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Bourne: Offering new hope for Wales

Speech to launch the Welsh Conservatives’ Assembly election manifesto.

"Only a few weeks ago we were celebrating the best conference we have ever staged in Wales. I said at the time that the conference would be the spring board to our election success.

We showed the people of Wales that we are a confident and united party with a positive message of change for Wales.

Ladies and Gentlemen, now we are preparing to take the next step forward. Today, we officially launch the Welsh Conservative campaign for the National Assembly Election by unveiling our positive and exciting Welsh manifesto.

We offer a manifesto that is carefully thought through, offering an honest, coherent, realistic platform for government. It is a distinctly Welsh manifesto offering positive Welsh solutions to Welsh issues.

The core theme of our manifesto is localism. We have seen that the centralist 'state knows best' policy under Rhodri Morgan has only delivered over-regulation; it has not delivered for the people of Wales.

Welsh Conservatives believe that this top-down approach loses all sight of what is needed on the ground.

We believe in social responsibility - trusting people and communities and allowing them to make decisions about the issues and services that affect them, allowing them to shape their own futures.

That means trusting our teachers, our doctors and our nurses to make the best decisions for schools and hospitals. We must support our local services like post offices and local producers like our farmers to ensure that they have a long-term viable future.

Social responsibility is at the heart of our manifesto. It will ensure that no-one will be left behind. Our policies will benefit every family, every community in Wales. Old and young, families and individuals.

I want to say a few words on our top five pledges:

- Our number one election priority, backing our NHS - That means stopping Labour's hospital cuts. Labour has handled hospital reconfiguration appallingly undermining public confidence in our health service.

Our policy is clear, we will halt the reconfiguration process and consult with health organisations and the public on the best way forward.

- Extra funding for schools - There has been a growing funding gap in education between Wales and England. In 2005-06, there was an expenditure gap of £129 per pupil between England and Wales. Labour's mantra on education in Wales has lost its way. We will provide an extra £48 million for schools. This money will help close the funding gap.

- Help pensioners with the growing burden of council tax - Council tax in Wales has soared, literally doubling under Labour. Average council tax in Wales is set to rise by an inflation busting increase of 4.5%. These rises have hit vulnerable groups, like the elderly, the hardest. That is why we will give £100 each year to all pensioner households in Wales to help with council tax bills

- Improving access to modern medicines - There have been a number of high profile cases in the Wales where a 'postcode lottery' has developed over medicines, particularly with cancer treatments. Vitally, we will provide an extra £80 million to improve the funding for modern medicines, to allow doctors to prescribe treatments they feel are necessary for their patients.

- Tackling climate change - No challenge is more pressing than the urgent need to tackle climate change. We all need to take action; something that Rhodri Morgan cannot understand. Offering low energy light bulbs for every household in Wales in exchange for old incandescent bulbs will make a real difference to lowering carbon emissions but, crucially, it will also educate people on how changing their day-to-day lifestyles can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

I could go on. We have many more exciting policies which show that we have the desire to change Wales for the better.

It is an exciting and forward looking programme which clearly sets out our vision for Wales over the next four years and beyond. It shows the people of Wales that we are the only serious and viable alternative to the tired and worn-out Labour government.

Our manifesto is a properly costed programme for government unlike Plaid Cymru who have offered fantasy, uncosted policies.

They must be locked into an independence mentality because they obviously believe they have tax raising powers to pay for their plans! The people of Wales will see through this veil of empty promises all too quickly.

The party has changed for the better and our leader, David Cameron has been central to this change. David Cameron's emphasis on social responsibility and quality of life issues, like the environment, social justice and the state of our NHS, are important in Wales.

I believe the public has recognised that we offer a forward-looking alternative to tired Labour governments both in Westminster and Cardiff.

We will now go out and take our message of change, optimism and hope into every community, every town in Wales and tell people why they should vote Welsh Conservative.

Our focus is clear - our NHS, our environment, our schools, our families, our communities.

Welsh Conservatives have changed. And with the support of the public we can bring about a change of government and a new direction for Wales.

Vote Welsh Conservative for a change."

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