Nick Bourne: Building more solid foundations for Wales

Speech by Welsh Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne AM to the Welsh Conservative Party conference 2010.

Mae'n bleser mawr siarad i'r gynhadledd yma heddiw.

It’s great to be in Llandudno and to see so many of you here today.

I’m particularly pleased to see so many of our Parliamentary candidates.

As I campaign in North Wales – and I have been campaigning a lot – I have seen how much people in Llandudno, in Colwyn Bay and Rhyl welcome our initiatives to revitalise our seaside towns. 

I know how hard Guto Bebb, Matt Wright and David Jones have been promoting these issues.

I know too from speaking to businesses and tourism operators with John Bell in Llangollen, or in Delyn where Antoinette Sandbach is doing such terrific work, how small businesses need a helping hand.

They will get that help from the Conservative Party.

Our candidates are dedicated and work tirelessly for the people of Wales.

They will make excellent MPs.

And this conference wishes them all the very best of luck.

Should you make it to Westminster you’ll certainly be joining a first class team.

I have known and worked closely with Cheryl Gillan for a long time now.

She will make a superb Secretary of State.

Just as David Jones will make a first rate Minister for Wales.

With the election just weeks away the conference season is in full swing.

Last weekend Gordon Brown was in Swansea.

Making one of his rare forays into Wales. 

Let’s make sure it’s his farewell tour!

Two weeks ago he shared a platform with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Presumably they were discussing the dire state of the nation’s finances.

And perhaps they even talked about Greece as well!

Plaid Cymru also held their conference recently.

They issued a press release.

‘It’s time to face facts’, it said.

On the same day as the latest facts showed Wales still has the highest unemployment rate of any UK nation. 

So let’s look at the facts on Plaid Cymru.

They want independence.

But they also want an extra £3 billion pounds from the UK Treasury.

They want independence.

While seeking monetary domination from Brussels and the Euro.

They want to throw off the shackles of so-called English imperialism.

But learn from pillars of democracy like Venezuela and Cuba!

This is not what Wales needs.

In Britain we are now emerging from the longest and deepest recession in our post-war history.

In Wales we have been hit particularly hard.

Household names have disappeared like Bosch, Hoover, and Indesit.

Because of the political and economic bankruptcy of Labour and Plaid.

So every time Labour tries to turn back the clock to the 1980s.

Or the 1830s, as the First Minister did just last week.

Let’s remind them who’s been in charge of the Welsh economy for the last 13 years.

Labour.

Every time Plaid Cymru blames the so-called London parties for our economic difficulties, let’s remind them who’s been the Minister for Economic Development for the last three years.

Plaid Cymru’s leader.

As George Osborne says, our economic house has been built on ‘shaky foundations’.”

And Labour and Plaid didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining.

Indeed, they have frittered away taxpayers’ money. 

As we emerge from recession, our ability to stimulate growth in Welsh businesses and jobs is limited.

Because Labour and Plaid Cymru have already spent all the money on unaffordable policies and gimmicks.

Free prescriptions for millionaires.

Instead of much-needed money for frontline NHS care.

Free school breakfasts.

Instead of spending on frontline teaching and schools.

Plans for free laptops.

Instead of replacing Wales’ crumbling classrooms.

This latest proposal has even been taken up at Westminster.

So much so that Eamonn Holmes asked Ed Balls recently: ‘Is there nothing that you can’t now get on the state?’

Andrew Marr meanwhile, described these gimmicks as ‘classic things that politicians ... give to people’.

But after pointing out that Wales has had a deeper recession.

Is underperforming the British economy.

And has proportionately more people unemployed.

Carwyn Jones claimed the figures ‘aren’t that bad’.

They’re so good Peter Hain has compared them favourably to Rwanda’s!

It just shows the poverty of ambition that Labour has for Wales.

They compare us to Rwanda – amongst the poorest nations of the world. 

And describe Welsh economic figures as ‘not that bad’.

Not that bad?

They are far worse than England.

Worse than Scotland.

The worst in Britain. 

Once again we see the poverty of Labour’s ambition for Wales.

Such thinking is prevalent in Labour circles and within the government machine.

Carwyn Jones talks of domestic household income.

But income is now more unequally distributed in Britain than at any time for the last 50 years. 

Peter Hain says he doesn’t want Labour to leave young people on the scrapheap.

But after 13 years of Labour, one in five young people are unemployed.

Labour needs to climb out of its ivory tower and see the struggle of people in ordinary, everyday Wales. 

While Labour compares us to Rwanda, and swaps notes with Greece, Plaid Cymru look to Ireland and Iceland for their arc of prosperity.

A model that’s seen in Ireland the greatest economic decline since the Great Depression on the one hand.

And the need for 4.6 billion dollars in emergency loans in Iceland on the other.

Just to stay afloat.

Plaid’s fantasy economics promises an extra 20 billion pounds – 20 billion! – spending on pensions.

It’s not clear whether Labour and Plaid are fighting over Keir Hardie’s legacy.

Or that of Geir Haarde’s, the former Prime Minister of Iceland!

This is not serious politics.

One day Plaid ‘accept’ the need for the public sector ‘to make significant savings’

Only to warn of ‘slash and burn cuts to our public services’ the next.

They pledge to do ‘everything in their power’ on funding for Wales.

Yet Plaid’s economic minister did not do everything in his power to keep Bosch in Wales.

Nor rescue cherished firms in north Wales like Anglesey Aluminium.

The nationalists in Wales say they’ll scrap the Barnett Formula.

The nationalists in Scotland say the opposite.

Perhaps it’s time for Ieuan Wyn Jones to head to Edinburgh in his kilt – dirk in his hand – to demand the money!

With Helen Mary Jones on the bagpipes at his side!

Wales put not your faith in Plaid Cymru!

This is not sensible politics.

Nor is continuing to advocate independence for Wales.

At a time when Scotland has seen its banks rescued only by a bailout from the UK Treasury three times the size of its economy.

Or asking voters to hamstring British economic recovery with a hung parliament.

Their call to arms – vote for political stalemate!

Abraham Lincoln once said: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’.

Conservatives know that the Welsh home is more secure as part of a strong United Kingdom.

So between the failed and false choices of Labour dependence and Plaid independence, we must build anew in Wales.

As George Osborne says, we must ‘rebuild our economic house on more solid foundations’.

That’s why I’m delighted Conservatives in Westminster have set out a series of eight benchmarks to rebuild Wales’ shattered economy and put our house in order.

The era of Labour and Plaid’s false promises and bluster is almost over.

As David Cameron says, ‘you will not see endless relaunches, initiatives, summits – politics as some demented branch of the entertainment industry – from us’.

David and the team have set out clear guidelines which will help us to get Britain – and Wales – on its feet again.

And which will enable everyone in Wales to hold the Conservatives to account.

Many of these plans are crucial for us in Wales.

In place of a credit and housing bubble.

And a mountain of public debt.

We’ll encourage long-term saving and investment.

Instead of relying solely on the public sector in Wales.

We’ll look to a private sector recovery driven by exports and enterprise.

Instead of pinning all our economic fortunes on the City.

Conservatives will ensure the whole country shares in rising prosperity.

That means creating the conditions for growth.

Welsh Conservatives will offer business rate relief.

And a Conservative Government in Westminster will bust open Labour’s closed government procurement system.

Offering Welsh businesses the chance to compete for an estimated £500 million worth of contracts.

This will include publishing, for the first time, all government contracts worth over £25,000 in full.

So that small businesses can more easily compete.

There’ll be no ivory towers for us.

Instead we’ll open up government like never before.

And because money is tight, we need to do more for less.

Welsh Conservatives promise to review Labour’s spending plans

The Economic and Social Research Council says: ‘the charge against the devolved administrations is that they sometimes pursue difference for the sake of it, or resist borrowing successful policies from England’ and elsewhere.

‘This is a bad idea’.

We agree.

Conservatives are a proud unionist party.

And that means we have no inhibitions about drawing from the best ideas elsewhere.

So we’ll explore the innovative proposal from the Scottish Conservatives.

Now taken up by the nationalist government.

And consider setting up an Independent Budget Review to assess the value for money of pubic spending in Wales.

We’ll look to Northern Ireland’s success in getting help to businesses.

And we’ll continue to propose much-needed public sector reform where it is shown to have a track record of success.

To ensure people in Wales thrive at school.

Receive the best hospital care.

And get the most from the public services they rightly cherish.

Last May we unveiled our Free Schools policy.

Which will give our excellent teachers the power to make their own decisions on the issues they know best.

Such as funding, administration and parts of the curriculum.

We know from Sweden, New Zealand and parts of the United States that school reform can be one of the most important things a government can do.

To help raise the academic achievements of its students.

These are the countries we need to be looking to as we look to build a more resilient Wales.

And because we are a party that believes in fairness, we will press on with our proposals to prioritise spending in the Welsh NHS.

David Cameron’s commitment to the NHS is inspiring.

I share that commitment.

We all do. 

It is what the modern, compassionate Conservative Party is all about.

And it is great news for Wales.

Our pledge to maintain spending on health will protect the lion’s share of the Welsh budget.

But health spending in Wales can be improved.

So we will ask those on above-average incomes – who can afford to make a contribution to their prescription medicines – to do so.

And ensure money is prioritised for the frontline to help improve services for the most vulnerable in our society.

Including stroke patients and those in hospices.

That way, we really will be doing ‘everything in our power’ to make the most of funding in Wales.

To make the most of what we’ve got.

Last October, David Cameron said the view from the summit was worthwhile.

It’s a vision of Britain, and Wales, in which we can all take pride.

And which by working together, we can all help achieve.

After 13 years of Labour, Britain was one of the first major economies to enter recession.

And the last to come out.

Labour and Plaid built the house of Wales on shaky foundations.

But builders in Wales are talented people.

From building the world’s first steam locomotive to pull a load along rails some 200 years ago.

To the world-class construction of Airbus wings in Broughton today.

Now we must make full use of the brilliance and diligence of the Welsh people.

And build for the future of Wales.

Only Conservatives have the plans to build a fairer, safer, greener country.

Where opportunity is more equal.

And where communities can thrive.

Between Labour’s dependence.

And the independence of Plaid.

We’ll build a Wales on more secure foundations.

And they will be very Conservative foundations indeed.

Thank you.”