The First Minister has told MPs that he will take seriously the petition against the Welsh Government’s 20mph policy but is standing by the change.
Mark Drakeford told MPs belonging to the Welsh Affairs Committee that the petition will be responded to in the usual way that Senedd petitions are considered.
But he said that wouldn’t happen until at least next March, because the organiser of the petition hasn’t agreed to close the petition early. That means it will remain open for the full six month period.
The First Minister was asked by the committee chair, the Conservative MP Stephen Crabb, if he recognised “concerns” about 20mph zones that he said had been expressed by “some of the emergency services.”
In response, Mark Drakeford said that “There are some individual voices in some services that have expressed concern. The services themselves have not and of course we work very closely with them.
“The rules are no different in a 20 mile an hour road than they are in a 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 mile road. Emergency services are able to travel above the speed limit where there is a case for them to do so. None of that has changed.
“And I think a number of these concerns are concerns in advance of the facts, when it comes to operating the system on the ground, I don't think that those fears will materialise.”
Mark Drakeford also told MPs that he doesn’t believe “a single penny will be spent” on electrifying the main railway line across the north of Wales by the UK Government.
In his recent speech to the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister announced that the northern part of the HS2 rail project would be cancelled and the money saved would be spent on other projects.
That included a pledge to spend £1bn on electrification of the North Wales main line.
The First Minister was asked by Conservative MP Robin Millar why the Welsh Government had responded to that announcement by saying that electrification was not a priority for Wales.
Mark Drakeford said: "First of all, the so-called promise unravelled very quickly indeed, when the Secretary of State for Transport in the UK Government said that this was merely an illustrative list, but nobody was to take it as meaning that this was actual money for actual activity.
“So you know, I don’t think a single penny will be spent on this scheme during the lifetime of the current government.”
As for the issue about whether or not it’s a priority the First Minister said that “what our Minister pointed to was the joint committee, a committee made up of representatives of the Welsh Government and the UK Government prioritising plans for rail investment in north Wales, but that committee with UK representatives on it had not put electrification of the main line at the top of the list for investment.
“The announcement was made with no reference to the group that had been established between two governments to draw up priority plans.”
“I'm afraid there's very little confidence amongst people in North Wales that this will ever happen because they saw the experience in South Wales which was promised twice that there will be electrification of the mainline and twice that ban was reversed.”
Commenting on the default 20mph rollout, Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: "This is misinformation from Mark Drakeford. Fire Chiefs have warned Labour's blanket 20mph speed limits will make emergency response times worse. It's unacceptable for Labour to pretend this isn't the case.
"The vast majority of Welsh people oppose Labour's dangerous blanket 20mph speed limits. Under the Welsh Conservatives, they will be scrapped."
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