most are effectively single lanes with passing points in between parked cars, due to cars parked on both sides of the road. Areas of older terraced housing and council estates where houses don't have drives mean that people cannot drive safely at 30 mph. Even in newer estates, where there are drives, cars still park on the road, especially where drives are very steep.

Regarding the default 20 mph limit, several people contacted me opposing it. When I asked, 'Do you want a speed limit on your road to be turned to 30 mph?', almost without exception they said, 'You cannot increase it to 30 mph on this road—it would not be safe', despite the fact that it was 30 mph until 17 September. Remember all those 20 mph zones we used to have that seem to have been forgotten in this discussion? Also, we have in Swansea road humps, or speed cushions to give them their proper names, we have chicanes, side roads taking precedence over the main roads in places like Pen-y-lan Road and Delhi Street, all means of slowing down the traffic. 

The biggest cause for slowing traffic was and still is cars parked on both sides of the road, with gaps in the parked cars allowing traffic to pass. Last year I nearly had an accident in Pleasant Street where my office is situated. Pleasant Street, like lots of roads, consists of terraced housing with no off-street parking. It is essentially a one-lane road with passing places in-between the parked cars. A car drove up at 30 mph, which was inside the speed limit. I was travelling down about 15 mph, and we stopped about a metre apart. If we'd both been doing 30 mph, a head-on collision would have been inevitable. 

One of the most vociferous opponents of the 20 mph default limit in my constituency suggested that Heol Fach in Treboeth should be 30 mph, with all the traffic calming removed. I contacted residents of that street and two residents were so incensed that they canvassed the street and no-one agreed with him, including people living in his own house. From talking to people, 90 per cent of people support 90 per cent of 20 mph roads. I have had someone tell me, 'I'm an experienced driver and I drive to road conditions—I don't need any speed limit.' Another told me that death and serious injury is a price worth paying to travel at 30 mph. A third said if children were killed or injured, it was their fault. Most ludicrous was the person who told me that 30 mph is suitable for a road of less than 30m length. 

A default limit of 20 mph should not be a problem. It's only become a problem because of the highly restrictive guidance from the Welsh Government. There are anomalies. I make the following suggestions: for A roads and B roads, speed limits are left to the total discretion of local councils, with no Welsh Government guidance. The road system consists of A roads that are the major roads intended to provide large-scale transport links within or between areas. B roads are roads intended to connect different areas and to feed traffic between A roads and smaller roads. 

Now, all A roads don't need to go back to 30 mph; I'm sure the Presiding Officer would be upset if the road to Aberaeron went back to 30 mph, because you're going basically through a shopping area. Most roads are unclassified as smaller roads intended to connect unclassified roads and connecting A and B roads. I also suggest that 75 per cent of people living in a street can request the speed limit on the street they live on to increase, a reversal of what we've previously had with roads to 20 mph. I do not expect many residents to want that to happen. Get the A and B roads right and most of the opposition will disappear. 

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour

I absolutely agree with your analysis about the implementation, and Delyth Jewell mentioned it as well, but the legacy of what the former Deputy Minister, Lee Waters, introduced is a legacy that will be sustained—a legacy of safety and saving lives. And I think while we're critical perhaps of some of the implementation, we should also recognise the political bravery of the former Minister who has set up a policy that will have a legacy, and has done that with courage and with determination. 

Photo of Mike Hedges Mike Hedges Labour

Thank you, Hefin, and I think I did say 90 per cent of people support the speed limit being reduced on 90 per cent of roads. 

But just finally, on road accidents, they have serious consequences. I know that Delyth and I discussed somebody who'd lost a cousin and parents who'd lost a child. The latest figures I have access to are from 2020. In 2020 police forces in Wales recorded a total of 2,864 road accidents involving personal injury, with 3,692 casualties. Twenty-two per cent of the reported road accidents resulted in at least one casualty. Of these, 72 people were killed, 747 were seriously injured and 2,873 were slightly injured. If any other thing was happening in Wales where 70-plus people were being killed year on year, action would be taken, and now we have action being taken it's about really now getting it right.

Photo of Joel James Joel James Conservative 4:59, 22 May 2024

One of the things that has struck me the most throughout this whole debate is how surprised the Welsh Government has been at the level of public anger and resentment there has been regarding the 20 mph roll-out. For months and months leading up to it, there has been huge public opposition to this policy, which this Labour Government has wilfully ignored, and this is the reason that this petition has broken our records at almost 500,000 signatures. It is because the Welsh public not only feel that you are implementing a policy that they fundamentally disagree with, but that you're doing it in spite of them as well. As we all agree, there is an almost universal acknowledgement that 20 mph limits need to be set around schools, playgrounds and areas of high pedestrian traffic, like our town centres, but implementing a 20 mph speed limit on roads that do not fit this criteria is ludicrous. Not only is it unenforceable without an extensive network of speed cameras—

Photo of Joel James Joel James Conservative

No. Let me carry on first and then I'll—. Speed bumps and chicanes, but I would also argue that it actually increases the likelihood of dangerous driving, because people become frustrated and take greater risks, overtaking in dangerous conditions and rushing to make up for lost time. As we have also seen, 20 mph speed limits do not significantly reduce the number of crashes, casualty rates or average traffic speeds. I am sure Members from the opposing benches will argue that a reduction in speed from 30 mph to 20 mph is designed to reduce casualty rates. And whilst we all welcome that objective, the data doesn't suggest that there will be fewer crashes and fatalities because of the reduction.

Firstly, over the last 20 years, there's been a huge decline in the number of crashes on Welsh roads, from around 10,000 per year in 1993 to around 2,700 in 2022. And this will no doubt have been because of the improvements in car safety, car braking systems and traffic management in areas of existing high collisions. Secondly, data shows that most accidents are caused by failing to look properly, a loss of control of the vehicle, and being reckless or in a hurry, thus I have serious doubts that reducing speeds on 30 mph roads to 20 mph will have much of an impact on those existing reasons.

Moreover, whilst evidence may show that reducing speed from 30 mph to 20 mph decreases certain pollutants, may I remind Members in this Chamber that this only applies when the traffic is smooth flowing? Twenty mile an hour speed limits have been shown to cause an increase in the amount that traffic stops and restarts, and evidence has shown that this actually causes considerably more pollution to be released into the atmosphere, especially from HGV vehicles, which dump out more particulates every time they rev the engine to move.

One of my biggest concerns—and I'm sure it's a concern of many people across this Chamber, and the greater Welsh public—is the cost this policy is having on our economy. Slowing down travel has a big impact on the ability of people to get to work, to get to school, on businesses dispatching and delivering their goods, and on people being able to access services. And it is a genuine and legitimate worry that the Government has already recognised that this could cost the Welsh economy billions of pounds in the years ahead, yet they're still intent on pushing this policy through.

Llywydd, I feel it's almost like Welsh Labour deliberately want the Welsh economy to fail. This Welsh Government is so detached and so determined to justify its own existence that they refuse to acknowledge the enormity of the economic impact it is having. They slander those who disagree by claiming that we must want to see people hurt and killed, and they deliberately ignore public resentment towards this policy. This policy is flawed, and I believe that this Welsh Labour Government is too afraid that they've got it wrong—[Interruption.] With this in mind, I fully support this petition. I fully—

Photo of Joel James Joel James Conservative

I fully support this petition, I fully support the petitioners, and I fully support the vast majority of this country that want to see this scrapped. Thank you.

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour

As a town and community councillor, one of the common complaints I received was about speeding. Implementing the default 20 mph has definitely made drivers more conscious of their speed, and walking along our highways feels safer and more peaceful.

When I was a cabinet member for highways at Flintshire County Council, I had requests for 20 mph zones to be introduced, as they had been across the border in England. These requests were mainly for Saltney, where a child had been hit by a speeding vehicle at Mynydd Isaf. I knew, from what was proposed in the previous Senedd, that there was legislation coming, and suggested that we wait for it. We carried out a speed limit review about nine years ago in Flintshire; it took five years, and, even then, there were anomalies that had to be worked through. It was a lengthy process. And that's how long it can take with proper consultation, advertising of traffic regulation orders and maps, responding to objections, support and suggestions, and police data is also important. The process is resource intensive and we have a shortage of highway technical officers as well as operatives to implement signage. It's the same when doing any safer routes in the community or active travel schemes: it's all labour intensive. Often, people request traffic calming and double yellow lines to address speeding and parking, but, when they're in place, they realise the implications and they do not like them, so we have to make sure that they are actually what people do really want.

With any big change, we need to take people along with us, with proper partnership working, including local authorities, councillors and officers who have the expertise. If they raise issues, we should listen and work with them, and I'm glad that's happening now, going forward. The majority of people living on 20 mph roads want to keep it now. Councillors were consulted during the initial implementation. They asked residents they represented who lived along the roads, and hardly any were put forward for exemptions, because of liability and previous issues with speeding.

However, we need to look at making some of the arterial roads back up. I met with Arriva and the Road Haulage Association. Reduced speeds have impacted on bus punctuality and businesses, so we need to look at the cumulative impact of policies such as the 20 mph roll-out, designated cycle routes, bus lanes, on road users, road haulage and public bus transport. The biggest problem has been the density criterion, where there are more than 20 houses within 1km. This has been accepted by the 20 mph task group and Welsh Government officials as too restrictive, capturing more routes than necessary. Having to evidence that a road is not used by walkers and cyclists is also too resource heavy, and there is the concern of liability should there be an accident if the speed limit is increased. North Wales has a lot of ribbon development along arterial routes and inter-urban connectivity, and all councils except Gwynedd applied this criteria strictly, for the above reasons, which is why there are fewer exemptions in north Wales. It's been suggested that we should only have 20 mph on estate roads, but many people live on main roads, there are play areas, pedestrian crossings and schools, and most accidents actually do occur in these areas.

Moving forward, I know some north Wales councils have a list of approximately 25 roads to be made up. They're just waiting for the new guidance to be issued, because they don't want to have to do two traffic regulation orders. They have now provided an e-mail address—traffic@ and then the name of that local authority—where residents can put forward suggestions, moving forward, on where roads should be returned to 30 mph, as part of the consultation, and I welcome that.

Residents should also suggest where some areas should be included for a reduction, as there have been some anomalies in that way, because there are no street lights or houses on both sides, but they are a main riding or walking or cycling route, such as by the riding for the disabled in Llanfynydd, where there's a blind summit and it's used by walkers and active travel, by Alyn Waters and in Tywyn by the caravan parks and funfair by Tir Prince. Arriva are also putting forward suggested roads that could be made up.

Hopefully, once this happens, with a pragmatic approach and some consensus, amendments can be done under one TRO and there will be improvements for everyone. 

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour

I've just finished. [Laughter.]

Photo of Peter Fox Peter Fox Conservative

The subject of this debate is certainly a topic that has impacted so many people, and from so many walks of life. This default 20 mph policy has infuriated and mobilised people like never before, and, as we've heard, almost 0.5 million people have signed this petition—the largest in Senedd history—and I thank them for coming forward and doing that.

Now, I know that the Wales Government and the new Cabinet Secretary are desperately trying to undo some of the harm that has been done, but as my father used to say, 'It's difficult to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear.' The fundamental issue 0.5 million people had was the default being changed to 20 mph, which, it seems, will remain the default speed limit here in Wales.

Let's be clear: I don't think anybody—. I can't think of anybody who is against 20 mph zones where needed. Those are obvious places that we've all talked about many times. Indeed, these zones are nothing new; we travel through them all the time. I oversaw many of these in my own county around schools over many years, so it's not new. My contention has always been the heavy-handed approach by the Wales Government towards this policy; I thought it was wrong.

If more 20 mph zones were needed, these should have evolved through working closely with local authorities, allowing locally elected councillors to make local decisions in consultation with local communities. [Interruption.] Yes, I certainly will.

Photo of Jenny Rathbone Jenny Rathbone Labour 5:09, 22 May 2024

Do you accept, though, that it would have been an extortionate sum of money to do it on a bit-by-bit basis, as opposed to having a framework decided by the Welsh Government, with local authorities given the authority to make specific decisions?

Photo of Peter Fox Peter Fox Conservative 5:10, 22 May 2024

Jenny, you spent an absolute fortune on this, and you're going to spend an absolute fortune on trying to reverse it. If the £30 million had been worked with local authorities to encourage them to do more, to roll that out further, more of those could have been put in place, and it wouldn't have cost this sort of money. So, the money's already been committed, and it could have been done a lot cheaper.

As I said, this policy has wreaked havoc across Wales, not least in my own constituency. The combination of a lack of road infrastructure and the 20 mph speed limit has certainly impacted traffic in Chepstow, which I've spoken to in this Chamber before, where we see vast quantities of traffic heading to and from the M4 via the M48, which has now been restricted. The trunk road's been restricted to 20 mph in a place where we need traffic to be free flowing. Not only is this disruption bad for both businesses and commuters, but it also severely increases air pollution, which goes against the rationale of the Welsh Government's regulations surrounding speed limits in other areas of the country. The fact is that Transport for Wales’s own report found that air quality in two locations was improved, while two locations saw a lowering in air quality, thereby providing that the data just isn't there to back up the claims that this default speed limit is net positive.

The damage does not end there. I have been contacted by logistics professionals concerned that independent HGV contractors are concerned to take on work in Wales now due to fears of unwittingly incurring points, which affects their insurance. We've heard stories of bus routes being cancelled and we've heard of emergency service concerns. We've also heard genuine concerns that this policy has already—and it's factually already—damaging our vital and delicate tourism sector here in Wales, where visitors are anxious about visiting Wales due to fears, again, that they unwittingly pick up points.

Now, I'm glad that the Welsh Government had taken some steps to try to mitigate the policy. However, as I said, the Cabinet Secretary for transport has said that scrapping the 20 mph default would be a travesty. The fact is that, by the Welsh Government's own admission, the default 20 mph speed limit will cost the Welsh Government economy circa £9 billion, with local authorities already paid £33 million to implement these changes, and we are yet to see clear evidence that there will be savings to the NHS of £92 million a year via this policy. I will repeat: these benches believe in implementing 20 mph speed limits where it's sensible to do so—outside schools, hospitals, care homes, residential areas—[Interruption.] Yes. Sorry, Lee.

Photo of Lee Waters Lee Waters Labour 5:13, 22 May 2024

I just want to test you on that, because I'm not sure that the difference between us is that great. So, two years ago, when we voted on this, your spokesperson said you supported it outside hospitals; our guidance says 'with 100m of hospitals'. You said 'schools and playgrounds'; the guidance says 'any education setting'. You said 'high streets'; the guidance says, 'close to retail premises'. You say 'places of worship and places where other vulnerable road users may be encountered'; the guidance says 'close to community centres and residential premises'. In truth, there's very little between us, apart from the rhetoric.

Photo of Peter Fox Peter Fox Conservative

But the reality is, Lee, you know that 97 per cent of roads that were 30 mph were turned to 20 mph. You're not telling me that 97 per cent of roads in 30 mph are around all of those positions. You imposed—[Interruption.] Hang on. You imposed 20 mph in areas that were not linked to those areas and, since, we've seen those being undone in certain areas, like Monmouthshire, and they will be undone, hopefully, in other areas. Sorry, yes.

Photo of Russell George Russell George Conservative 5:14, 22 May 2024

I think what the former Minister is forgetting is that parts of Wales are very, very different. There are many parts of my own constituency, a very rural constituency, where 30 mph zones are now 20 mph, and they're in none of those categories that you referred to. And it makes absolutely no sense. It might be the case that, in some parts of Wales, what you've outlined are a large part of the areas that make up some of the definitions that you refer to, but that's not the case in many parts of Wales, particularly in rural Wales.

Photo of Peter Fox Peter Fox Conservative

Llywydd, I'm conscious I need to finish, but I'll repeat that these benches believe in implementing 20 mph speed limits where it's sensible to do so—as I said, all of those things we already know. For the good of Wales, its economy, and in response to nearly 0.5 million Welsh citizens, the Welsh Government must finally listen to the calls. And let's get Wales moving again. Thank you.

Photo of Lee Waters Lee Waters Labour

A protest of this size should make us pause and reflect—and it has. Although the petition itself is unfortunately full of misunderstandings and misinformation, that's not really the point. Hundreds of thousands of people put their names to it, and it made us sit up and take notice.

Now, of course we expected pushback, but the intensity of it was greater than we anticipated. Thankfully, things have now settled down, and we now know that 97 per cent of the people who signed the petition did so in the first two weeks after the speed limit changed, when the signs were still going up, in some places. But we listened to the protest and we acted. We launched a review, earlier than planned, into how the speed limit was being implemented. And far from marking our own homework, as we were accused, the initial report from the review panel was pretty blunt. It said there were things that the Welsh Government should have done differently, that I should have done differently, and that local councils should have done differently—and I accept that. The review said that the communications campaign came too late, there wasn't enough support and buy-in from across the Welsh Government to prepare for the change, and there was poor consultation by councils with their communities. And I agree with all of that.

And I don't think it's a coincidence that the areas where most people signed the petition were the areas where their councils made the fewest exceptions. In his letter to council leaders last week, the Cabinet Secretary said it had become clear to him that in many areas only a handful of changes will be made, whereas in other places more roads are likely to revert to 30 mph, and I think that's right. I expect we'll see most changes in north Wales, where the councils there implemented the fewest changes the first time around, and that's despite the now infamous scheme in Flintshire that Jack Sargeant reminded us of, which highlighted the importance of genuine consultation and flexibility of approach.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

Thank you. What was the reason for that then? Because, when you were in post as Deputy Minister, I asked you many, many times why you thought it was the case that in my local authority, Denbighshire County Council, exemption rates were 0.6 per cent, and neighbouring counties were significantly higher, and counties in south Wales were even higher than that. So, what is the essential reason behind that?

Photo of Lee Waters Lee Waters Labour 5:17, 22 May 2024

Well, you should read the report published by the panel—and I believe the final report is out shortly—which goes into it in detail, but essentially a decision was made by the local authority officers that they wanted to stick to the letter of the guidance and didn't want to review it for a year to give it time to bed in. As local highway authorities, that is their choice. The guidance was flexible enough for them to exercise that judgment. And it's no surprise that nearly a quarter of the people who signed the petition are from north Wales.

But listening and learning is not failure. It sometimes takes more than one go to get things right, and as I said at the outset, a change of this scale, of this complexity, implemented across 22 different local authorities, in an era of austerity and hollowed-out staffing, was always going to be tricky. And perhaps the trickiest part was the cultural change this represented, which we definitely underestimated.

We have a deep-seated culture of car dominance in our country—what researchers from Swansea University's psychology department have called 'motonormativity'—where people have an in-built acceptance of the harms from motor vehicles that they would not accept in other parts of life. That makes any challenge to car dominance very hard to do, and that's why it's usually avoided. Lowering the speed limit challenged the sense of entitlement that some drivers have developed over decades that they should be able to go fast, regardless of the impact on the people living on those streets and the children playing on them—or, more accurately, the children not playing on them because it didn't feel safe to do so.

And we've seen culture warriors here and elsewhere seize on the issue to create conflict in communities, and we've seen deliberate misinformation and false descriptions, like 'blanket', designed to deliberately sow confusion. And our evidence-based, modestly funded information campaign was simply drowned out. We lost the comms war. And it's been rough on everyone on the front line of this bold policy.

So, to everyone in a public-facing role who has faced the wrath and abuse that has come with this big change—the local government officers, local councillors, community campaigners, Senedd Members and MPs, to the police and the fire service—can I say 'thank you'? We should all be proud of the fact that the policy is working. Speeds are down. People are driving slower. Despite the criminal damage, the misinformation, the aggressive driving and tailgating and the protests and the petition, average speeds are down: 4 mph slower in the first few months, in the last data we have, and for every drop in the average speed limit of 1 mph, casualties are estimated to fall by 6 per cent. [Interruption.] I don't have time, I'm afraid. That's fewer heartbroken families, fewer lives destroyed, fewer people filling up A&E and consultant waiting lists, and fewer people who feel unsafe in their own communities. I'm not sure what price you can put on that, to be honest.

Has the implementation been perfect? Of course it hasn't. It was never going to be. The reality is there just was not enough capacity and resources at the Welsh Government end nor at the local government end to do everything we wished to. Has it been universally welcomed? Of course it hasn't. It was never going to be. But while we hear from the objectors, we tend not to hear so much from the supporters, and I think it's significant that councils were telling us all along that they received very few examples of people who thought the speed on their own street was too low.

Llywydd, mistakes were made, particularly in not doing genuine consultations in communities and in the uneven and inflexible way the guidance was interpreted in some parts of Wales, and I'm prepared to accept my part in all that. But let the two thirds of the Members of the Senedd who supported a default 20 mph speed limit remember this: people are alive today because of this law. Together, we have saved lives.

Photo of Tom Giffard Tom Giffard Conservative 5:21, 22 May 2024

Can I start by thanking the nearly 0.5 million people across Wales who signed the petition? And can I draw Members' particular attention to the protestors who are here today in the Senedd Chamber, who have joined us? They have been here month after month, in the rain and in the sunshine, and I know that Natasha Asghar and I have been out there on every occasion to meet with them, and I know that other Members have joined them as well. And thank you for making your voices heard by coming to the Senedd today.

We need to consider why, I think. We need to consider why have 0.5 million people across Wales made the effort to go online to sign a petition against a change in speed limits on our roads. And there are lots of reasons for that, and many of them I won't have the time to get into in today's debate, but I think this can be encapsulated by saying it is a classic example of Government overreach. It has been typical of the way, over the last 25 years of this Welsh Labour Government, that it very often doesn't trust people in their communities to make decisions for themselves. We've seen a centralised 'we know best' approach from the Welsh Labour Government, taking decisions for the whole of Wales—[Interruption.] I will shortly. Taking decisions for the whole of Wales, sometimes for roads hundreds of miles away from Cardiff Bay, where clearly local people know best. Hefin.

Photo of Hefin David Hefin David Labour 5:22, 22 May 2024

I just want to reflect on the speech made by Lee Waters. He's acknowledged some of the things that weren't done right, he's acknowledged the strength of feeling, and I think he's made a superb speech that acknowledges what went wrong and that the future can be different because of what the Cabinet Secretary is going to say.

Photo of Tom Giffard Tom Giffard Conservative 5:23, 22 May 2024

Thank you very much for that intervention. I can't say I agree with your assessment of the former Deputy Minister's speech, but what I will say is that I heard him say there that, yes, technically councils can take these decisions, but the councils were clear themselves that the initial roll-out of the scheme meant that the decision wasn't theirs. Swansea Council, for example, in my region, couldn't have been clearer, when they said on their website that 

'Councils had very limited discretion to maintain a number of urban roads at 30mph'.

That is a Labour council saying that. And to compound matters, even when it became clear that the policy wasn't working in communities across Wales, the Welsh Government commissioned a review into the policy, but that review itself didn't appear to put the people of Wales and their experiences at its heart. For example, the former Deputy Minister commissioned one of the architects of the scheme to undertake the review into the scheme. And then when I asked about the public's ability to give their opinions on how it was working, I was told that you would only be able to give an opinion on the street that you lived on. So, your voice would be ignored if you lived, for example, on a cul-de-sac leading on to a 20 mph road, even though it's just as much a part of the community that you want to keep safe as the street you live on. 

Time and again, the Welsh Labour Government didn't want to listen to the people of Wales when they were very clearly saying the issues that they had with this policy being implemented. And they didn't listen because the Welsh Labour Government was worried that it didn't like what the people of Wales had to say to them. So, there's little wonder, I think, that 0.5 million people felt that their only recourse, the only way to make their voices heard inside their Government, was to go online and to sign this petition. And in the interests of a transparent, open Government that works in the interests of the people of Wales, we should resolve never to be in this position again.

But, Llywydd, we have heard a change in tone from the new Cabinet Secretary for transport. We heard he wants to listen, and I welcome that. I genuinely and sincerely hope he means what he says and that his words are followed up with genuine actions, but it’s the public that will be the ultimate judge of that, and the public will judge his actions on whether they feel that roads that they know in their local area that aren’t working are changed. Because anything less than that means that for all the Cabinet Secretary’s warm words, he won’t have done anything to listen to the words of the people of Wales, who know all too well that the policy isn't working.

Now is the time to scrap the guidance and look at it again with a blank piece of paper and think, 'How can I come up with a policy that works for the people of Wales, that listens to people who want to have a say on their roads, in their community, and not just listen to the people that already agree with me? And how can I not only say that I’m listening to people, but show people with my actions that I’m really taking their views on board?’ And without that, Llywydd, I fear we will be back in the same place again, having the same discussion over and over again. Diolch.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 5:26, 22 May 2024

May I begin by thanking the Petitions Committee for their general work? And certainly this petition has helped create that focus on this policy and its implementation and the early experience. I’d like to very much agree with what Lee Waters said about change always being difficult, and particularly, perhaps, change that affects car use, because I think we all know over quite a period of time how difficult it is when change is introduced that does affect that freedom that people feel is very dear to them in terms of how they use their cars.

But we have a lot of experience, not just from across the UK, but in Europe and beyond, which does show that when you roll out these 20 mph policies, not only are they effective in reducing deaths on the roads and serious injuries on the roads, but also they do often meet that initial opposition; they are very controversial initially, but quite quickly, actually, that does give way to a much higher level of support, once people have experienced the effect and the value of those policies. So, that is a general pattern that we see elsewhere, and I think we see the beginnings of that now here in Wales.

Certainly, as a Member of the Senedd, my own experience in my constituency is that there has been a change in people’s attitudes following the initial impact, and what people now think of the policy, having initially had that experience of it. They do value the way that communities are able to reclaim their streets for walking, for children playing, and for active travel, indeed, which is an important Senedd policy, but most of all, the quieter nature of those urban roads and the very obvious greater level of safety from the reduced speeds. And as Lee Waters also said, yes, we are seeing a reduction in speeds on those roads.

Llywydd, when I first became a Member of the Senedd, one of the earliest meetings that I remember on road safety was with a local parent on a council estate, where his son had been knocked down and killed on a through road through that council estate, nowhere near a school, nowhere near a hospital, nowhere near the more obvious areas that people often cite in terms of where they think 20 mph limits are needed. And that goes back to the point that we heard earlier that, yes, children don’t always live outside schools and those other obvious places where you need 20 mph; we need it on our residential streets and roads as well.

That’s been my experience throughout my time here in the Senedd that people increasingly want to see greater road safety for very obvious reasons. And one of them, another constituent that very much comes to mind in those terms is Dr Julian Smith, who’s been a great campaigner within Newport East on road safety. Sadly, his daughter was killed in a road traffic accident, and he then founded a charity to campaign for better road safety. He actually held an event, a conference, in Newport East, which was attended by Welsh Government officials and a host of organisations concerned with road safety, and he's been an absolute tower of strength in trying to salvage something positive from that awful incident that killed his daughter. Unsurprisingly, Julian has taken a great interest in the roll-out of 20 mph, and I know, because he copied it to me, that he actually wrote to our former First Minister Mark Drakeford on the policy, saying, 'I would like to thank you for your efforts in introducing this policy and enduring opposition to its introduction. I would also like to thank you on behalf of those parents whose children you have saved and will save'—

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

'They will not have to endure the horrors and pain that my daughter's family and friends have had to endure.'

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative

Thank you, and, of course—

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

I've finished my contribution, thank you, Mark.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

That's okay. Bad timing there, Mark. You may get an opportunity again. 

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

I'm pleased to be taking part in this debate this afternoon on an issue that has evoked a reaction like nothing I have seen before in Welsh politics. I hope that eight months on from the roll-out, the Welsh Government give this petition the proper consideration it deserves. I thank the Petitions Committee for the work that they've done on this so far.

The Welsh Government has clung to the default 20 mph policy thus far, not because the people asked for it or wanted it, not because there was solid evidence that it would achieve its purported goals, but because it was the latest fashionable policy amongst the political class here and in Europe, and they didn't want to miss out on that trend. Never did it occur to them that the vast majority of people do not like this policy, to put it mildly, and that sentiment has not gone away and won't do. The Welsh Government should remember that Wales is their constituency, and they are not elected to represent solely stakeholders, pressure groups and the opinion pages of The Guardian. They are elected to represent the Welsh people who, in their wisdom, have rejected this failed policy through the greatest act of political participation in Senedd history.

The views of 0.5 million people in Wales cannot and should not be ignored, particularly when the evidence for speed limit reductions to 20 mph has such an unsound evidential basis. We already know the evidence from bodies without a vested interest. The 2022 Queen's University Belfast study cited in the petition shows that default 20 mph speed limits have seemingly little impact on crashes, casualties or driver speed. And I will reiterate that the Welsh Conservatives have supported, and always will support, 20 mph speed limits outside of schools and hospitals—

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

In a second. I'll just finish this point. A default 20 mph policy is not a commonsense approach, and this is what the signatories to the petition would like the Welsh Government to understand. 

Photo of Lee Waters Lee Waters Labour 5:33, 22 May 2024

You quote again the Belfast study, which, as you say, is in the petition. We've said many times that this is a different thing. It's not comparing like with like. That study is about already existing 20 mph in a city centre, and the conclusion of that study is that it recommends the council take an area-wide approach as a default, which we actually had to do. So, if you are going to quote studies as evidence against a policy, you should do your best to understand the study first.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

It's interesting you raise that, Lee, actually, because I left out a couple more bodies out of my remarks. I only quoted Queen's university. I noticed there was evidence at the time from the RAC and the AA against that, but they were ignored. Very reputable bodies, I must say—nationwide bodies with a good reputation who have been around since cars were invented. So, if you're saying that they don't know what they're talking about, then that's a very bold comment to make.

On the issue of air pollution, what data we do have since the new speed limit was rolled out also shows no evidence of a significant improvement in air quality. But on the real-world consequences of this policy, the harm it has caused to public transport in my constituency alone is alarming. Arriva Buses Wales have told me personally how damaging this has been to their passengers. It has restricted the mobility of the elderly and disabled who rely on local bus services. Bus operators across Wales have had to withdraw stops from their routes in order to maintain punctuality, such as the withdrawal of the Tweedmill bus stop in my constituency on the 51 route, where elderly shoppers are now ferried to the side of a busy A road far from the vicinity of the retail outlet.

The Welsh Government promised us that this was not a blanket policy and that appropriate exemptions would be made, but since it has been rolled out, we have learnt that this was an empty promise to placate the people. I've tried to make the best out of a bad situation in my constituency and work with Denbighshire County Council to get exemptions to the 20 mph limit approved, but they have been kicked into the long grass thus far. I submitted a letter to the council in November of last year with a list of roads suitable for exemption, such as the Meliden dip and Rhuddlan Road, amongst many more, where 20 mph is causing chaos, yet six months on, not a single exemption has been made to one of these highways. The continued advice to local authorities is clearly not good enough, with only 0.6 per cent of roads in Denbighshire being exempt from the 20 mph speed. I've raised this issue both in the Senedd and with Denbighshire County Council—[Interruption.] I'll just finish this point—since January, and the exemptions have not been made. 

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour 5:36, 22 May 2024

Earlier, I said that councils in north Wales were just waiting for the further guidelines before making their exemptions. I know that Denbighshire have got a list of 25 roads to make back up—rather than do it twice. So, I just wanted to make that point there. And there have been discussions with Arriva and they're putting forward roads as well. Do you think that that's going to be useful, going forward?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

I've heard a different story; I've heard that they're going to member area group meetings in Denbighshire County Council, which are not public meetings, they're private, and they're going to be discussed, voted on and decided in private meetings that are not publicly broadcast. That is the latest news I'm getting directly from councillors. And when you actually live in your constituency, then you get to learn these things quite quickly. On top of all this, the estimated hit to the Welsh economy—

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour

That's below the belt.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

I don't think it's below the belt, I think it's just somebody speaking true words. At a time when the UK's growth is struggling to get off the ground, despite the evidence that it does not work, despite the multitude of negative consequences and the lack of consent from the public—[Interruption.] I'm happy to take another intervention, if you so wish.

Photo of Carolyn Thomas Carolyn Thomas Labour 5:37, 22 May 2024

Just to correct that, I actually live in the region that I represent, North Wales. Do you agree that that is correct?

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

Yes, of course. I'm just saying that I'm a constituency Member and I live in my constituency. That's all I'm saying—[Interruption.] Yes, thank you.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

I think I'd stick to the topic and the petition in question. Where Members live is a matter for them.

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

Yes, I think we're drifting away from the subject, and focusing on things that are—

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

I think you're coming to an end now, aren't you, Gareth Davies. [Laughter.]

Photo of Gareth Davies Gareth Davies Conservative

Oh, celebrations—'hooray'. We support 20 mph outside schools and hospitals, but the default application of this speed has to be reversed. The petition before the Senedd today is an opportunity for the Welsh Government to take stock of the nearly 500,000 voices telling them that they don't want 20 mph. So, I urge all Members to accept the public's verdict on this and vote to scrap this failed policy.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:38, 22 May 2024

(Translated)

The Cabinet Secretary for transport now—Ken Skates.

Photo of Ken Skates Ken Skates Labour

Diolch, Llywydd. I'd like to thank Jack Sargeant and the members of the Petitions Committee for bringing forward today's debate. It is, as many Members have said, the biggest petition that this Senedd has ever seen, and I'd like to thank Members across the Chamber for their contributions today.

We must recognise the range of voices that have spoken out in favour of and against the policy. And for whatever reasons, we cannot escape the fact that 20 mph has served to polarise communities. That's why, since taking up post, I've placed such an emphasis on listening. I've felt it vital to listen with an open mind to the views of people who have previously felt that they weren't being heard, whatever their starting point in this debate. That national listening programme is now in full swing and I'm very grateful to the original petitioner, Mark Baker, for agreeing to meet with me as part of my first round of discussions.

I've also met with local government leaders from across Wales, with elected representatives from across the political divide, with the emergency services, charities that promote walking and cycling, bodies representing hauliers and motorists, including the RAC, as well as—crucially important, I believe—bus operators. Yes, there are differences of opinion, but we have much more in common than divides us, and I'm determined to continue that conversation in the weeks and months ahead to address public concerns and hopefully to remove this issue from polarising culture wars.

I recently visited Buckley in Jack Sargeant's own constituency. It was such a powerful reminder of the value in engaging with local people who use the roads daily and those who live on the roads, listening to their feedback and giving them the opportunity to set out their concerns.

To support this national conversation, we recently published a webpage to help signpost people towards their local highway authority, to provide feedback or suggestions for roads. I believe we all have a role to play in this process, and that includes Members from across this Chamber, as well as the people and communities that we represent. I'd like to also pay tribute to the police and fire and rescue services for the education and enforcement campaign that's been in operation across Wales. 

Llywydd, I'd also like to take this opportunity to place on record my sincere thanks to our partners in local government. This has been a challenging period, and I recognise that local government and transport officers in particular have been at the front line through these turbulent times. To be clear, I take full responsibility for this reset. It is not a reflection on the hard work of local authorities and their teams who have worked tirelessly on the implementation of this policy over the past two years and more. Just last week, I wrote to council leaders reaffirming my commitment to provide them with the resources and the support they need as we work together to make 20 mph a success.

Through the drumbeat of regional meetings, and with the help of the County Surveyors' Society Wales, we want to co-create a framework that supports highway authorities to make the right decisions for local roads, particularly when those calls are finely balanced. My officials will then focus on prioritising guidance for other speed limits where people live. This will be published in April 2025, following stakeholder engagement, which will include communication and feedback from local authorities, and a 12-week public consultation. We have learnt lessons from 20 mph and will ensure that the citizens' voice is at the heart of co-creating policy with and for our communities. 

We have all heard the tragic accounts of pain, of loss and utter devastation from families who have lost loved ones, including some of us within this Chamber. Llywydd, the principal objective of our 20 mph policy is to save lives and reduce collisions on our roads. [Interruption.] Yes, of course.

Photo of Mark Isherwood Mark Isherwood Conservative 5:42, 22 May 2024

It was referred to by your predecessor when in this role the situation in Spain, where the default was introduced in 2020, I believe. What consideration will you give to the actual increase in fatalities amongst vulnerable users—walkers, cyclists, motorcyclists—over the last two years in Spain since that default was introduced?

Photo of Ken Skates Ken Skates Labour

I think it's important to stress, Llywydd, that there is evidence from around the world, and the balance of evidence demonstrates that reducing the speed limit, primarily because it reduces the stopping distance of vehicles, actually does lead to a reduction in collisions. But we're going to follow the balance of evidence, I can assure the Member of that, and our own speed and collision data will be published soon from within Wales. It will be a snapshot of the first few months of the policy being implemented. But I am determined to make sure that policy is based on sound evidence, on the objective truth, not an interpretation, and that it is based on evidence from around the world that can be absolutely unequivocal. 

We have heard about those tragedies and, actually, the principal objective of our policy, as I say, was to reduce collisions and thereby save lives. I'd like to build from the consensus that 20 mph is right around schools, hospitals and in built-up residential areas, and through partnership working and by supporting highway authorities to make changes where it's right to do so, I believe we can make 20 mph a success for built-up areas in Wales. And finally, to everyone that has signed the petition, I can guarantee we are listening. Now, let's work together to get the right speeds on the right roads for the people, businesses and communities we serve, for our own families and for all others across Wales. Diolch.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:44, 22 May 2024

(Translated)

Peredur Owen Griffiths now to reply to debate on behalf of the committee.

Photo of Peredur Owen Griffiths Peredur Owen Griffiths Plaid Cymru

Diolch, Llywydd. I'm speaking this afternoon as a member of the Petitions Committee, because our Chair has been called away for an urgent personal matter. I'm sure he sends his apologies for that and has let the Llywydd know. I'd like to thank all Members for their contributions today. I'd like to thank also the Cabinet Secretary for his response, and thank the Business Committee for granting us additional time for this important debate.

Two weeks ago, the Petitions Committee introduced a debate on additional learning needs and the issues faced by parents. They wrote to us after that debate saying, 'Hearing people in a position of power speak of the struggles families like ours face makes you feel heard, and while the issues are not yet fixed and there is much to be done, being heard is something that is so desperately needed as part of the solution.'

We’ve heard many arguments here be revised today, on all sides, and I’m not going to go through all of those arguments again. But I hope today’s debate will reassure the thousands of people who signed this petition that they have been heard too. As Members of the Senedd, we hear that this policy change has frustrated a great many people, and we know that it has been misunderstood and miscommunicated in parts, and that the rhetoric has been used with damaging effect as well. I think we should all reflect on how we can conduct ourselves. We can disagree vehemently politically, but personal attacks have no place in this Senedd or in Wales, and with a general election just being called, I hope everyone will bear that in mind and agree.

We also heard that the Welsh Government had agreed to the Plaid Cymru motion to review the impact of the policy back in September, and the Cabinet Secretary has now moved forward with that, but it’s taking a little bit of time to do that. I hope today’s debate has given greater clarity to what the Government has done and is doing, working with local authorities and communities to review and to make changes where that is necessary and safe, and also to acknowledge and support those communities that clamour for lower speed limits and safer streets where they live.

Yesterday in this Chamber Jack Sargeant spoke in praise of a petition from 2012 that had finally achieved its aim—CCTV in slaughterhouses. It’s not always clear immediately what the impact of a petition has been and the influence it has had. It will take a few more months and maybe years for the dust to finally settle on this policy and for the kinks to be ironed out. But of one thing I am sure: in the future, when the history books are written, looking back at the sixth Senedd, this policy and the petition that emerged to challenge it will be more than just a footnote. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 5:47, 22 May 2024

(Translated)

The proposal is to note the petition. Does any Member object? No, there is no objection to noting the petition, so the motion is agreed. 

(Translated)

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.