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Cairns: Education and economy suffer under Labour in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I thank the Secretary of State for his presence today, and the First Minister for opening the debate. I also wish Elizabeth well in her recovery; I am sure that the Secretary of State will extend to her the good wishes of all Members.

In the Secretary of State's statement, why did he make sweeping statements that we know are not accurate? He made sweeping statements about rising standards in schools, about a much better and stable economy, and about the health and wellbeing of the nation.

The statement promises much, just as this Government did eight years ago, but the reality is that the Government has delivered very little. Our divergence from England with regard to education, economy and the health service is remarkable. For example, the gap in GCSE rates between Wales and England is now wider than it used to be; much quicker progress is being made in England. On health, we do not need to underline differences in waiting times between the two countries—that is always in the news—or the higher numbers of people waiting for treatment in Wales.

The Secretary of State commented specifically on the economy, stating that it has stabilised. That may well be the case across the United Kingdom, but the reality in Wales is that the economy has stagnated. Gross value added figures formed the basis of the Government's key target, which was for our GVA to be 90 per cent of the UK's GVA per capita figure by 2010—there is not a hope in the world of achieving that key fundamental target.

Inactivity rates are much higher in Wales than those for most parts of the United Kingdom. Alun Ffred Jones referred specifically to Scotland in this regard—there is an enormous divergence between Wales and Scotland in this regard, as there is between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.

The First Minister always seeks to hold on to gross domestic household income figures, and Leighton Andrews repeated a point about that today, but when you look at the trend for gross domestic household income, we are at a worse level now than in 1996. Is that progress? Are you satisfied with the progress made over the last year?

I am grateful for the intervention, because it allows me to remind you of the figures. The index for gross domestic household income in 1996 was 88.9; the index in 2004—the latest data that is available—is 88. That shows the lack of progress; it is evident in the figures. If you wish to debate the figures of the Office for National Statistics, as the Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks has tried to do on a number of occasions, for which he received a sharp rebuttal from the ONS, I am happy to do so.

However, if you are satisfied with this progress—down from 88.9 in 1999 to 88 for the latest figures that have been published—I am disappointed with your aspiration; I am sure that the voters of Rhondda and Wales are disappointed with your pleasure at that progress. Let us accept that the economy has stagnated over the last period, so that we can come forward with positive policies to seek to redress the imbalance.

The First Minister, the Secretary of State and Labour Members know that people are starting to see through their rhetoric—everything was promised and very little was delivered. We can always tell that that is the case, because the example of John Redwood is wheeled out as part of those sweeping statements.

The Secretary of State laboured the point that the Conservatives were the anti-devolution party. I remind him that he was the anti-Rhodri-Morgan party at the same time, so perhaps we changed our minds at the same time. However, we are working as hard as we can to make the Assembly work, and to expose the weaknesses of some of the policies that we have highlighted.

On climate change, in response to questions, the First Minister was completely irresponsible in stating that David Cameron's policy on climate change, calling for an annual target, would lead to steel-job losses in Wales. That was in contrast to a responsible speech from Lorraine Barrett.

If that is the level of debate in which the First Minister wishes to engage, people will remember his attitude to many other things in the past where he has been wholly irresponsible and negated his responsibilities as First Minister. We can always tell when the Government is under pressure on climate change, because it will start talking about the Severn barrage.

However, if the Government was serious about a Severn barrage—which I hope it is not—it would have been in the Queen's Speech, because it would take a Government Act to deliver it. When the Government is under pressure on climate change, it always talks about the Severn barrage, making sweeping claims about it, knowing that it will not be supported."

"Diolchaf i'r Ysgrifennydd Gwladol am ei bresenoldeb heddiw, ac i'r Prif Weinidog am agor y ddadl. Dymunaf adferiad buan i Elizabeth hefyd; yr wyf yn siwr y gwnaiff yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol gyfleu dymuniadau da'r Aelodau i gyd iddi.

Yn natganiad yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol, pam y gwnaeth osodiadau ysgubol y gwyddom eu bod yn anghywir? Gwnaeth osodiadau ysgubol ynghylch safonau'n codi mewn ysgolion, ynghylch economi llawer gwell a sefydlog, ac ynghylch iechyd a lles y genedl. Mae'r datganiad yn addo llawer, yn union fel y gwnaeth y Llywodraeth hon wyth mlynedd yn ôl, ond y gwirionedd yw mai ychydig iawn y mae'r Llywodraeth wedi'i gyflawni.

Mae'r gwahaniaeth rhyngom a Lloegr ym myd addysg, yr economi a'r gwasanaeth iechyd yn hynod. Er enghraifft, mae'r bwlch rhwng cyfraddau TGAU Cymru a Lloegr yn lletach yn awr nag yr arferai fod; mae camau llawer brasach yn digwydd yn Lloegr. Ym myd iechyd, nid oes angen tanlinellu'r gwahaniaethau rhwng amserau aros y ddwy wlad—mae hynny yn y newyddion o hyd—na'r niferoedd uwch o bobl sy'n aros am driniaeth yng Nghymru.

Gwnaeth yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol sylw penodol am yr economi, gan ddweud ei fod wedi sefydlogi. Efallai'n wir mai felly y mae hi ledled y Deyrnas Unedig, ond y realiti yng Nghymru yw bod yr economi wedi marweiddio. Ffigurau gwerth ychwanegol crynswth oedd y sail i darged allweddol y Llywodraeth, sef bod eisiau i'n gwerth ychwanegol crynswth ni fod yn 90 y cant o ffigur gwerth ychwanegol crynswth y pen y DU erbyn 2010—nid oes obaith yn y byd o gyrraedd y targed sylfaenol allweddol hwnnw.

Mae cyfraddau anweithgarwch yn llawer uwch yng Nghymru nag yn y rhan fwyaf o'r Deyrnas Unedig. Cyfeiriodd Alun Ffred Jones yn benodol at yr Alban yn hyn o beth—mae gwahaniaeth aruthrol rhwng Cymru a'r Alban yn hyn o beth, fel sydd rhwng Cymru a gweddill y Deyrnas Unedig.

Bydd y Prif Weinidog bob amser yn ceisio dal gafael ar ffigurau incwm aelwydydd domestig crynswth, ac ailadroddodd Leighton Andrews bwynt am hynny heddiw, ond pan edrychwch ar y duedd ar gyfer incwm aelwydydd domestig crynswth, yr ydym ar lefel waeth yn awr nag ym 1996. Ai cam ymlaen yw hynny? A ydych yn fodlon gyda'r symud a wnaethpwyd dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf?

Yr wyf yn ddiolchgar am yr ymyriad, oherwydd mae'n caniatáu imi eich atgoffa o'r ffigurau. Y mynegai am incwm aelwydydd domestig crynswth ym 1996 oedd 88.9; mae'r mynegai yn 2004—y data diweddaraf sydd ar gael—yn 88. Dyna ddangos y diffyg symud ymlaen; mae'n amlwg yn y ffigurau. Os hoffech ddadlau ynghylch ffigurau'r Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol, fel y ceisiodd y Gweinidog dros Fenter, Arloesi a Rhwydweithiau wneud ar sawl achlysur, a chael ei wrthbrofi'n llym gan y Swyddfa honno, yr wyf yn hapus i wneud hynny. Fodd bynnag, os ydych yn fodlon ar y symudiad hwn—i lawr o 88.9 ym 1999 i 88 am y ffigurau diweddaraf sydd wedi'u cyhoeddi—yr wyf yn siomedig â'ch uchelgais; yr wyf yn siwr bod pleidleiswyr Rhondda a Chymru'n siomedig ynglyn â'ch pleser gyda'r symudiad hwnnw.

Gadewch inni dderbyn bod yr economi wedi marweiddio dros y cyfnod diwethaf, fel y gallwn ddod ymlaen â pholisïau cadarnhaol i geisio unioni'r anghydbwysedd. Mae'r Prif Weinidog, yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol ac Aelodau Llafur yn gwybod bod pobl yn dechrau gweld drwy eu rhethreg—addawyd popeth a chyflawnwyd ychydig iawn. Gallwn bob amser ddweud mai felly y mae hi, oherwydd caiff esiampl John Redwood ei lusgo allan fel rhan o'r gosodiadau ysgubol hynny.

Gwnaeth yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol fôr a mynydd o'r pwynt mai'r Ceidwadwyr oedd y blaid wrth-ddatganoli. Fe'i hatgoffaf mai ef oedd y blaid wrth-Rhodri Morgan ar y pryd, felly efallai inni newid ein meddyliau ar yr un adeg. Fodd bynnag, yr ydym yn gweithio cyn galeted ag y gallwn i wneud i'r Cynulliad weithio, ac i ddinoethi gwendidau rhai o'r polisïau yr ydym wedi'u hamlygu.

Ynglyn â newid hinsawdd, wrth ymateb i gwestiynau, bu'r Prif Weinidog yn gwbl anghyfrifol wrth ddweud y byddai polisi David Cameron ar newid hinsawdd, sy'n galw am darged blynyddol, yn arwain at golli swyddi dur yng Nghymru. Yr oedd hynny mewn gwrthgyferbyniad ag araith gyfrifol gan Lorraine Barrett. Os mai dyna lefel y ddadl y mae'r Prif Weinidog yn dymuno ei chynnal, bydd pobl yn cofio'i agwedd at sawl peth arall yn y gorffennol lle bu'n gwbl anghyfrifol gan negyddu ei gyfrifoldebau fel Prif Weinidog.

Gallwn bob amser ddweud pan fo'r Llywodraeth dan bwysau ar fater newid hinsawdd, oherwydd bydd yn dechrau siarad am forglawdd Hafren. Fodd bynnag, petai'r Llywodraeth o ddifrif am forglawdd Hafren—a gobeithio nad ydyw—buasai wedi'i gynnwys yn Araith y Frenhines, oherwydd byddai'n cymryd Deddf gan y Llywodraeth i'w wireddu. Pan fydd y Llywodraeth dan bwysau ynghylch newid hinsawdd, bydd bob amser yn siarad am forglawdd Hafren, gan wneud haeriadau ysgubol yn ei gylch, gan wybod na chaiff gefnogaeth."

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