A SURGE in electric cars on British roads could pave the way to an 80mph maximum speed limit, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps said he was "thinking about" the issue of speed limits, including also reducing them in some places, like outside schools, The Daily Telegraph reported.

He told a debate at the Conservative party conference: "On 80mph speed limits, I've been thinking about this issue and maybe even sought advice on the subject of late.

"I think there is an argument for looking at our speed limits, both in terms of higher speed limits and actually lower limits – 20mph outside of schools.

"When it was last looked at in 2011, reviewing the last submission to ministers on the subject, it was thought the carbon emission addition would be too great."

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said any increase in motorway speed limits was not a case of balancing emissions but "fundamentally an issue of safety".

"Part of the problem is that at present, there is a high proportion of drivers that break the 70mph limit, and drive nearer to 80mph," he said.

The previous proposed rise to the limit he was referring to had been put forward by then transport secretary Philip Hammond in September 2011.

The plans were abandoned after the independent committee on climate change warned that the increase from 70mph to 80mph could generate an extra 2.2 million tons of CO2 annually, undermining emissions targets.