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Speed Limits

Volume 745: debated on Thursday 8 February 2024

In England, this is primarily a matter for local authorities. The 20 mph limits work in the right places, such as outside schools, and following the right consultation with the public. They do not work as blanket measures. We do not want them to be set indiscriminately on all roads, without due regard for the safety case and without local support.

The 20 mph limits can work in quiet, narrow residential side streets where there is local consent, but London’s Labour Mayor and boroughs are increasingly inflicting them on wide roads and main roads where they are not justified. Now Barnet Council wants to introduce a big 20 mph zone in Whetstone without adequate consultation. Will the Secretary of State intervene to ensure that these speed limits are introduced only in appropriate circumstances, and only when they have strong local support?

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. Imposing blanket 20 mph zones without local support—which is what Labour has done across Wales and in London—is bad for drivers, but it also risks reducing the specific protection for vulnerable road users which operates, for example, near schools. As our policy paper “Plan for drivers” explains, we will be providing stronger guidance to ensure that blanket 20 mph zones are restricted, and we will consider further action against councils that do not comply with it.

On one hand the Secretary of State acknowledges the ability of local authorities to deliver their own local transport strategies such as low-traffic neighbourhoods and 20 mph zones where they fit, but on the other hand this “Plan for drivers” weaponises such policies. Will he stop weaponising them, and consider those who are not in vehicles but are using our roads and the safety measures from their local authorities? Will he recognise that we are all road users, whether or not we are in a vehicle?

I think that question had the disadvantage of being written before the hon. Lady had listened to my answer. I said very clearly that I supported 20 mph zones in areas where they make sense. Outside a school, for instance, they make perfect sense. What does not make sense is imposing blanket policies that bear no relation to the circumstances, which, as I have said, is what Labour has done in Wales. It has implemented blanket policies that are very unpopular, do not carry public support, and damage the acceptance of 20 mph zones in places where they do make sense—

The hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, refers to conspiracies. My constituency is next door to Wales, and I can tell the House that that is not a conspiracy; the 20 mph zones are incredibly unpopular in Wales. This is a blanket policy that makes no sense and is not supported by the public.