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Bourne: Cardiff's success is Wales' success

Speech to the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce.

"May I first of all take this opportunity to thank you for inviting me here today.

This is an important time - for business, for Cardiff and for Wales.

The new convergence programme is about to start, business improvement districts are on the cards, regeneration continues to breathe new life into our capital city and the Assembly elections are beginning to loom large on the horizon.

Just last week, Conservatives launched a taster of our economic development policies for the election next May.

We are committed to:

- Providing flexible working opportunities and childcare

- Constructing a modern road link to Cardiff Airport

- Upgrading the A470 and dualling the A40 between St Clears and Fishguard

- Regenerating our seaside towns like Barry and Porthcawl that have been neglected

These are policies that will be of enormous benefit to Wales, but also to Cardiff. And there will be more to come.

Cardiff's success is Wales' success. Almost unrecognisable from the city it was 20 years ago, even 5 years ago, Cardiff is a city Wales can be proud of.

We have a vibrant, forward-looking city, grasping new opportunities with both hands.

Our sporting hospitality is the envy of the world.

The Millennium Stadium provides fantastic facilities and the modernisation of Sophia Gardens will provide an excellent location for first class Test match cricket - something for us all to look forward too.

The Wales Millennium Centre is attracting world-class productions to Wales, raising our international reputation for the Arts.

A permanent home for the Wales National Opera and a superb host to other touring companies.

Dr Who and the spin-off Torchwood have put TV production in Wales back on the map and are doing wonders to showcase the capital and surrounding areas to new audiences.

With Cardiff as a backdrop, tourism is thriving. Indeed, Cardiff has become a hotspot for weekend breaks.

As the capital of Wales, Welsh Conservatives recognise that it is necessary to have policies that continue the development of this vibrant city.

I have long believed that Wales needs a National Art Gallery to displaying the nation's art treasures. Such a gallery should be in Cardiff.

But there are also great tourism opportunities. We must develop these further if Cardiff's reputation as a top European destination is to continue to evolve.

We also need to address the infrastructure bottleneck that blights Cardiff. Our road and rail links require particular attention.

This means ensuring that progress continues on the Cardiff Airport link road and continuing to push the Eastern Bay Link road project up the agenda.

Elsewhere, tackling road congestion will require some tough decisions but we must be cautious not to penalise the motorist with congestion charges.

Reopening the local rail lines has led to an increase in the use of public transport.

But there are still too many people using their cars to get to work who could just as easily use the local train network.

A Welsh Conservative government would invest in greater capacity on these key local services; ensure that stations are clean, that platforms are easily accessible, have CCTV and are secure.

Well lit waiting areas are also essential if we are to help commuters feel safer and encourage people onto the public transport system.

Cardiff's success must be Wales's success. I am hugely concerned that many people in Wales regard Cardiff with some envy.

In North Wales in particular, there is some perception that the Assembly is only for Cardiff's benefit. This is not true.

What we need to show is that Cardiff has much to share with the rest of Wales and the rest of Wales has lots to share with Cardiff.

Everyone in Wales should benefit from Cardiff's expanding international profile.

We must ensure that the benefits brought by the Assembly are shared and spread widely.

A Welsh Conservative Government after next May would establish a "Capital Charter" between Cardiff and the rest of Wales.

Regular meetings between politicians, the Leader of Cardiff Council, Cardiff Chambers, business leaders and academics from across Wales in a "Cardiff Forum" can share experiences and improve communication to the benefit for the whole of the country.

One area where the 'Capital Charter' could work well is on the issue of waste management.

Too much of our waste, particularly here in Cardiff, goes straight to landfill. We must recycle more, much more.

We are currently looking at ways in which we can reward local authorities with good records on recycling.

Cardiff has the worst recycling record of any local authority in Wales.

A 'Capital Charter' would see best practice from communities' elsewhere in Wales helping Cardiff to make informed decisions about how to progress.

The future of energy supplies and the realities of climate change are presenting ever bigger concerns.

Tackling climate change must be taken seriously by all of us - and that includes a role for business.

Going green means businesses, local communities and politicians must share responsibility and work together.

If we are to secure energy supplies for the future then we must consider all the options available to us. Tough choices are necessary.

There are exciting markets opening up for green technology and positive benefits for organisations when they go green.

We only have one planet and we owe it to future generations to preserve it.

The delivery of a first class education and skills system is a critical component of a thriving economy.

Too many youngsters are leaving school with no qualifications at all, while only just over half leave with 5 A to C grade GCSEs. This simply isn't good enough.

We must invest in the potential of our young people; after all, they are the workforce of the future.

But education doesn't just stop when we leave school.

Welsh Conservatives are currently looking at ways to improve the availability of vocational skills and training.

We must invest in lifelong learning, and provide support to businesses that want to invest in the skills of their employees.

Building a knowledge economy also requires greater support for the Higher Education sector in Wales, and what better place to start than in the Capital City.

We must develop links between business and Universities, like Cardiff and Glamorgan, if we are to share ideas and inspire young entrepreneurs.

But this is only the beginning. We've had seven years of warm words and platitudes from the Labour Assembly Government and Andrew Davies but enough is enough.

Too much dependence on the massive public sector, increased centralisation and need for control and, most of all, simply failing to understand the needs of business in Wales.

Building a prosperous Cardiff and prosperous Wales means building a thriving economy.

The centralised and controlling approach of the current Labour government has contributed to the stifling size of the Welsh public sector.

This is simply unhealthy for our economy and Welsh business.

If we are to grow the Welsh economy then the Assembly needs to provide policies that support the private sector, not crowd it out of the employment market and tie it up in red tape.

A Welsh Conservative government would work to support business without being prescriptive, remove unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, support businesses that want to grow, enable entrepreneurs to see out their dreams and encourage innovation.

Enable businesses to offer their employees flexible working options, help with childcare and support the development of a better work-life balance that work with, not against, the increasing pressures of modern life and parenthood.

We need to face up to our social responsibilities as a society but we also need to get people back to work.

Welsh Conservatives would provide incentives, through business rates relief and other systems, to support businesses that make flexible working open to their employees.

If we are to address the prosperity gap that exists between Wales and the rest of the UK then we must not allow another round of EU funding to fail.

Welsh Conservatives will not sit back and watch a final round of valuable funding wasted like the last one.

This is a great opportunity, not just for the Objective One areas.

The benefits of a successful programme will spread throughout Wales.

Cardiff has much to gain from a prosperous surrounding region, including better transport links.

A Welsh Conservative government would press the Treasury for additional funding over and above Barnett, to ensure that this round of funding is a success.

So in summary, Welsh Conservatives will tap into the huge potential of the Welsh economy

- Build on Cardiff's international reputation

- Invest in our infrastructure

- Develop a sustainable environment

- Encourage flexible working

- Invest in a skilled workforce

- Move away from the reliance on the public sector

- Release business from red tape

Welsh Conservatives have the ideas and the innovations to see our economy flourish."

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