Mark Drakeford has suggested drivers will not be fined for breaching the new default 20mph speed limit in Wales if they were “genuinely confused”.
The outgoing First Minister said those who “deliberately” break the law will face consequences but that police will not jump straight to enforcement if people have simply “misunderstood”.
Last year, Wales became the first country in the UK to drop the default speed limit from 30mph to 20mph in built-up areas. Enforcement of the limit begins this month.
Asked during a press conference in Cardiff about the possibility of people being fined because the messaging over the law has not been clear enough, Mr Drakeford said: “I don’t think they will be fined in those circumstances.
“I think if the police find somebody driving above 20 miles an hour and the reason is because they are genuinely confused about that, then that’s why the police will always start with education and conversation.
“I don’t think in those circumstances of genuine confusion, the police will move to enforcement.”
The First Minister conceded that the policy should be “fine-tuned” and kept “under review” to ensure consistency across different local authorities throughout Wales.
There have been “anomalies” in its introduction, he said, including with road signage which some drivers have complained is unclear.
Mr Drakeford said that in cases where motorists drive “well above” the limit the law would have to be enforced.
Asked to specify what speed would be considered “well above” 20mph, he said previous cases relating to pre-existing 20mph zones had involved people driving “closer to 30 than 20”.
“Not a couple of miles over, but well in excess of what people were obliged to do, so if that’s a sort of rule of thumb I think that’s how the police have interpreted that so far,” he said.
A petition against the rollout of the law, on the Welsh Parliament’s petitions page, has now been signed by more than 460,000 people.
The two candidates in the running to replace Mr Drakeford as the next Welsh Labour leader after his planned resignation in March have said they would launch a review of the law if elected.
Mr Drakeford said on Monday he had been clear from the outset that the policy would be kept under review.
Outlining the wider agenda for the last months of his leadership, the Welsh Labour leader said getting the draft 2024-25 budget passed through the Senedd would be a “key piece of work.”
He hit out at “real-terms” cuts in the block grant received by the UK Government.
The budget is now now worth £1.3 billion less than when it was set by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak three years ago due to inflation, he said.
“It’s after more than a decade of austerity, a botched Brexit, a Covid pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis that we’ve had to make some very stark and difficult choices as we developed the draft budget for 2024-25,” he told the conference.