GEORGE: Speech to the Welsh Conservative Conference

Addressing Spring Forum at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Cardiff, the Shadow Secretary for Economy, Russell George AM, said:  

 

After 20 years of uninterrupted Welsh Labour rule, people in Wales don't feel that our economy is working for them.

 

Weekly earnings are still the lowest of all nations in the UK.

 

Welsh GVA is still at 71% of the UK average; and

 

The employment rate is lower than in other parts of the UK.

 

By contrast, the Conservative UK Government is transforming the economic fortunes of our country after years of Labour over-spending.

 

There’s no sign of them learning from their past mistakes and under Jeremy Corbyn, they would do it all again if given the opportunity.

 

Over the past seven years of Conservative-led Government, the deficit has come down; there's more people in work than ever before; the lowest paid have been taken out of income tax altogether; and there's a new National Living Wage.

 

The current forecast is that the UK economy will grow by 2% in 2017; real wages are forecast to rise in every year to 2021; and it is the Conservatives that have the plan to reduce our deficit.

We should be rightly proud of these achievements, but more needs to be done, and it is time that the Welsh Government stepped up to the plate to support the UK Government's efforts.

 

In the Autumn, the Chancellor announced that he will deliver £400 million of additional investment over the next five years and I hope that the Welsh Government will follow the UK Government’s lead, investing this money in four areas that are absolutely critical for Wales’ productivity, namely transport, digital infrastructure, housing, and Research & Development.

 

Investment in transport networks and creating world-class infrastructure will lead to a Welsh economy that offers better jobs, with better pay, right across the country.

 

We have huge connectivity issues which are holding back the Welsh economy, and central to our vision is a desire to develop new technologies to make it easier for foreign companies to trade here – including investing in the development of digital industries like broadband and mobile technology, so that as we leave the European Union, Wales and Britain continues to be at the forefront of the global technology revolution.

 

But, in stark contrast to a UK Government, which has put in place an ambitious Industrial Strategy, making Wales a stronger, fairer and more successful place, we are still waiting for the Welsh Government to bring forward its Economic Strategy, one year after it was first promised. Hardly a Welsh Government which pledged to produce “a plan for confidence-building measures and that the economy is a priority.”  

 

The First Minister happily heaps blame upon the UK Government week after week but the powers he holds in his own hands are gathering dust. So today, I’m calling on the First Minister to refocus and engage constructively with the Prime Minister to ensure that the full potential of the UK’s Industrial Strategy is realised here in Wales. It’s now high time that the Welsh Government devoted the same kind of commitment as the UK Government in laying the foundations for improved living standards, economic growth and a more prosperous and equal Wales.

 

When Gordon Brown left office, the UK’s infrastructure quality was ranked 33rd across the world, behind countries like Namibia and Slovenia. Now, thanks to steps our Conservative Government has taken, the UK is now ranked 7th in the world and we are supportive of major infrastructure projects in Wales such as the Cardiff and Swansea City Deals as well as the North Wales Growth Deal.

 

It is clear that while the Welsh Labour Government are content to talk the talk, our Conservative UK Government gets on with delivering for Wales, providing the economic direction which Wales and the UK need.

 

The Conservative UK Government has a vision for a modern, successful, ambitious Wales which gets every part of the country firing on all cylinders - a Global Wales which is outward-looking and embraces the world - a stronger economy where everyone plays by the same rules.

There is every reason to be confident about our prospects for the Welsh economy. With the right vision, the right policies and a determination to succeed, the Welsh economy can emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before. But to make that happen, leadership, decision-making and urgent delivery from the Welsh Government are all critical.

 

It’s time to start Delivering for Wales.