Mark Drakeford says Wales' 20mph policy will not cost Labour at next general election

First Minister Mark Drakeford has insisted that the Welsh Government's 20mph policy will not cost the Labour Party votes at the next UK general election.

It comes after tighter measures on motorists through an expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) are thought to have played a significant part in Labour losing a by-election in London.

Speaking to ITV Wales at the UK party's conference in Liverpool on Sunday, Mr Drakeford said: "I don't believe that will be the case [people switching to other parties].

"You can't bring about change without some sort of turbulence and that's always been the case in road safety.

"This is a policy that will save people's lives. It will stop serious accidents from happening. It will save money every year in our emergency services."

The controversial policy has sparked protest from some.

Addressing motorists directly, the Welsh Labour leader said: "You can play your part. A small reduction in the speed that you drive will help other people. That's a bargain most people in Wales understand very well."

Last month, Wales became the first UK nation to reduce the default speed limit to 20mph, meaning drivers on most residential roads have to reduce their speed from 30mph.

Since its introduction almost half a million people have signed a Senedd petition calling for its reversal.

The Welsh Government has previously said support for the tighter rules "will rise" as people "get used to it."

With a general election anticipated for next year, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said 20mph zones will not be rolled out across England in the way they have been in Wales should he enter Downing Street.

Speaking about the difference in opinion between the two leaders, Mr Drakeford said: "I never expect that a Labour government in Wales is going to agree with everything that anyone else does either.

"What Keir will be doing is he will be looking right across the United Kingdom where Labour is in power - in Liverpool, in Manchester, in so many other places - and looking for where he thinks the best ideas are to be found. Many of those will come from Wales but it won't be exclusively from Wales."

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said a similar 20mph policy will not be introduced in England if he wins the next general election. Credit: PA

The First Minister also said people should look to Wales - the only UK nation where his party holds power - "if you want to know what a Labour government will look like."

Discussing his relationship with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Drakeford said: "We talk together whenever we need to. I'm not on the phone every five minutes but if there's ever a need to talk, Keir is always available and he's always interested in what is happening in Wales.

"So I have always been happy with the sort of relationship we have and the purposeful nature of it."

Summing up the mood of the Labour conference, which he is due to address on Monday, the First Minister said people are feeling "optimistic" but "cautious" as they look ahead to a looming general election.

Mark Drakeford said Labour will not take the next general election "for granted" after success in a Scottish by-election earlier this week. Credit: PA

It is thought this will likely be the last round of party conferences before voters across the UK go to the polls.

Labour gained a boost to their electoral chances this week as they won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency from the Scottish National Party in a by-election by a considerable margin.

Mr Drakeford struck a note of caution, though, as he said: "Absolutely nobody wants to take that [the general election result] for granted."

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