(Check against delivery / Gwirio gyda’r cyflwyniad)
Good morning Conference!
What a sensational 12 months this has been for our Party since we met in Cardiff last year.
At the time, we were just weeks away from a critical general election, that commentators were telling us we were set to lose
They said we were going to lose seats.
Lose the economic argument
Lose the keys to Number Ten - unless we could cobble together a band of coalition partners. Partners like UKIP or the Liberal Democrats.
Plaid Cymru told anyone who’d listen that with their three seats they’d be the kingmakers!
Well conference, as we know, the twitterati got it wrong! The polls got it wrong… and the pundits got it wrong.
They got it wrong in Cardiff North – where Craig Williams increased the Welsh Conservative majority 11-fold!
In Brecon & Radnorshire, Chris Davies sunk the yellow submarine. Delivering a 5,000 majority.
Dr James Davies was elected in the Vale of Clwyd - a seat Labour never dreamed of losing.
But the result of the night - a seat that had never turned blue, in more than a century.
A 27 vote Conservative victory in Gower! A tribute to the dedication and tenacity of my friend Byron Davies.
And when all those votes were counted – including those 27…
… and a majority Conservative Government confirmed …
… we were able to welcome back to his position, at the cabinet table, our Secretary of State, Stephen Crabb.
Stephen – to you, Alun Cairns and Lord Bourne – our Wales Office team – thank you for all you do for our country.
But most of all, conference, I want to thank you… The community activists who delivered our election victory.
All those leaflets delivered, doors knocked, envelopes stuffed.
Our Welsh Conservative family.
55 days out from the most important Welsh election in a generation …
… I am so proud that we have the most incredible set of candidates, fighting to secure real change for Wales.
In Wrexham, the tenacity of Andy Atkinson, the window cleaner now plastering the town’s windows with blue posters!
He will turn Wrexham blue!
In George Jabbour, a man who has already spoken to every single voter in Bridgend …
… and he’ll do it again …
Ready to give Carwyn Jones the fright of his life.
In Clwyd South, Simon Baynes – fighting community bank closures …
… backing local businesses …
Tomorrow, we’re opening a tea room together! Scones on you, Simon!
And Sam Rowlands – ready to secure real change for the Vale of Clwyd.
He’s in a boy band. So it doesn’t matter what Labour throw at him – he’ll Take That!
And Joel Williams.
From the Big Brother House … to the Senedd.
He’s used to winning votes! Over one million, in fact!
That’s more than double Welsh Labour have ever got…!
Over the last five years, I’ve been proud to lead the most determined, hardworking, passionate Group in the Assembly …
… fighting for our communities in all corners of Wales.
Thanks to our Welsh Conservative family - Britain’s economic recovery is strengthening with a confident and competent government that settles its debts and is building a stronger economy.
A government that delivers dignity and security in old age
… opportunity and hope for our young people …
… by creating more jobs to give more people the economic security of a regular pay cheque and will deliver the living wage
That is investing in Britain’s defences to keep our nation united and safe …
Safe… from Jeremy Corbyn!
There are young people who will be voting in this election who have only known a Labour-run Welsh Government.
Young people who go through an education system; which is failing to reach its potential.
Young people who cannot get on the housing ladder because Labour hasn’t built enough affordable homes
Young people who want to get on in life…
… but while Britain’s economy is strengthening with a Conservative Government at Westminster - under Labour, Wales is falling behind…
This Assembly election matters to them – and to all of us.
David Cameron and the Conservatives have shown that they can deliver for the UK.
Our Welsh Conservative team will bring the same focus and discipline to provide a better future for Wales.
This Assembly election is different.
The General Election showed that every vote matters.
In fact, more people voted Welsh Conservative in the General Election than have ever voted Labour in any Assembly election – proving that a vote for the Welsh Conservatives again this time will secure real change for Wales.
May 5th is a chance for a fresh start, and an opportunity for Wales to achieve its full potential.
After 17 years of Labour rule, we find ourselves – and our country – at a crossroads and big decisions lie ahead.
To the left lies the path Jeremy Corbyn and his Welsh Labour colleagues want us to take…
… a trip down memory lane to the 1970s…
… five more years of Labour’s managed decline - backed up by Plaid and the Lib Dems – their little helpers.
Conference, we need another path.
Wales is already benefiting from Conservatives in government at a UK level.
… A buoyant jobs market … growing evidence that a stable, competent leadership can help our country to move forward …
with Toyota – building hybrid engines at its Deeside Plant …
… Airbus - with a world class manufacturing facility here in North Wales ...
… and JCB - increasing production, and expanding, just down the road in Wrexham ...
And a new super-prison, here in North Wales… creating more than 1,000 jobs.
Plus Conference, a Tax cut for 1.2 million people in Wales – over 170,000 now paying no income tax at all.
And the prospect of a City Deal for South Wales …
Yet further evidence that the UK Government is putting Wales first, and that Conservatives are delivering for communities right across the country.
Just imagine what a Welsh Conservative Government could achieve working closely with Conservative colleagues in the UK Government.
In just eight weeks voters face a straight choice between a brighter future with the Welsh Conservatives, or sticking with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and the same ideas that just haven’t worked – and just won’t work.
Carwyn Jones’ term in office has been an abject failure.
He claims that Labour is delivering. But what have his government actually achieved, beyond disappointment and managed decline?
The harsh reality of Carwyn Jones, is that he has failed to live up to his promises to improve Welsh public services.
Labour’s First Minister said they’d cut NHS waiting times… FAILED
He said they’d improve education standards… FAILED
He said they’d cut levels of child poverty… FAILED
Compared to the rest of the UK: Wales still has the lowest take-home pay, weakest GVA figures, and some of the worst High Street vacancy rates.
FAILED, FAILED, FAILED.
Conference, Labour’s First Minister claims that Wales is on the up, and I share his optimism - but not for the same reasons.
Basil Fawlty famously learnt the hard way that cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful - and Carwyn’s shoddy workmanship echoes Mr. O’Reilly the builder from Fawlty Towers.
Well in May we have an opportunity to kick the cowboy builders out…
Let’s be clear… Labour are bad for your health.
They’ve run the Welsh National Health Service since 1999… the dawn of devolution.
And throughout those 17 years the shape of our NHS has changed beyond recognition, mostly for the worse.
In the last five years alone, we have seen emergency departments threatened with closure… hospitals downgraded and closed… services axed, and minor injury units given the boot.
It’s hardly a picture of health.
Did you know that there are now more people than ever waiting over nine months for a hospital appointment – 1 in 7 of us?...
Or that NHS waiting lists have doubled on Carwyn Jones’ watch?
Did you know that the four hour A&E waiting time target hasn’t been met here in Wales since 2009?
Or that you are seven times less likely to be able to access vital cancer treatments here than in England?
That’s simply unacceptable.
At the last Assembly election in 2011, Labour promised no hospital closures or downgrading.
Yet community after community are now required to travel further for treatment…
It simply isn’t fair and we will be working tirelessly to make Labour pay for their broken promises.
And never forget that our dedicated NHS staff are not to blame. We owe them a huge deal of thanks for the work they do each and every day.
The buck stops with Labour Ministers, propped up by their Plaid and Lib Dem helpers.
Our criticism of Labour’s mismanagement of the NHS is an attack on the political decisions they have taken; and I will not apologise for speaking out, because doctors, nurses and patients deserve better.
The blame for these failures lies with those sitting around the cabinet table in Cardiff – Welsh Labour Ministers.
Labour ministers who took the decision to savagely cut the NHS budget in Wales – starving the frontline of one billion pounds.
Labour Ministers who stubbornly refuse to introduce a cancer patients fund …
… and who continue to deny the need for an independent inquiry into the Welsh NHS.
That’s right conference, Labour are bad for your health.
And that’s why we need change in May…
But conference there’s only one party who can deliver that change, because all of the other parties in the Assembly plan to keep Labour in Government.
Conference, you’ve heard about Labour’s record… and you’d think that no one would dream of helping them back into power in May…
That nobody would want to help them hold onto Government.
But, conference, Leanne ‘Would’.
Yes, that’s right, having spent four years in formal coalition with Labour, and several more signing cosy budget deals, Plaid have a lot to answer for in terms of Wales’ performance.
If Plaid Cymru’s leader really wanted to improve the Welsh NHS …
… drive up education standards …
… and help the Welsh economy to flourish … she would rule out propping up Labour in May; something she continually refuses to do.
If Plaid truly believe that it’s unhealthy for Labour to have ruled in Wales for so long then all they have to do is rule out a deal with them. It’s as simple as that.
The truth is that a vote for Plaid is a vote for five more years of Labour in Wales, a fate this country can ill afford.
When the people of Wales go to the ballot box in May, they have a clear choice of who will lead the next Welsh Government. Only the Welsh Conservatives will end 17-years of stagnant, uninterrupted Labour rule from Cardiff Bay.
And that’s why Welsh Conservatives will be bringing forward a radical manifesto that secures real change for Wales.
Wales needs an ambitious Government; prepared to deliver real change by using all devolved levers to ensure a better future for our nation.
Conference, times have changed.
With income tax powers on the way to Wales, our nation is to host a mature, responsible and empowered legislature …
… a true Welsh Parliament …
… accountable for money it spends; and with the tools to potentially give Wales a competitive edge.
Conference, tax powers are a game-changer for devolution.
But nothing makes me more uncomfortable than the thought of Jeremy Corbyn, and Carwyn Jones, with their grubby hands all over your hard-earned pay packets.
The next Welsh Government must seek to use these powers to support hardworking people across Wales; and to fuel the Welsh economy.
So I’m proud to announce today that a Welsh Conservative Government will seek to make Wales the low-tax capital of the UK…
… and deliver an income tax cut for approximately 1.3million people across Wales.
That’s real change.
That’s real ambition.
And that’s giving Wales the competitive edge our nation needs.
I want to lead a Government that has the interests of every man, woman and child at its heart – and creates opportunities for everyone to fulfil their full potential.
We want to remove barriers to employment. Helping people at all stages of their life – and supporting working people to get on.
That’s why one of our key pledges for the people of Wales will be to treble available free childcare
… ensuring affordable, accessible and timely support for families.
Delivering flexible, secure childcare – which families across Wales can depend on.
Giving people opportunities to find work and fulfil their potential …
… safe in the knowledge that a Welsh Conservative Government is offering the helping hand they need to support their family.
It simply isn’t right that parents in other parts of the UK continue to benefit from additional free childcare; compared to parents in Wales.
Conference, we’d change that.
But it can’t just be about giving people the freedom to find work.
We need to inject fresh life into the Welsh economy to create more jobs.
An end to Labour’s age-cap on job support. An end to postcode lotteries on help.
Making opportunities open to all.
When I travel across Wales, nothing gives me more pleasure than meeting people who have taken a risk …
A gamble …
… to achieve something truly special for their family; and their community.
Conference, small business support will be a priority for my Government.
The most small-business friendly Government Wales has ever seen.
So – if you run a small business in Wales, you will pay no business rates under a Welsh Conservative Government.
And every single economic policy my Government brings forward will be small-business proofed.
A Government that rewards people, who are prepared to roll-up their sleeves, explore an idea; and fulfil their small business dream.
Unleashing our entrepreneurial spirit.
Backing hard work. Graft.
And we all know a strong economy is so dependent on infrastructure.
Labour's approach to getting our country moving has been dithering, inaction and uncertainty. Fatigue.
Wales can’t afford that – because as the UK economy surges forward, we risk falling further behind our neighbours.
We need decisive action.
That’s why – on the M4 Relief Road. We’d get diggers in the ground within 12 months. That’s a guarantee of a Welsh Conservative Government.
But we also know – unlike Labour – that Wales doesn’t stop at the foot of the A470.
And I’m proud to announce today that the next Welsh Conservative Government, led by me, would work to establish a North Wales Powerhouse.
So we’d work with Local Authorities, businesses and the voluntary sector …
…pool Welsh Government efforts and resources …
…and devolve powers to a regional, North Wales Economic Board …
…delivering clear levers of growth to North Wales, and letting people and businesses here take control …
As local devolution in England surges forward, Wales cannot risk being left behind.
North Wales needs true devolution.
Devolution is not about hoarding power at Cardiff Bay – it’s about empowering communities and regions to have a direct say over their own affairs.
We know North Wales faces distinct challenges.
Powers – over business rates, planning and integrated transport, will act as a game changer for North Wales.
So by working with business groups and Councils, we can deliver the levers that North Wales wants, and needs, to deliver locally-driven economic prosperity.
And we wouldn’t stop there, for North Wales.
A major Government department – moved to the region.
A dedicated Minister – at the cabinet table.
Securing real change for North Wales.
What will this strong Welsh economy help us to deliver? The very best public services.
Under Labour, our education service in Wales has reached breaking point.
Despite the very best efforts of our hard-working teachers, attainment continues to trail behind other UK nations …
The OECD tells us that Labour lacks a long-term vision in Education.
And we have a First Minister admitting he has taken his eye off the ball when it comes to our education services.
Eye off the ball? Shameful.
And what is Labour’s response? They have the nerve to campaign on GCSE results.
Results that lag behind England.
Results that lag behind Northern Ireland.
And they’re celebrating that fact? You couldn’t make it up.
No ambition for Wales. No respect for the people of Wales.
Just managed decline.
Well, Conference, Welsh Conservatives don’t believe Labour underachievement is something to celebrate …
… we believe it is something we need to change.
I want to put teachers back at the heart of our educational service …
… so a Government led by me will prioritise transforming teacher training – giving the professionals the career-long help, guidance and support they need …
… to ensure the highest standards in the classroom.
And we’d trust teachers.
By funding schools directly – stripping away bureaucracy - and freeing up more resources for the frontline.
Because it is teachers – along with governors and parents – that know best for our children’s education. Not government ministers.
Excellence in education.
More cash directed to the classroom.
Securing real change for Wales.
Conference, I will lead a Government that supports people throughout their life.
Wales has an ageing population – and is the UK’s oldest nation.
This is something to celebrate – and we must always recognise the immense contribution which older people make to Wales.
But it’s also a situation we must ensure our public services can support.
Paying for care – for people of all ages - is a major issue; but it is an issue which impacts upon our older people the most.
Too many older people see a life's hard-work spent on care costs.
It’s deeply unfair – and a scandal that deserves greater focus by Wales’ decision-makers.
A Welsh Conservative Government will prioritise support for those entering residential care …
We’d protect capital assets up to £100,000 – quadrupling the current threshold …
… and we’d allow people to plan for their future with certainty as to their anticipated care costs .
… setting a maximum weekly cap of - £400 – for residential and nursing care.
A nation which offers individual’s dignity and security …
… and delivering fairness to the social care system.
And, Conference, that brings me back to the single, biggest challenge our nation faces – the state of our NHS.
We’ve already heard about Labour’s record on Health, which highlights the fact that they are simply not up to the job of government.
1 in 7 on an NHS waiting list.
Key targets routinely missed. Some never hit at all.
Local services placed at risk. Downgraded. Closed.
And what underpins this appalling record?
Five years ago - as we gathered at Sophia Gardens for the 2011 Spring Forum - Conservatives across Wales warned of the dangers of Labour's proposed NHS cuts.
Well, I hate to say it – but we have been proved right.
For in recent years, Labour Ministers – assisted by their Plaid and Lib Dem helpers - have starved the NHS of one billion pounds.
Wales has had the poorest NHS funding settlement of any UK nation.
Wales spends £50 per head less on Health than in England.
And patients are paying the price.
Welsh Conservatives were right then – and we’re right today. Our NHS cannot afford any further underinvestment.
Conference, no Conservative has ever cut the NHS budget. Labour has.
So, you won’t see this on Labour’s pledge card.
Or the Nationalists.
Or the Kippers.
But – just like the people of Wales - the NHS is our number one priority.
So, I am so proud to confirm that a Welsh Conservative Government will guarantee more investment in our health service each and every year.
No hospital closures.
Re-opened Minor Injury Units. A new start for our NHS.
Securing the real change Wales needs.
Last year, we all rolled up our sleeves and worked so hard to spread our Welsh Conservative message.
It was tough. But it was worth it.
We need to do it all again. Wales faces a historic 55 days ahead. Because our country has never had a better chance to get rid of Labour.
The whole UK, in fact, is one Assembly seat away from becoming a Labour-free zone.
This isn’t simply about saying Labour’s had a long time to give it a go – it’s someone else’s turn.
Their record speaks for itself.
They’ve been clinging onto power in the Assembly, since it opened in 1999.
Never had a majority.
Only one seat away from losing control.
And backed up by cosy deals with Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems – who, we know, will so happily do it all again – all for a sniff of power.
Conference, Labour have proven, time and time again …
… That they’re bad for your business.
… bad for your school.
… and bad for your health.
Bad, lazy and complacent Government – year after year.
They’ve run out of steam. Out of ideas.
So, Conference -
PROTECTING THE NHS
CREATING MORE JOBS
DELIVERING EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
ENSURING DIGNITY AND SECURITY FOR OLDER PEOPLE
TREBLING FREE CHILDCARE
These are the messages every single one of us need to get out there and tell the people of Wales over the next eight weeks.
So roll up your sleeves, Conference...
… because the time to secure real change for Wales has arrived.