We gather here today at a crucial time for Wales and the Welsh Conservative Party. The people of Wales have made their views known on the future of devolution in Wales. Let us all now unite and take the opportunities offered by a law making Assembly.
While the question of the Assembly’s powers is an important one it should not deflect our attention from a greater truth. What the people of Wales want is an innovative and ambitious Welsh Assembly Government.
Two weeks ago Labour set out their prospectus for government in Wales. The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said the 4th Assembly should be all about delivery. He is right of course, but what has Labour been doing for the past 12 years in government in Cardiff Bay? Just one statistic will tell the people of Wales how Labour has failed to deliver from the very start of devolution. GVA in Wales – the standard measure of wealth – has fallen relentlessly and is now a feeble 74% of the UK average. Wales is now the poorest nation in the UK.
Only a Welsh Conservative Party led Assembly Government can put Wales on the path to prosperity. We will do this by delivering a fresh economic vision based on enterprise and a thriving private sector. This is why we have put at the heart of our programme the abolition of business rates for all small businesses. And this is why we want to open up more public services to the independent sector. Wales needs a new and vital partnership between the public and private sectors. This is a vision that cannot be entertained by Labour or their coalition partners Plaid Cymru because sterile ideology stunts their imagination.
But we have to face some big challenges if we are to transform our vision into reality. First, we must have the confidence to win in Wales. We did it in the European election – beating Labour for the first time ever. And in the General Election we won 8 seats – and now we can see the benefit of having 8 outstanding MPs working hard for Wales. Secondly, to secure a winning strategy for the future we must continue to offer Welsh solutions to Welsh challenges. When we do this we clearly demonstrate that the Welsh Conservative Party does not exist to defend the interests of its members and supporters. No, the Welsh Conservative Party exists to serve all the people of Wales. That is our mission. That is why we have taken the opportunities offered by a National Assembly so seriously.
For far too long Wales has been dominated by Labour. But are the people of Wales to suffer Labour rule indefinitely? And are we not sometimes drawn into thinking this is the natural situation? The people of Wales will know we can win when we really believe we can win for Wales.
And when we win in Wales we will take a great step forward to realising the full potential of devolution. The people of Wales need real choice – choice in who governs, choice in public services, and the choice offered by a healthy economy generating new opportunities for everyone and particularly the young. And when we help the people of Wales to kick Labour out of government – we will deliver that choice.
This important work needs an expansive, ambitious partnership between Wales and Westminster. David Cameron has demonstrated how the Conservative Party succeeds by embracing change so that the enduring principles of Conservatism can be put to work for future generations. Here in Wales the Party too has embraced change that works for Wales.
It does return to the question of delivery. Conservatives want to deliver policies that will strengthen and transform Britain. We want to put Wales and Britain in credit not max out on the credit card. By making hard choices today we can deliver real and sustainable success for Wales. It is that prosperity that a Welsh Conservative Party government would start to deliver from day one!