Welsh Conservative leader attacks 20mph as "extreme ideology" in conference speech

Andrew RT Davies has lead the Welsh Conservatives for most of the past 12 years.
When he addresses Conservative party members on Sunday afternoon, Andrew RT Davies is expected to repeat his previous attacks. Credit: PA Images

Senior Conservatives are expected to step up their attacks on the Welsh Government's new 20mph policy at their party's annual conference in Manchester.

The leader of the Welsh Tories, Andrew RT Davies, will use his conference speech to criticise what he'll call "extreme policies [that Welsh Labour has] imposed on the Welsh people."

It follows strong criticism last week from Rishi Sunak who accused Welsh ministers of waging "a war on motorists."

The new default speed limit means previous 30mph roads have been reduced to 20, where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists. Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government said the change to a default 20mph limit on residential roads has been "thoroughly researched, debated, and voted on a number of times in the Senedd since it was put forward by a number of Assembly members in 2018, including Conservative members."

The policy has met with strong opposition since it came into force earlier this month. A Senedd petition calling for it to be overturn has gained more than 450,000 signatures, more than any other petition in the Welsh Parliament's history.

It is also clearly become a dividing line in British politics as both Conservatives and Labour count down to the next UK General Election, which is likely to be held within the next year.

When he addresses Conservative party members on Sunday afternoon, Andrew RT Davies is expected to repeat his previous attacks and his warning to voters in England that it can expect similar policies from the UK Labour party under Keir Starmer.

In his speech he'll say that “Two thirds of Welsh people oppose blanket 20mph speed limits, but Labour forced them through regardless. They’ve also imposed other extreme policies like banning all major new road building projects, spending £120million on 36 more politicians and paying illegal immigrants £1,600 a month. 

“The Prime Minister is taking long term decisions for a brighter future. But Labour in Wales are focused on an extreme ideology that distracts them from the things that matter. It’s why we have far longer NHS waiting lists than England.

The Prime Minister spoke to ITV Cymru Wales on Friday.

“As a proud Welshman, it pains me to see what Labour has done to Wales. But Keir Starmer has described Mark Drakeford’s record as his “blueprint for the whole UK”.

“A Labour victory at the next General Election will see these extreme and out of touch policies imposed on our whole United Kingdom.”

His words echo those of the Prime Minister from last week.

In a pre-conference interview Rishi Sunak told me that "people are dependent on their cars for their day-to-day journeys and these kind of blanket bans aren't the right proportionate approach".

He added: "But also it comes on top of this other policy not to build any new roads as well.

"You take these things together, it seems like an attack on motorists and that's rightly received the opposition that it deserves."

Conservatives from Rishi Sunak down are using the term "blanket 20mph speed limit" but that term is the focus of dispute.

The legislation uses the term "default" while "blanket" is generally understood as affecting all roads.

Under the new rules, only residential roads are affected by the change, with local councils given the power to keep some roads at 30mph and to switch back if 20mph is unsuitable.

Other roads across Wales continue to have speed limits of 40 to 70mph.

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