20mph: Will the record breaking petition to reverse Wales' new default speed limit work?

The recent law change has led to debate inside and outside the Senedd's chamber.

The petition calling for the Welsh Government's recently-introduced 20mph policy to be overturned is unprecedented in the nearly twenty-five years that the Senedd has existed.

Thousands are adding their signatures daily, taking it far past 400,000 and well on its way to attracting half a million.

The level of support the petition has certainly cannot be ignored, but it will not in itself lead to the change it calls for.

What is more, as things stand, it will not be debated in the Senedd until next spring.

The new default speed limit means previous 30mph roads have been reduced to 20, where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists. Credit: PA Images
  • Here is what running a Senedd petition means and involves

The petitions system is seen as an important part of the way that the Welsh Parliament works.

Anyone can start a petition online using the tools on the Senedd's website.

It says that it can be a way of raising awareness, attempting to change Welsh Government policy, propose or influence a law, or prompt further action.

A 20mph sign in Conwy was recently sprayed with paint in protest over the law change. Credit: Media Wales

You have to live in Wales to start a petition and you need the support of two other people to create it.

There are certain rules and standards that have to be met but most petitions are accepted.

They remain open for up to six months, by which point it is considered closed, and the following steps take place:

  • Any petition that gathers more than 250 signatures will be considered by the Petitions Committee which decides if it can take further action

  • If a petition picks up the support of more than 10,000 signatures it will be considered by the committee to be put forward for debate in the Senedd chamber

The petition is growing by the day. Credit: Senedd website

There have been recent occasions when 10,000 signatures has been reached quickly and the organisers have agreed to close a petition early so that it can be debated sooner rather than later.

In the case of the 20mph petition, the Llywydd told Senedd Members on Tuesday 26 September that "there is currently no request that the petition is to be closed".

That means the petition will continue gathering signatures until March 2024 and will not be considered by the Petitions Committee or debated on the Senedd floor until after that date.

It will be debated in the Senedd chamber but not until spring next year. Credit: SeneddTV

Even when the debate takes place, the Welsh Government is not obliged to act as the petitioners want.

A minister will come to the chamber and face questions but it doesn't force them to change their policy nor the law.

In a debate on a previous 20mph petition, the chair of the Petitions Committee, Labour's Jack Sargeant, said that it gave "the Deputy Minister responding a further opportunity to explain why this measure is so important, to tell people how to campaign for exemptions in their local communities, and to respond to some of the concerns voiced by thousands of people in Wales who remain sceptical about this change."

That sentiment remains the same for this, the most-signed petition in the history of devolution.

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