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Gillan: No turning back the clock on devolution

Speech to the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth.

"Good afternoon conference. Good afternoon Wales.

It is a great tribute to David Cameron and the new direction that he is forging for the Conservative party, that today, Wales and localism can proudly take centre stage at our party conference.

Having been born and brought up in Cardiff, it is a personal privilege now to speak for Wales in the Shadow Cabinet.

But, I am not alone. I am fortunate to be part of an impressive Welsh team.

Our three MPs and our Peers at Westminster, Jonathan Evans our man in Europe, our voluntary party headed up by Lyndon Jones, our dedicated councillors, and of course, last year's winner of the Assembly Member of the year award, Nick Bourne and his hard working and effective team of Assembly Members in Cardiff Bay.

All of them do a fantastic job, on behalf of the Welsh people, in holding this Labour administration to account whether in London, Cardiff or throughout the whole of Wales. Thank you Nick and the team.

And we are united in our determination to work together to build on these foundations in Wales and take the fight right up to Labour's door at the Assembly elections next May.

Wales has a partly devolved, piecemeal administration and I have spent most of this year dealing with Labour's reforms to the devolution settlement. The new legislation was politically driven by a tired and divided Labour Party that now openly admits that its grip on power in Westminster and Cardiff is slipping and is trying to save its own skin.

By contrast we have been able show, under David Cameron's leadership, a new and vigorous Conservative Party, committed to devolution, localism and social responsibility in Wales.

A Conservative Party that is prepared to trust the people and in the future to enhance the powers of the Assembly but only if that's what people vote for in a referendum.

By the elections next May the Assembly will have been in existence for eight years. And we have moved on.

The argument is no longer about whether we want devolution but how we make it work to deliver the best services for the people of Wales.

And one thing's for sure. It won't deliver while Wales is run as the personal fiefdom of the Welsh Labour Party.

For as long as most people can remember Labour have been the political establishment in Wales.

And the results?

- Wales is officially the poorest region or nation of the United Kingdom with a gap between the rich and the poor that is widening.

- Hospital waiting lists are still massively up on when Labour came to power, and the health service is deep in the red.

- And since 1997 - when Labour took over - council tax has nearly doubled and crime rates, rural poverty and carbon emissions are all up.

What a record!

Even Labour's manifesto promises have not been kept. They promised free home care for disabled people - they failed to deliver. They promised free breakfasts for all primary school children - they failed to deliver.

Now, I am a generous person and I concede they may have had good intentions.

But they have failed to deliver. They have failed the people of Wales.

That's because Labour in Cardiff is every bit as inept, tired and frankly as big a disappointment in Wales as they are in Westminster.

And who are the two men that run Wales for the Labour Party?

Rhodri Morgan, Labour's First Minister. Who in Wales will forget his abysmal performance on Question Time when we learned that he is the only man in the UK who does not have an opinion on Iraq

This is the man who visited a golf tournament rather than honouring our heroes at the D-Day landings commemoration.

This is a man who was late for The Queen not once but twice. Or, as he said, it wasn't my fault, The Queen turned up early.

And my opposite number Peter Hain who is so busy running Northern Ireland that I am surprised he finds time for Wales.

But now we know the truth. He doesn't want Northern Ireland or Wales.

His personal ambition is to be the next John Prescott. Now we know - two jobs wants to be two-Jags.

And what of the other parties?

Plaid - the Welsh Nationalists - aiming to break up the Union and at the same time writing policies without any idea of how they are going to pay for them.

The Lib Dems - well they've already thrown in the towel and are hanging around Labour hoping to prop them up in power after the Assembly elections.

But people are seeing through the other parties in Wales. And we are delighted to have welcomed in our ranks defectors from all them.

It is clearer than ever that Wales needs a change of direction. Welsh Conservatives have already delivered…

- No top up fees for Welsh students at Welsh Universities.

- An extra £22M for pensioners, education and transport.

- Establishing a wide-ranging Assembly enquiry into cancer services in Wales.

- And helping to secure a public enquiry into the Welsh Ambulance Service - admittedly with some assistance from Labour's own Health Minister who can you credit it, managed to press the wrong button and vote against his own policy.

No wonder we question Labour's competence in government in Wales.

And if we can do all this in Opposition think what we could do in government.

Wales brings so much to the table as a partner in the United Kingdom. With its breathtaking scenery in its National Parks and coastline, with its proud heritage, culture and language and with the talents, innovation and hard work of its people in industry and in the farming communities.

We recognise that policies in Wales will not always be the same as England but will differ for each distinctive part of the United Kingdom. That is our message of optimism and hope for Wales.

Nick Bourne and I will ensure that as we set out our manifesto for the Assembly Elections we will be carrying forward a vision set by David Cameron, and based on localism and social responsibility that will help Wales fulfil its potential through its assets and its people.

Peter Hain said that the next Assembly election will be a bare knuckle fight with the Conservatives.

Well he may fancy himself as Mr Punch but I'm no-one's Judy. Labour's miserable record in Wales is our opportunity.

We're going to win in Wales."

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