Dr Kay Swinburne: Sound Conservative finances for Wales

Speech by Dr Kay Swinburne MEP to the Welsh Conservative Party conference.

“Prynhawn da cynhadledd - Good Afternoon Conference

It seems like a long time ago since I was sitting listening to Jonathan Evans give this speech last year.

Since then, many things have changed. I now have 3 offices in 3 different countries and spend my life travelling between them, my life fitting into a carry on suitcase.

But more than that, Wales has changed, and the Welsh Conservatives have changed.

We have come out, and shown Plaid and the Labour Party, that the Conservatives can win in Wales!

For the first time since 1859 we topped the polls in Wales.

While across the UK, Labour and UKIP returned the same number of seats to the European Parliament  Conservatives now have as many as both of them combined.

This is due, in no small part, to Labour's failure in Wales.

We, at conference know precisely who the fringe parties really are!

Weithioch chi i gyd yn galed i ennill yng Nghymru ac i ennill fy sedd i llynedd.  Ond nawr, mae’n rhaid i ni weithio’n galetach.  Yn lle ymladd dros bedair sedd ym Mrwsel, rydyn ni’n ymladd i ennill pedwar deg o seddi yn San Steffan.

Dyna ddeg gwaith y nifer o Geidwadwyr rydn ni angen eu hethol i ddod â newid i’r Deyrnas Unedig – felly mae’n rhaid i ni weithio deg gwaith yn galetach er mwyn bod yn ddeg gwaith mwy llwyddiannus!

You all worked hard to win in Wales and win my seat last year, now we have to work harder. Instead of fighting for 4 seats in Brussels, we are fighting for 40 seats in Westminster.

By my calculation that’s 10 times as many Conservatives we need to get elected to bring change to the UK, so we need to work ten times harder and be ten times as successful!

We've already proven once that the Conservatives can win in Wales.

Now we need to prove it again.

We need to go out and tell the people of Wales why we are the only party who know what to do in government.

And that we will work tirelessly for the people of Wales to bring them decisively out of recession so that they can look to a secure future.

Pan ddechreuais i weithio ym Mrwsel fis Gorffennaf diwetha, ro’n i’n disgwyl y bydden i’n gweithio ar y materion ro’n i wedi bod yn ymgyrchu arnyn nhw yn ystod yr etholiad; amaethyddiaeth, diwygio’r Polisi Amaethyddol Cyffredin, lleihau rheoleiddiad i fusnesau bychain – fodd bynnag, roedd y Ceidwadwyr yn Ewrop wedi pennu rhywbeth arall i fi.

Mae’r hen ddihareb yn wir – “gorau arf, arf dysg” ac mae ffeithiau a gwybodaeth yn arfau hynod effeithiol mewn trafodaeth yn Senedd Ewrop.  O bryd i’w gilydd, gallwch chi berswadio gwleidyddion Brwsel i newid eu meddyliau yn seiliedig ar ffeithiau a chryfder dadl yn hytrach na dilyn safbwynt wleidyddol benodol.  Ac felly, fel rhywun oedd yn fanciwr o’r blaen, fe ges i swydd Cydlynydd y Pwyllgor Materion Ariannol ac Economaidd, yn y gobaith y bydden i’n gallu defnyddio fy arbenigedd a’m gwybodaeth i wneud gwahaniaeth gweladwy i lywodraeth economaidd ledled Ewrop.

When I first started work in Brussels last July, I expected to be working on those issues I had been campaigning on during the election; agriculture, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, cutting down regulation for small businesses - however the Conservatives in Europe had a different plan for me.

In the European Parliament knowledge and facts go a long way in a debate. On occasion, politicians in Brussels can be persuaded to change their minds based on facts, and the strength of an argument as opposed to following a specific political line. And so, as a former banker, I was given the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee Coordinator job, in the hopes that I would be able to use my expertise and knowledge to make a real difference to economic governance across Europe.

Explaining this to my constituents can be a challenge. Just how do EU economic and monetary affairs relate to Wales?

Issues like alternative investment funds, reforming the financial supervisory architecture, and derivatives can seem far removed from everyday life.

Yet, as I visit different parts of Wales and see companies from many different sectors, I get to see some of my work in action.

Ultimately everything I do on the ECON committee links back to the real economy.

Things as basic as the loaf of bread you bought this morning will have undergone many different financial processes to get it to you for a price you can afford, while still allowing each person in the chain of production to make some small profit along the way.

When the farmer buys seed from the US, so as to get a higher yield, he will enter into some form of derivative transaction as well as a currency trade for protection.

The fertiliser he uses to improve the soil for the wheat to grow in will be based upon oil and chemical prices that will have been locked in by a derivative product.

The insurance the farmer takes out in case of a bad harvest, bad weather or disease will incorporate a derivative product.

When the farmer sells the wheat he will have guaranteed his price via a derivative product so as not to lose profit, the mill who processes the wheat into flour will have used derivatives for the chemicals required in the process.

And ultimately the supermarket will be involved in many different trades and financial transactions to ensure they can give you the best price at the check out.

As you can imagine this means the one issue of "derivatives" actually affects all businesses in Wales - as well as in the UK and the EU.

So making sure the legislation coming from Europe takes into account the needs of Wales - such as the Royal Mint, and Dow Corning to name two companies I have visited in past few weeks - is of the utmost concern for me.

Making sure legislation actually answers the problems it seeks to correct and is proportionate.

Not creating catastrophic unintended consequences at a time when our businesses need a helping hand.

And not burdensome regulation that could put the final nail in the coffin.

Ar yr ochr bositif, mae llawer o bethau’n rhan o ‘mywyd fel Aelod Senedd Ewrop ddylai gwneud popeth yn werth chweil.

Un o’r uchafbwyntiau hyn oedd y ffaith taw fi oedd yr Aelod Senedd Ewrop cynta i siarad Cymraeg mewn trafodaeth yn Strasbwrg ar ieithoedd lleiafrifol.  Er gwaetha honiad Plaid Cymru yr wythnos hon taw nhw oedd y cynta – fel arfer, roedden ni ar flaen y gad!

Bydd archwilio’r ffordd mae dwy pwynt chwech saith filiwn Ewro o Gronfa Strwythurol Ewrop yn cael eu gwario yng Ngorllewin Cymru a’r Cymoedd. yn ogystal â saith deg dau miliwn Ewro yn Nwyrain Cymru. yn dasg ofnadwy o bwysig.  Mae’n bwysig bod ni’n gwario’r arian hwn ar yr ardaloedd hyn – ardaloedd allai adfywio’n llwyr.  Bydden i wrth fy modd tasen ni’n gwario’r arian ar sefydlu busnesau bychain a rhoi dechrau da i entrepreneuriaid, gan eu galluogi nhw i ddatblygu’n fusnesau hyfyw go iawn, i greu cyfoeth a swyddi i’r genhedlaeth newydd o bobl ifanc yng Nghymru.

On the plus side, there are many parts of my life as an MEP that should make it all worthwhile.

One of them was being the first MEP to speak in Welsh in a plenary debate in Strasbourg on minority languages. Despite Plaid Cymru's claim this week to be the first - as ever we beat them to it!

An important task will be scrutinising the spending of 2.67 billion euros of European Structural Funds in West Wales and the Valleys as well as 72 million euros in East Wales. Spending it on areas of Wales that, with a little bit of investment could entirely regenerate. I would love for us to spend the money seeding small businesses and giving entrepreneurs a head start, allowing them to develop into real, viable businesses, creating wealth and jobs for a new generation of young people in Wales.

The Labour and Plaid coalition in WAG have put up a bureaucratic roadblock to our aspirations for Welsh businesses.

At every corner they provide yet another form to fill in, yet another stamp is required, yet another department to be consulted.

They have no concept of what waiting six more months on the vague hope of some financing at the end of it, does to a small business.

In Wales it is not just about cutting bureaucracy for small businesses in the Westminster government.

Although believe me, I am all for that, it is about using the advantages we have been given to get a better deal.

In European Funds we get a 2.67 billion euro bonus to bring us up to speed with the rest of the EU, yet Labour are only concerned with spending targets - "We're so wonderful, we've spent 97% of the money we were given" they don't look at how the money was spent, who benefited from it, or whether it actually improved the lives of anyone in Wales - they just care that they met their targets!

After so many years of being in the bottom 75% of regions in the EU, and benefiting handsomely in funds, I am embarrassed that we have to keep going back, cap in hand to Europe, asking for more money because we didn't spend the last lot well enough.

Finance Wales is a great example of what we could be doing with European money.

Finance Wales is supposed to take EU funds, add to them with more money from the European Investment Bank, and in some instances then twin it with funding from the private sector, and then invest in small businesses, with sound business models, that then pay the money back - funding then next generation of start up companies.

There have been some great success stories including Abrioux, Enfis and Accountis where money has gone into companies and been returned.

Yet every day I hear from small businesses that they can't access Finance Wales, that they have been discouraged from applying, that this money is only for charities or government run organisations.

Bureaucratic barriers like these will not get Wales or the UK out of recession and back to the forefront of the world's economies.

Rydyn ni angen bod ar flaen y gad. Rydyn ni angen ystyried diwydiannau newydd, tra’n cefnogi’r hen ddiwydiannau ar yr un pryd trwy helpu nhw i fabwysiadu dulliau newydd a pharhau i ddarparu swyddi i bobl.  Mae Cymru’n gosod esiampl yn y diwydiannau creadigol fel yn y cyfryngau, er enghraifft.  Mae cwmnïoedd bychain yn dod allan o brifysgolion Cymru ac yn defnyddio’u gwybodaeth i sefydlu cwmnïoedd rhaglennu cyfrifiaduron, fel dylunio meddalwedd – gan gynnwys creu gemau Play Station newydd sy’n fythol boblogaidd.

We need to be at the cutting edge. We need to be looking at new industries while still supporting the old, helping them to innovate and continue to provide jobs for people. Wales is setting an example in creative industries like media, with small companies coming out of Welsh Universities and using their knowledge to set up computer programming companies, such as software design - including writing new and ever popular play station games.

I am working to provide support for this via a new EU strategy that is focussing on encouraging growth and innovation in the EU, giving us something to aim for over the next 10 years.

This could be a great framework for what we should be trying to achieve.

We could make Wales an attractive place for both university based research and private enterprises that will invest in making new sustainable industries, that will sustain projects currently being "seeded" in research and move them towards development.

Wales can benefit from Research clusters in the future, especially in energy based technologies.

Wales needs to use all the financing instruments at its disposal to aggressively fund the commercialisation of these technologies in order to transform the Welsh economy.

The Labour party likes to boast about how many businesses their programmes have helped yet they refuse to do the simplest of things to get more value for money.

If they had wanted to, WAG could have used the very thing that has been hurting us in other areas to get more funding for the EU and a better deal for Wales- namely, capitalising on the weak pound.

The strong Euro may be hitting us when we travel abroad on holiday but as the EU funds are calculated in euros and we spend them in pounds we currently have more to spend.

If we allocate the money whilst the exchange rates are at this high point, Wales can reap as much as 700 million additional pounds in exchange for the EU's euros - literally free money.

But WAG has decided they don't want to allocate the money based on translation rates.

They want to wait for better projects to come along.

I am working with businesses across Wales to try and persuade WEFO that in the current economic environment it would be prudent and effective to fast track investments, especially in sustainable projects.

This would have two benefits - more money because of the pounds weakness and money invested earlier when our businesses need it most.

Just as Gordon Brown failed to understand the basics of the market and sold our gold reserves at the worst possible time, so WAG is doing the same.

While bankers may be on the chopping block for the money we have had to spend on them, I would rather see the likes of Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling there for their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.

In Europe we are focussed on the economic difficulties in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.

Yet in terms of government deficits the UK is in just as sorry a state as Greece.

Needing politicians to make the hard decisions to put their country back on track.

Yet it seems that Gordon Brown has been taking his economic advice from the Southern Europeans - just as they have used "innovative financing" to hide their debts and mortgage their children's future so has Gordon Brown.

I have to say, "innovative financing" is probably one of the few kinds of innovation I don't like!

Tying up the UK development budget, pensions funds and the even student loans in complex securitisations which ultimately translate into huge borrowings, is not innovation. It's tying yourself up in complicated knots of debt.

Off balance sheet financing of PFI and unfunded public pension liabilities leave the UK in a far weaker state than Labour would like the people of Wales to know - that’s why he concealed it off balance sheet.

The EU is an easy scapegoat for Greece. Being a member of the euro stops them from making certain changes to their economy.

It exposes them to unfair competition from devalued, non euro currencies.

It imposes challenging targets on how large its government deficit can be, forcing it to introduce unpopular austerity measures.

Yet when it comes down to it, Greece is recognising the scale of its problems and is beginning to take responsibility for its own decisions.

When is Gordon Brown going to do the same?

The Assembly Government is guilty of the same thing.

When it comes to spending EU money, it quickly turns into "WAG spending" and "WAG helping businesses" yet when it is a draconian interpretation of an unpopular law - It's because of Europe.

They blame EU rules.

I and my colleagues have spent months negotiating compromises on to get the best deal for the UK and allow Member States the most flexibility to apply the rules as appropriate.

Yet WAG gives up all of that flexibility with a "rule is rules" attitude.

When I heard from the Farmers Union of Wales that farmers were being fined huge sums of money because the cow they presented to the inspectors was the wrong gender according its electronic tags.

This fine was levied on the basis that WAG might face a fine in the future.

Where is the discretion? 

EU rules can be pedantic and seemingly pointless but when the Labour run WAG gets involved, their Stalinist interpretation of rules is simply ridiculous.

Even I don't need an electronic tag to work out whether a cow is a cow or whether it is a bull!

More than anyone else in the UK, we in Wales know what a Labour party victory would mean for the country.

We've seen their policies in action for too many years.

We've seen them waste EU money, taxpayer's money and money they don't even have yet.

We know that the Conservatives are the only party fit to be in government, with a real plan for the future.

Now we need to go out there and make sure that everyone else knows it too.

Mae’n amser am newid. Newid yng Nghymru a newid yn y Deyrnas Unedig.

Hoffwn i orffen trwy ddyfynnu geiriau rhywun wnaeth ymweld a’m swyddfa wythnos diwetha. – “I ennill, mae’n rhaid i chi redeg yn gyflymach nag y rhedoch chi ddoe – a rhedeg yn gyflymach na phawb arall.  Rydyn ni’n rhedeg yn gyflymach nag y rhedon ni ddoe, ond a ydyn ni’n rhedeg yn gyflymach na phawb arall?”

Its time. Time for change. Change in Wales and change in the UK.

I would like to close in the words of a visitor to my office last week - "To win you need to be able to run faster than you did yesterday - and run faster than everyone else. We are running faster than we were yesterday but are we running faster than everyone else?"

Good Luck to you all in achieving a Conservative future for Wales.”