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Cairns: Centralisation or localism

To the Welsh Conservative Party conference in Llandudno.

"Thank you Mr Chairman for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address the conference and in particular to follow Professor Dylan Jones Evans.

There's no doubt that attracting Dylan to stand for the Conservative Party has been something of a coup.

He is recognised as one of Wales's foremost thinkers on entrepreneurship and when Dylan was selected in Aberconwy as our Assembly candidate, the press sat up, the business community nodded in approval and even other political parties recognised the contribution he will make to our Party and to politics in Wales.

The mere fact that he chose to join the Welsh Conservative Party demonstrates that as a Party we are back in business, attracting the best people; creating the opportunity to win here in Wales.

The Conservative Party is an exciting place to be. A great new leader, leading the change to win and a shadow chancellor that so easily demonstrates that Gordon Brown is yesterday's man in every sense of the phrase.

I mentioned that David Cameron is leading the changes to win and in doing so, the Party recognises that to win in the UK, we have to win in Wales - and the first step on the road to Downing Street, starts with next years Assembly elections.

No one area of policy is more important to succeeding than the economy. It funds public services and helps business create that competitive advantage to generate wealth for our communities.

12 months ago, I highlighted that Wales was one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom and that the Welsh Assembly Government were failing to achieve their own target of growing the economy to 90% of UK levels by 2010.

Now, it's not like Rhodri Morgan to agree with me but he has finally accepted that his prospects of achieving the 90% is nigh on impossible and he sought to drop the target subtly and quietly, in the hope that no-one would notice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our job to remind him - and the electorate of another broken promise.

But more importantly, since we last met, Wales has now become the poorest part of the UK.

The wealth gap between Wales and the rest of the country is at its widest since records began.

Even within Wales, the divergence between the less prosperous West Wales and the Valleys and Eastern parts has deteriorated further.

After 9 years in Westminster and 7 years in Cardiff Bay and in spite of the people they claim to stand up for, the poorest have become poorer.

In responding to my quoting the facts of the widest wealth gap between Wales and England some weeks ago, Rhodri Morgan said that I haven't got a positive bone in my body.

Well, I positively believe that he has presided over the greatest decline in manufacturing output.

I positively believe that he has become an embarrassment to Wales, so positively demonstrated on Question time some weeks ago and how positive and proud I felt of the new Secretary of State, Cheryl Gillan when she, not him represented us on same programme.

And I positively believe that the changes David Cameron is bringing about will deliver the platform for us to succeed with our positive agenda.

Devolution offers us the opportunity to create that positive advantage that business needs in Wales.

The opportunity to give Welsh business the edge to compete in a global market.

At a time when the rest of the World is strengthening their local decision making, to meet their local business agenda, to give local ownership to social and business issues, Rhodri Morgan chooses to centralise policy and implementation - the abolition of the WDA and the Wales Tourist Board are obvious examples where policy will be centralised and buried in the corridors of Cathays Park in Cardiff.

In place of boards of leading businessmen and women taking decisions and driving strategy with local knowledge and local understanding, the centralised power levers will now be handed to the dynamic, thrusting, visionary Civil Servants.

But what does that mean to the local businesses based in Barry, Barmouth or Bodelwyddan. Well it's quite simple:

It is now Assembly government policy to regard policy as the responsibility of Ministers, and administration as the responsibility of officials.

The questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

So it's as simple as that. Their great new business vision. Are we all clear? Clear, Civil Service, Sir Humphrey speak in place of businessmen with experience of what really creates that competitive advantage.

Centralisation in place of localism. Reducing the power of local councils and the input from of local businesses.

They claim to promote devolution but chose to centralise all services in Cardiff.

They claim to support local government but direct policy from their inner cabal.

They claim to share the concerns of business but have cut out private sector input to policy development and delivery.

They oppose nuclear power but change their mind when Anglesey Aluminium says it will have to close without Wylfa.

How can any business plan with such inconsistent policy?

Is there a wonder with such inconsistency and centralisation that we are the poorest part of the United Kingdom?

This has become the hallmark of their administration.

That is why the people of Wales are looking for a better way.

For a Government that will use devolution to deliver a truly local agenda, not to centralise power in Cardiff.

For a government that can offer hope; and opportunity and decision making to families to make a better life for themselves and their communities.

Over the last 12 months alone, unemployment has risen, Labour have delivered the widest wealth gap, manufacturing productivity has fallen further, the numbers of government officials have ballooned leaving our communities continue to struggle.

Labour's failure is our opportunity to reconnect with business who want stability to create that competitive advantage with the young, who want the prospect of quality employment; with parents, who want a stable economy to finance a better education for their children, with patients who want a prompt and an efficient NHS, with public service workers, who want to see that their efforts are making a difference locally; and with pensioners, who want know that they can afford to heat their homes, pay their local Council Tax bills and not worry about living off their fixed incomes.

Wales needs and demands Conservative Values; trusting people, sharing responsibility and taking decisions to improve the quality of life, locally."

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