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Melding: A fair deal for small businesses in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I will take this opportunity—my first as the Welsh Conservative Party spokesman on economic development—to look at the areas in which there is genuine agreement. It seems to me that, as an Assembly, we need to focus on the areas on which we agree, and to drive up standards there.

As has been stated, we need a larger private sector and, on the subject of this debate, we need a more successful small and medium-sized enterprise sector. We also need a world-class skills base, as there is worrying evidence that we need to do quite a lot more in that area.

We need greater co-operation between the public and private sectors, where that can be effective, and we need to use the public sector as a vital part of our economy and involve it as well. We need greater productivity. One of our great problems is the current level of productivity in our economy. We need secure and better-paid jobs. I think that we would all agree on those common objectives.

The sector skills councils have estimated that 25 per cent of the workforce has significant IT skills gaps, so we need to work to improve the skills of the workforce. About 400,000 people will need to upgrade their IT skills in the next three years if we are to remain competitive internationally.

Therefore, there is a clear message there. I do not use these statistics as a counsel of despair, but we have to pay attention to them and work in this area. I am sure that we will find agreement on a way forward.

Enterprise is at the heart of this debate, and it is important that we talk up the enterprise culture. We want everyone to be more enterprising, whether they are in the public or private sector, but we particularly want those entrepreneurs who are coming out of universities, existing firms, and so on, and who have ideas. We would then see a larger export sector.

One of the key measures of the health of an economy is the size of its export sector. There have been some promising developments but, as a region, we need to go much further. We need to see more venture capital investment in Wales and a higher rate of patent registration. I am sure that we would all agree that these are good measures of success—or the lack of it.

I have commended the Minister on a range of issues and, if I am to be critical, I will say that it is important that we raise our vision. We need to be truly ambitious for Wales. We need better skills and better marketing, and we need to be proud of what we have.

For instance, I have gone on many times about our capital city and about selling it as a wonderful location for business. It is a magnificent Victorian and Edwardian city, with many jewels in terms of its architecture, art and general living conditions. That also goes for the rest of Wales. The location that we have has many advantages to offer business, especially as the tyranny of distance recedes as economies modernise with new technology.

I hope that the new Minister will not have the proclivities of the former, who would often behave like a sorry schoolboy, trying to convince his parents that a certain grade stood for 'excellent'. If we get poor grades, we need to accept them and work to improve them.

The Minister should not dismiss data that go against us as somehow being subjective and not worthy of serious concern, and then pick up a few positive indicators, saying, 'Oh, that is the objective evidence'. The same is true of those of us in opposition. We must accept where the indicators are improving, commend performance and move further on."

"Cymeraf y cyfle hwn—fy nghyfle cyntaf fel llefarydd Plaid Geidwadol Cymru ar ddatblygu economaidd—i edrych ar feysydd lle ceir cytundeb dilys. Ymddengys i mi fod angen inni, fel Cynulliad, ganolbwyntio ar y meysydd y cytunwn arnynt, a gwella safonau yn y meysydd hynny.

Fel y nodwyd, mae angen sector preifat mwy arnom ac, ar bwnc y ddadl hon, mae angen sector busnesau bach a chanolig mwy llwyddiannus arnom. Mae angen sylfaen sgiliau o'r radd flaenaf arnom hefyd, gan fod tystiolaeth bod angen inni wneud cryn dipyn yn fwy yn y maes hwnnw, ac mae hynny'n achos pryder.

Mae angen mwy o gydweithrediad rhwng y sector cyhoeddus a'r sector preifat, lle y gall hynny fod yn effeithiol, ac mae angen inni ddefnyddio'r sector cyhoeddus fel rhan hanfodol o'n heconomi a chynnwys y sector hwnnw hefyd. Mae angen mwy o gynhyrchiant arnom. Un o'n problemau mawr yw cynhyrchiant presennol ein heconomi. Mae angen swyddi diogel sy'n talu'n well arnom. Credaf y byddem oll yn cytuno ar yr amcanion cyffredin hynny.

Mae'r cynghorau sgiliau sector wedi amcangyfrif bod bylchau yn sgiliau TG 25 y cant o'r gweithlu, felly mae angen inni weithio i wella sgiliau'r gweithlu. Bydd angen i tua 400,000 o bobl uwchraddio eu sgiliau TG dros y tair blynedd nesaf os am sicrhau ein bod yn parhau i fod yn gystadleuol yn rhyngwladol.

Felly, mae honno'n neges glir. Ni ddefnyddiaf yr ystadegau hyn i greu anobaith, ond rhaid inni dalu sylw iddynt a gweithio yn y maes hwn. Yr wyf yn siwr y deuwn i gytundeb ynghylch y ffordd ymlaen.

Menter sydd wrth wraidd y ddadl hon, ac mae'n bwysig ein bod yn gwneud yn fawr o'r diwylliant menter. Yr ydym am i bawb fod yn fwy mentrus, p'un a ydynt yn y sector cyhoeddus neu'r sector preifat, ond yr ydym yn arbennig o awyddus i ddenu entrepreneuriaid o brifysgolion, cwmnïau sefydledig, ac ati, y mae ganddynt syniadau. Yna byddem yn gweld sector allforio fwy.

Un o'r prif ffyn mesur ar gyfer iechyd economi yw maint ei sector allforio. Gwelwyd rhai datblygiadau addawol ond, fel rhanbarth, rhaid inni wneud llawer mwy. Mae angen inni weld mwy o fuddsoddiad cyfalaf menter yng Nghymru a chyfradd uwch o gofrestru patentau. Yr wyf yn siwr y byddai pawb ohonom yn cytuno bod y rhain yn ffyn mesur da ar gyfer llwyddiant—neu ddiffyg llwyddiant.

Yr wyf wedi canmol y Gweinidog ar amryw o faterion ac, os am ei feirniadu, dywedaf ei bod yn bwysig inni godi ein golygon. Mae angen inni fod yn uchelgeisiol iawn ar gyfer Cymru. Mae angen gwell sgiliau a gwell marchnata arnom, ac mae angen inni ymfalchïo yn yr hyn sydd gennym.

Er enghraifft, yr wyf wedi sôn droeon am ein prifddinas ac am ei gwerthu fel lleoliad gwych i fusnesau. Mae'n ddinas Fictoraidd ac Edwardaidd wych, gyda sawl gem o ran pensaernïaeth, celfyddyd ac amodau byw yn gyffredinol. Mae hynny'n wir am weddill Cymru hefyd. Mae ein lleoliad yn cynnig sawl mantais i fusnesau, yn arbennig gan fod gormes pellter yn cilio ac economïau yn moderneiddio yn sgîl technoleg newydd.

Gobeithio na fydd gan y Gweinidog newydd yr un tueddiadau â'r cyn-Weinidog, a fyddai yn aml yn ymddwyn fel bachgen ysgol truenus, yn ceisio argyhoeddi ei rieni bod gradd arbennig yn golygu 'ardderchog'.

Os cawn raddau gwael, rhaid inni eu derbyn a gweithio i wella arnynt. Ni ddylai'r Gweinidog ddiystyru'r data anffafriol fel rhywbeth goddrychol nad yw'n haeddu cael ei gymryd o ddifrif, ac yna ddewis ambell ddangosydd cadarnhaol, gan ddweud, 'O, dyna'r dystiolaeth wrthrychol'. Mae'r un peth yn wir amdanom ni yn y gwrthbleidiau. Rhaid inni dderbyn pan fo'r dangosyddion yn gwella, canmol perfformiad a gwella ymhellach."

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