Diolch i yn fawr iawn i chi. Mae Byron a minnau wrth fy modd yn croesawu pawb yn ôl i Langollen a hwn, fy nghynhadledd cyntaf fel arweinydd yng Nghynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Thank you Byron and I’m delighted to welcome everyone back to Llangollen and this, my first conference, as your leader in the National Assembly for Wales. I’m delighted to see so many old friends, as well as some new friends too.
I would like to start by paying tribute to Andrew RT Davies, for his support following the leadership election. I want to thank him on behalf of the Welsh Conservative Party for his tremendous leadership since 2011. He continues to be a fantastic ambassador for the Welsh Conservative Party. His energy, his dedication, and commitment is second to none.
This “14 stone of prime welsh beef” looks forward to continuing to work with him for many years to come and to build on his work. And I very much agree with Andrew, as far as we’re both concerned, Breakfast means Breakfast!
I also want to take the opportunity to thank Suzy Davies, for the way she ran her leadership campaign last year. She ran an impeccable campaign on the issues that mattered to members and to the people of Wales. As always after a leadership election - as a party - we come back together, because as Welsh Conservatives we have more that unites us, than divides us.
And it is only the Welsh Conservatives who are standing up to this tired and failing Welsh Labour Government – not propping up Labour like the lonely Liberal Democrat and the multitude of independents in the Assembly.
And let’s not forget that it was Plaid Cymru who ensured that Labour’s budgets made it through.
Now, - when our opponents have nothing else to say, they like to claim that the Welsh Conservatives are an English Party based in Wales.
Well, I can tell you now conference, as someone who was born and brought up in the traditional Welsh speaking heartlands of west Wales and who has always lived and worked here in Wales. They. Are. Wrong.
As someone who couldn’t speak a word of English until I was five years old, I am proud to be Welsh AND I am proud to be a Conservative. Of course, we are all here today because as Conservatives we believe in Conservative values.
We are Conservatives because we believe in a strong Wales, in a strong United Kingdom.
We are Conservatives because we believe in freedom of the individual.
We are Conservatives because we believe in choice.
We are Conservatives because we believe in personal responsibility.
And most importantly - as Welsh Conservatives - we believe in opportunity, hope, and aspiration.
These are the values that bond us all together as Conservatives -and these are the values that we must fight for in our communities and in everything that we do. On Monday, the National Assembly will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first elections. That election saw the fightback by the Welsh Conservatives after our devastating losses in 1997 – and I’m delighted that David Melding is still with us in the Assembly -bringing his charm and wit, but also his vast experience and knowledge.
Now conference, many people are asking what has devolution done for Wales. Well, let me tell you - it is not devolution that has failed Wales - it is Welsh Labour that has failed devolution. We need more Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly, with Welsh Conservative values to show Labour how it is done and give the people of Wales the services that they deserve. Our values, I believe are the values of people up and down this great country and they are the future to a bright and prosperous Wales.
In the Assembly and across Wales we will be fighting to promote accountability, boost localism,
empower people, support businesses, and build a strong Wales in a strong United Kingdom.
No one knows their communities better and what is best for them than you the people who live in them. I want to boost localism and put communities at the heart of decision making. Together we can make the right decisions for our communities to prosper and grow, to attract new opportunities and to enable people to live in the communities they grew up in.
Conference, a Government must be held to account and must not be afraid to defend the decisions it makes. But a Government must also be willing to learn from its mistakes, rather than shift the blame elsewhere. People and organisations must be able to challenge their Government – even if they rely on funding to keep going. The Welsh Conservatives will promote accountability, delivering a mature, transparent and accountable Welsh Conservative Government which is delivering for Wales.
But we must empower people too. A Welsh Conservative Government will prioritise opportunities for younger people, whilst empowering them to take risks to improve their quality of life. And we will support them by tackling shortages in the housing supply, ensuring affordable rents, accessible public transport and taking responsibility where Welsh Labour have abandoned our young people. A Welsh Conservative Government will improve standards in our education system. Conference, we are the party of aspiration and we will give people hope again. A Welsh Conservative Government will reverse Labour’s attack on people on low incomes and we will restore the right to buy. A future Welsh Conservative Government will be a government of the people. Your future, will be our future and your Wales will be our Wales.
Now, I know it is hard. I left school with three A-levels at the age of 18. I didn’t go to university but went straight into the world of work. I was determined that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from getting to where I wanted to go. I want to lead a Wales where the Government supports businesses and reward those who take risks, to start up that small business and watch it grow.
A Welsh Conservative Government will encourage and support entrepreneurs who will provide jobs for people across Wales - and create wealth to invest in our Welsh public services. We should not be ashamed to say that the best route out of poverty is through education, jobs and hard-work. We must help and enable people who want to do it. I also want businesses to play their part in our future – our long term future – by ensuring that they play their vital part in working towards a sustainable Wales. Paving the way to reducing waste and using our valuable natural resources responsibly, to tackle climate change and protect the environment.
As a Welsh Conservative I am committed to low taxes. Low taxes for people and low taxes for business. For people to spend their money, for their families, in their local communities, enabling growth across our country. And for businesses – to boost existing businesses to expand, create more jobs and bring more businesses to Wales. And let me be clear – a Welsh Conservative Government would introduce no new taxes, would lower taxes where possible and unlike Welsh Labour I would never consider a tourism tax - a tourism tax would devastate our tourist industry. We want even more people to visit Wales, supporting our local businesses
This is our Wales, our future.
To ensure the future of Wales in a global competitive market, Wales must remain part of the United Kingdom but we must be a strong Wales in a strong United Kingdom. The UK and other devolved governments must not see Wales as the weaker partner but as an equal partner where our voice and actions matter. But we must use the powers that we have, with the support and funding from the UK Government, to make a strong Wales. And we are doing this through our brilliant Secretary of State for Wales – and the fastest man in the Cabinet – Alun Cairns – for being our voice in Westminster.
The Welsh Conservatives will protect the integrity of the United Kingdom by having a Wales fit for a global Britain. These values are not just Welsh Conservative values. We must ensure the people of Wales see that their values are our values. Their future is our future. And their Wales is our Wales. As part of Our Future together, I have now appointed a Shadow Youth Cabinet to shadow my team in the Assembly.
I received applications from across Wales and the calibre of candidates was very impressive, indeed. I am in no doubt - that with the young people who came forward, who are willing to make sure that there is a Welsh Conservative voice in our local communities, that the future of our party in Wales is in safe hands for generations to come.
I bobol ifanc ledled Cymru ac i fy nghabinet ieuenctid cysgodol – chi yw’r dyfodol.
Mae na nifer o heriau sydd yn mynd i effeithio eich bywydau yn y dyfodol - newid hinsawdd, adnoddau sydd yn lleihau, cynnal twf economaidd, dod a thlodi i ben, defnyddio technoleg i wella bywydau pawb. Ond dwi yn sicr y bydd ganddo chi a’ch cenhedlaeth y cryfder a’r ewyllys i daclo’r heriau yma. Fodd bynnag, byddwn ni yn neud popeth i ddatrys yr heriau yma, er mwyn eich galluogi chi i ffocwsi ar heriau’r dyfodol.
This Shadow Youth Cabinet will be a part of my Shadow Cabinet. They will help to shape policy ready for the elections in 2021 and will help make a better Wales for everyone. Our Shadow Minister for North Wales, Mark Isherwood, will be leading the next session, and will be introducing and meeting the future of the Welsh Conservatives – I hope you will stay and learn more about these dynamic and dedicated young people.
Conference, now what a contrast our leadership election was compared to Welsh Labour’s.
Nothing sums up better 20 years of complacent Welsh Labour rule in Welsh politics than their self-indulgent, self-absorbed contest.
For eight months Welsh Labour focussed on themselves.
For eight months the people of Wales were ignored.
For eight months Welsh Labour made excuses to delay decision after decision.
And it’s a trick Mark Drakeford has continued into his role as First Minister. Instead of standing up and taking responsibility, the First Minister dithers – on the national procurement service, Welsh Labour’s policy on Brexit and they’ve spent four years with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in special measures. The First Minister dithers over the M4 relief road, blaming the Newport West by-election, so that he did not have to make a decision.
Thank goodness that Matthew Evans was our fantastic candidate in Newport West – making sure that the message was clear to the First Minister – this must end. Businesses and people in Newport and the rest of South Wales need a decision on the M4 relief road now. The message is clear. Make. A. Decision.
But not making a decision isn’t the worst thing Welsh Labour have done.
As Welsh Labour Health Minister, the First Minister presided over the Welsh NHS after record real-term cuts. We must continue to remind people that the Welsh Labour Government cut the Welsh NHS budget by more than eight hundred million pounds. And is the ONLY government in the UK to have done so in modern times. And as Health Minister what did the First Minister achieve? Record breaking waiting times – with almost 1-in-20 patients waiting over 12 hours at A&E.
Cancer waiting times spiralled - with just 83% of patients being diagnosed via the urgent suspected cancer route. The target – 95%. A target which still has not been met since 2008. What a disgrace. And now – the current Health Minister Vaughan Gething has five out seven heath boards in special measures or targeted interventions. And after the Cwm Taf health scandal, it is time Welsh Labour took responsibility and it is time for Vaughan Gething to go.
Welsh Labour are failing the people of Wales.
Now we all know that Mark Drakeford was a Corbynite even before Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. They are bringing our trains back from the 1970s – they want to take our country back there too! We’ve seen what happens when Welsh Labour run the NHS in Wales- do we really want them running our trains, our water industry and our energy industries as well? I stand for all of us when I say. No. We. Don’t.
The First Minister also continues to follow the Corbyn rule on politics: Blame. Someone. Else.
Conference, for every pupil in Wales the Welsh Labour Government gets £1.20, for every £1 the UK Government can spend on pupils in England. And what do they do? They spend LESS per pupil and hide behind claims of austerity.
It’s time the First Minister and Welsh Labour took responsibility. Responsibility for our children’s future and give them the opportunities that our children deserve. I am pleased to say that it is the Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly who are tackling this failing Welsh Labour Government, asking the tough questions. Week in, week out we are pushing the First Minster to take responsibility over patient safety, school under-funding, mental health services, broadband, A&E waiting times – the list of Welsh Labour’s failings go on and on –– a bit like the First Minister himself. He has a new tactic at First Minister’s Questions - he talks and talks and talks and hopes that no one is listening. And that's what we've got in this caretaker First Minster - all talk and no action. He doesn’t want to lead - he is just keeping the seat warm for the next Welsh Labour stalwart with no new ideas who takes the people of Wales for granted.
But before I move on - what about Plaid Cymru? Instead of joining the Welsh Conservatives in taking the fight to Labour they waste their time disowning Her Majesty the Queen and wanting to give votes to prisoners - You can’t make this stuff up. Now, I’m not a leader that shies away from the big issues.
Brexit has been challenging for the UK Government. I appreciate that there are different views on Brexit within the Conservative Party. However, the people of Wales and the people of the United Kingdom have made a decision to leave the European Union. As politicians we must respect the 2016 referendum and we must now leave as soon as possible. And I know I speak for everyone when I say no one wants the European Elections to take place – that’s why we must leave, otherwise this could forever damage our democracy and trust in politicians. The people of Wales want their politicians to get on with the job of delivering Brexit so that we can start focussing once again on the issues that matter to them.
Issues such as unemployment, where the unemployment rate here in Wales has recently increased, while we continue to see it drop across the UK. Issues such as fighting to make sure that our NHS in Wales is the best it can be, and that Welsh Labour don’t squander the extra £1.2 billion a year by 2023 on vanity projects, but on ensuring decent services across Wales. And to finally solve the issues around social care, so that everyone can have the dignity they deserve in their old age. These are the issues that people care about and that’s why we must now deliver Brexit and move forward.
In just over two years’ time the people of Wales will be voting in elections for the renamed Welsh Parliament and in Wales it is likely – and whether we like it or not - that 16 and 17 years old will be voting for the first time. Conference, we are the party of opportunity, of giving young people the best start in life, enabling them to make their dreams come true. We are the true party of aspiration. We must make sure that this message is put out across the country loud and clear – a vote for the Welsh Conservatives is not a vote to go backwards, but a vote to go forwards. It is a vote for innovative and creative ideas to kick start Wales and to take full advantage of everything the world has to offer after Brexit.
A vote for the Welsh Conservatives is a vote for hope. Our message is also clear – voting for any other party, other than the Welsh Conservatives, will lead to five more years of a Labour administration. And if Welsh Labour win the elections in 2021 they will be close to thirty uninterrupted years in power, here in Wales. And yet they will continue to blame the policies of former and current UK Governments.
Changes of government and transfers of powers is a cornerstone of a democratic nation. 30 years of Labour rule is not healthy for our democracy and is not healthy for Wales.
In 2021 we have a duty to offer progressive, innovative and radical alternatives, to this tired, and failing, Welsh Labour Government – and we need to make sure that we do this together.
After more than 20 years of Welsh Labour, my promise to the people of Wales, is that I won’t take you for granted.
I want to restore hope back into our country, back into people’s lives, for a desire for a better future, that is achievable, together. We’ve already started selecting our candidates for the elections – in South Wales, I’m delighted that small business owner Joel Williams is fighting Cardiff North, and in the Vale of Glamorgan we have community champion Ross England. Here in North Wales, former NHS mental health support worker Gareth Davies is standing up for the Vale of Clwyd.
Over the next two years, I will lead my shadow cabinet and we will be engaging fully with communities, businesses and third sector organisations to develop policies fit for the 21st Century. I want to take Wales forward, to put an end to a potential thirty years of more of the same from Welsh Labour. Everything, I will do as First Minster is for our future, for our Wales, to ensure that the next generation have the skills and the opportunities to get on in life.
Our Wales will give our children a decent education and the best start in life.
Our Wales will enable people to provide for them and their families.
Our Wales will deliver a 21st century health service and will give dignity to people in their old age.
Our Wales will tackle climate change and protect the environment for the future.
Our Wales will enable people to buy a house and improve their communities.
Our Wales will reward those that set up their own business and who want to work hard.
And our Wales will ensure that the next generation can build on those opportunities.
Together we can make a Wales that is united, stronger and everyone has the opportunity to achieve more than they thought possible.
This is our Wales, this is our Future.