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Millar: A greener, cleaner Wales

Speech to the Welsh Conservative Party conference, Venue Cymru, Llandudno.

"Good morning conference. And what a fantastic conference we have had this year - although, I have to say, that with all the windy weather we have had in Llandudno this weekend

- I think that I'll be writing to the local council to suggest that it looks at establishing a town twinning link with Chicago!

I speak to you this morning ladies and gentlemen, with a sense of deja vu.

For it was in this very room that on May the 4th last year, at around 5.30 in the morning, the Returning Officer for the Clwyd West constituency announced the results of the Welsh Assembly Election.

What a long night - but what a result! It is a pleasure to be addressing you today as the first ever Welsh Conservative Assembly Member for Clwyd West.

The only constituency to see a sitting Labour cabinet minister lose his seat.

And a constituency which saw the biggest swing from Labour to Conservative - in over a decade.

I don't know about you, but I feel good to be on the winning side!

Labour blamed their defeat in Clwyd West on "national issues"

- obviously nothing to do with our hard work and their bitter and negative campaign!

Speaking of hard work, I must pay tribute here to those who helped to make the campaign a success - particularly Ian and Edna Scott, my constituency Chairman and his wife, both of whom worked tirelessly to see me elected.

Since then I've been working closely with my friend and colleague David Jones, MP for Clwyd West and Shadow Minister for Wales.

David and I work as a tag team to deliver the effective representation that our constituents deserve both in Westminster and Cardiff Bay.

It's been an interesting time in the National Assembly so far.

My first time in the Assembly chamber was interrupted by the elbow of Brynle Williams, motioning for me to join him outside for a chat.

Imagine my surprise when he revealed the reason that he had called me away was because his braces had pinged at the back

- and I had been chosen to reattach them!!!

And of course since then, we've had the uncomfortable task of watching Plaid freely abandoning their principles and jumping into bed with the Labour Party.

Betraying their loyal supporters by entering a coalition which they categorically ruled out before the elections.

Well I have a message for those who feel betrayed.

So Plaid have betrayed their principles but what of Labour and the Liberals.

Well from Labour it is more of the same.

More of the same old flannel from Rhodri Morgan and his Ministers, on everything from health and education to the environment.

More cuts in the cash going to local authorities - which will lead to inflation busting Council Tax increases.

More bureaucracy - strangling businesses in Wales.

The same old lack of interest in our rural communities.

And the continued drive for more school, hospital and post office closures - tearing the hearts from our towns and villages.

Labour has nothing to offer the people of Wales but more of the same.

Old - cold - Labour.

I agree with Barak Obama - it's time for change!

And the Liberals - what of them?

Well they simply continue to descend into even more irrelevance in Welsh politics.

Hardly surprising when you consider that it was recently reported in the news that a lookalike of Lembit Opik, their former leader here in Wales, has not received a single booking in over a year!!!

How embarrassing for his constituents!

The good news is that the people of Montgomeryshire need not suffer the embarrassment much longer - our Glyn Davies will see to that at the next general election!

And so it is left to we Welsh Conservatives to stand up for the people of Wales.

It is our party that is standing up for the parents, teachers and governors of schools which are threatened with closure by Plaid in Gwynedd.

It is our party that is campaigning to protect our vulnerable post office network.

It is our party that is raising concerns over the hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on Ieuan Wyn Jones' private airline between Anglesey and Cardiff.

It is we Welsh Conservatives who are now the only party fighting to protect hospitals like those in Abergele, from closure, or to protect acute services such as cardiac and breast cancer services in Llandudno Hospital.

Plaid may have given up on these issues - but we haven't.

Hands off our hospitals!

There is also growing sense that the coalition is seeking to draw a 'slate curtain' between Wales and England.

To cut off successful cross border services and long standing relationships.

These attempts led to the Labour Health Minister's ridiculous plans to try to force North Wales patients to travel to the South for brain surgery.

Why?

Why force sick people to undertake an 8 hour round trip of up to 400 miles when we have a world class facility practically on our doorsteps just down the road in Walton?

Listen up Rhodri and Ieuan - the NHS in North Wales has a unique relationship with the North West of England - we won't let you destroy it!

So, our party is the only party taking the voice of the people to the ears of the Welsh Assembly Government.

One of the clearest examples of this is with regards to climate change.

There is a great deal of public sympathy and support for action to address global warming - the greatest threat to our modern way of life.

But this sympathy is being sapped dry due to Labour-Plaid plans to smother Wales in a blanket of wind turbines.

They have only ONE answer to our growing energy crisis - wind factories.

With a blind obsession, week in, week out - the Minister rises to her feet and repeats the mantra - wind is the only answer.

In fact, with all the hot air she's been generating, bleating on about wind - a bumper pack of Rennie Deflatine might do us all a favour!!

Now, let there be no confusion about the issue - Welsh Conservatives are not against wind energy.

What we are opposed to is the imposition of large scale wind farms across Wales.

Wind farms which have a devastating impact on communities and the local environment - and are erected against the wishes of local people.

There have been projects around Wales which have had clear community support.

If other cases like these come forward, then clearly work should press ahead, as should more micro wind generation schemes.

But the current policy is leading to a massive democratic deficit.

The decisions of locally elected councillors are being ignored - and the views of local communities, disregarded.

Local people are best placed to tell us what their community wants and needs.

Let me make the Welsh Conservative position on this clear:

We recognise that wind turbines have a contribution to make towards Wales' energy needs

But our outstanding landscape and important tourism industry must not be sacrificed on the altar of a Ministers obsession…

Labour and Plaid must not be allowed to arrogantly overrule local democracy when a community rejects a wind farm application!

Instead, the government should be doing more to encourage the development of marine renewables.

Technologies which harness the reliable power of the tides and currents.

Technologies such as tidal barrages and lagoons - less visually intrusive than wind farms - can provide predictable amounts of energy and have other potential benefits.

Such as the ability to protect our coasts from flooding and the potential for the development of marine tourism.

The Welsh coast provides a rich energy resource - let's use it!

We need better ideas and a greater effort to develop policies that can be delivered with the support of the people we represent.

That is why I am proud to announce today the establishment of the Welsh Conservative Sustainability Forum.

An arms length panel of experts including Morgan Parry of WWF Cymru, and Helen Northmore of the Energy Savings Trust in Wales.

The forum will advise the party and provide us with robust challenge - to ensure that our policies match the desperate need for action on the environment.

I now want to turn my attention to waste - and I'm not talking about Brynle's girth - or indeed my own!!!!!!

Better waste management in Wales is crucial if we're to minimise our impact on the environment.

We must do more to reduce, reuse and recycle - but this must not be used as an excuse by local authorities to cut waste collection services.

Throughout Wales - fortnightly collections of residual waste are creeping into our towns and villages.

Supporters of these collections say that they help increase recycling rates and minimise waste.

But the real reason that weekly collections are being axed, is because your council is trying to save itself some cash.

And as long as the Labour-Plaid coalition continues to starve our local authorities of the resources they need to provide proper public services - it's basics like our bin collections that will suffer.

Our communities are paying the price of this enforced cost cutting exercise.

Fortnightly collections have resulted in:

an explosion in fly tipping across Wales with thousands of reported cases last year alone.

more litter on our streets which leads to less respect for authority and ultimately more crime.

and a massive growth in vermin populations - yes, there are more rats in our towns and villages than were here in Llandudno for the Labour conference 2 weeks ago!

The 'corner cutting coalition' in the Assembly is happy to let this continue - we are not!

That is why one of the key policies our local government candidates in the May elections will be campaigning on is to protect, and if necessary, reinstate, weekly refuse collections.

Yes we will bin fortnightly waste collections!

There are better ways to improve recycling rates than simply leaving our bin bags piling up for weeks.

We need more recycling banks - that are easy to access.

Let's have more kerbside collections of things like paper, cardboard, glass, metals and plastics.

Start at the source - we need an agreement with supermarkets, retailers and manufacturers - that they will actively reduce packaging.

And better education on environmental matters in our schools - so that our young people are aware of their moral and social responsibility to take action.

We need tougher penalties for those who drop litter or allow their pets to foul our streets and green spaces.

It is not good enough to simply increase the level of fines for these offences - we need to see existing powers properly enforced if they are to be an effective deterrent!!

It is time to get tough on grime and tough on the causes of grime!

And you can trust the Welsh Conservatives to deliver on that.

So there are some clear choices in the forthcoming local elections.

Over the next few weeks it is our task to put these choices to the people of Wales as we campaign for our local government candidates.

We want a cleaner, greener and safer Wales. It will be hard work - but our labour will not be in vain.

For together we can make Wales work better. So let's get out there and get on with it! Diolch."

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