The Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters MS has survived a vote of no confidence at the Senedd on Wednesday (Sep 27).
The votes were 16 in favour, no abstentions and 42 against the motion.
The vote followed a debate in which the Deputy Minister said that he recognised the strength of feeling that is against the change in the speed limit.
He said that the number of people who’ve signed the Senedd petition spoke for itself, and that Welsh Government take it seriously.He also said that he understood that lots of people are angry and frustrated.
Mr Waters said: “My message to the more than 400,000 people who have signed the petition is simple: we are listening to what you’re saying, we understand that not everybody likes this, and we are willing to be flexible in how this is implemented in your local community.”
The Deputy Minister’s tone was one of contrition, which opposition politicians remarked were in contrast to his previous tone on the issue. Darren Millar MS Said: “The contrite way in which you responded is a marked difference in the tone that we’ve heard in recent weeks from you individually.”
Lee Waters said that Welsh Government would continue to work with local authorities to get it right. He said that the data so far showed that the average delay to journey times is less than one minute. He said: “It takes 28 days to change a habit, so we need to give this time.”
Mr Waters said the Welsh Government needed to apply common sense, and that councils are able to make decisions. He quoted the guidance as follows:
‘highway authorities continue to have the flexibility to set local speed limits that are right for individual roads, reflecting local needs and considerations.’
He said that right across Wales, councils have already used those powers to make exceptions ahead of the roll-out on 17 September. He said: “They’ve exercised their ability to keep some roads at 30mph, which is why this is not a blanket policy, because there are roads kept at 30 mph. They have the powers to make those changes, and those powers remain with them to use in the light of experience. They can make changes.”
The Deputy Minister thanked councils, who he said are already hard-pressed, for the work that they have done in the run-up to 17 September. He said:
“It’s been a huge amount of work—and the work that they continue to do. And together with them, we will keep a close eye on how it is going. Later this week, we will be publishing the framework for how we will monitor the changes; in January, we will publish the first set of post-implementation speed data; and by the summer, we will publish the first detailed results for the first six months of the limit being in force. Then there will be further formal monitoring on an annual basis for the next five years. We are now asking councils for feedback on their experiences so far: what’s gone well, what might need to change. And, of course, we welcome scrutiny from the Senedd and its committees. We’re not digging our heels in, we want to take a common-sense approach.”
He concluded by saying: “I want to place on the record my thanks to everyone in Wales who are doing their bit to help make our communities safer. Speeds are already down and, as a result, we can expect to see fewer accidents, fewer casualties, fewer deaths, fewer tragedies. A little bit slower, Llywydd, but a whole lot better.”
Daren Millar was urged by Delyth Jewell MS and Joyce Watson MS not to proceed with the motion of a vote of no confidence but the Welsh Conservative MS did not yield. He said that he owed it to the people who had signed the petition.
Darren Millar MS suggested that there was a problem with with the guidance. Saying it was ‘ insufficiently flexible”.
The Welsh Conservative MS said that he had heard criticism of the no confidence vote. He said” We are having a no confidence vote because, frankly, the attitude previously displayed by the Minister did not appear to be listening to the many hundreds of thousands of people across Wales who are very angry and upset about the policy and the way that it’s been implemented.
When asked to withdraw the motion by Delyth Jewell MS Darren Millar said: “I won’t be withdrawing the motion from being voted upon, because I think the people of Wales expect us to be able to reflect the views that are being reflected to us by our constituents, and it’s our duty. I believe we’ve got an obligation to be able to have this debate today, given the fact that many of our constituents, including many in your own constituency and the area that you represent, Delyth, do not have confidence that this is the right Minister in the right place at the right time.548
Darren Millar went on to say that they rather wanting to focus on the issue of whether this Senedd and whether the people of Wales have confidence in the Minister to be able to do the job.
He concluded by saying: “We do not table motions of no confidence lightly. We have done so given the extraordinary scale, the unprecedented scale, of the record-breaking petition that we’ve seen in Wales in recent weeks, which has demonstrated that there is overwhelming public opposition to this particular policy. The failure of the Government to act swiftly enough, and the Minister to act swiftly enough, I’m afraid shows that they’re not fit to be in that position, and that’s why I urge everybody to vote for the motion.”