Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Bourne: Conservatism – A new opportunity

Speech to the Conservative Policy Forum in Cardiff.

"Ladies and Gentlemen,

Diolch am y gwahoddiad i siarad yma heddiw.

Mae'n bleser mawr i siarad yn y gynhadledd yma.

The political map in Wales is changing.

The Welsh Conservative voice has been returned to Westminster ensuring that we are heard at UK level once more. We have three excellent Welsh Conservative MPs.

It is a tribute to the dedication and hard work of both the professional and voluntary wings of the party.

Six months on from our general election breakthrough we are in an upbeat mood.

We are all involved in the debate on the future direction of our party. Blackpool showed that Conservatives are serious about change. Labour is worried - and they should be. We have outstanding candidates and a depth of talent that makes the future look very exciting.

We have put in place the building blocks for greater success in the next Assembly election. We must use the momentum that we have created and move forward towards 2007.

In the Assembly it is my pleasure to lead what many political commentators have described as the most effective and talented group in the Assembly.

We are the only real opposition to Labour and each week we expose their failings.

We have forced them to look again at the Assembly's budget. They must now address the Higher Education funding gap; council tax relief; greater support for small schools and our railway network.

They have also had to back down on top up fees for Welsh students - thanks to a Welsh Conservative motion students in Wales will be saved from greater debt.

And Labour has finally agreed to the principle of walk-in centres in Wales to provide relief for our flagging NHS - again thanks to a Welsh Conservative motion.

It has to be said Labour are finding the process of listening to others extremely painful. They have had the monopoly in Wales for far too long. Now they are a minority government they are having to get used to the fact that they cannot automatically get their own way.

It is the Welsh Conservatives who are setting the agenda.

And we will give them an even greater headache in 2007.

We are set to make significant gains in the Assembly election and I look forward to more Welsh Conservative Assembly Members in little over a year's time.

There is a great deal for our party to be proud of.

We are completely outperforming the other political parties in Wales. Plaid is set on a course of self destruction - with a fight to push the button - the Lib Dems are busy being all things to all people and Labour has let the Welsh people down badly.

It is up to us to get the message across to the people of Wales that we are the true and viable alternative.

A new round of consultation has now begun. This consultation process gives every part of the party the opportunity to contribute. It is important that we consult and debate the issues that are important to the people of Wales in order to best address the concerns of the electorate.

A widespread consultation process was central to our success in 2003 and similarly, this project will directly influence our manifesto for the election in 2007. I want all party members to get involved.

We need policies in place for a winning Welsh Conservative government.

Wales is on a high from sporting success - it needs a government that can give it a similar boost.

The Welsh football team are back to good form and Welsh cricketers made an outstanding contribution to the Ashes victory. Our rugby team is basking in its glorious glam slam victory and is now preparing to do battle with the southern hemisphere sides visiting this autumn.

As we approach the autumn internationals series we have a real opportunity to once again to showcase Cardiff as the world class location for sporting events that it is.

As Welsh Conservatives, we need to showcase our policies.

While Labour is fumbling with the ball, Welsh Conservatives are waiting on the wing.

Our public services are in desperate need of fresh thinking - we are the party to breathe new life into them.

We have ensured that Welsh students escape top up fees. But we must do much more.

The government must honour the agreement to ensure that our universities remain competitive and do not suffer from a funding gap with English higher education institutions. Our commitment to closing the funding gap remains steadfast.

School funding problems, the burden of bureaucracy and truancy are making our teachers weary and demoralised. Welsh Conservatives are fighting for more funding to reach the frontline, with better support for teaching staff.

Providing nutritious meals for our young people at lunchtimes is a better starting point to help behavioural problems, than Labour's ill-thought-out, uncosted breakfast scheme.

Labour's approach to health strategy also needs a change in direction.

The Welsh health service is renowned - for all the wrong reasons.

Labour's abysmal handling of the NHS in Wales is no reflection on the work of our hardworking healthcare professionals. Without their dedication we would be facing complete meltdown.

The Government continues to struggle with waiting lists.

Despite government claims that the worst is over they are creeping up again. Last month showed the sixth increase in as many months. One in ten people are still on a hospital waiting list.

Limited capacity restricts our health service from providing patients with the treatment that they so urgently require. The fact that Welsh heart patients have to be transferred to Wolverhampton, though necessary, acutely highlights the sorry state of affairs in the NHS.

The answer is not to simply throw money at the system or to heap more and more tiers of bureaucracy on a weary NHS. Funding should be targeted at increasing capacity and enabling our professionals to provide the treatment necessary.

Walk in centres could add an additional frontline operation.

The binge drinking problems experienced by many Welsh towns and cities are also adding extra pressures on our NHS. It is cringing that Cardiff is among Britain's worst binge drinking cities. We are sadly familiar with Cardiff on our TV screens for this very reason, just when we should be promoting the city as an international centre of the highest calibre.

The difficulties faced by our emergency services every Friday and Saturday night in Cardiff city centre and elsewhere urgently needs to be brought under control for the sake of public health and public order.

The Government's liberalising of the licensing laws is a reckless response to the problems of binge drinking - it is naïve to think that 24 hour licensing will breed a continental drinking culture; instead they are in danger of exacerbating matters.

Labour's failures are not only limited to public services but also to the economic health of Wales.

It is clear that Labour has failed to breed the economic success Wales deserves. Wales is the poorest region of the UK. The GDP gap between Wales and the other regions continues to grow.

Economic regeneration must be a priority

Skilled jobs for a skilled workforce.

An attractive location for enterprise and stronger links between business and higher education resources must be encouraged.

Instead of developing our economy, the Government is more interested in downgrading their targets to goals. Of course their goals are then downgraded to aspirations - typical New Labour gobbledygook and typically letting Wales down.

A Winning Wales - their economic strategy - is being ditched in favour of a new strategy called WAVE. Which basically means the government waves goodbye to all its economic commitments.

Bringing the WDA in-house seriously jeopardises Wales' business expertise.

We now know that Peter Hain has serious disagreements with Rhodri Morgan's plans, urging the First Minister to "think long and hard" before scrapping the WDA brand. Not something that comes easily for a First Minister who more usually speaks first and then thinks later - if at all.

In this week in which we are commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar, it seems appropriate to point out that Labour's clear red water is looking rather bloody.

The sharks are beginning to circle around Rhodri Morgan's sinking ship.

The government is lurching from one botched job to another.

It makes you seriously question whether there is any strategy involved or if the First Minister is just firing orders in desperation.

Climate change demands serious policy decisions.

We must consider the options open to us with regard to renewable energy policy. But the response of the government smacks of government panic and a knee-jerk reaction to looming targets and quotas.

We are facing the prospect of hundreds of giant wind turbines splattered across some of Wales' most beautiful scenery.

We should be harnessing technologies that work within the context of our natural environment - not, as Labour is doing, striving to the utmost to destroy it.

The arrogance of Labour seems to have no limits - and is exemplified by their handling of the council tax re-banding.

Unacceptable council tax rises have already placed an intolerable burden on our communities. Re-valuation has added insult to injury, hitting households in every community in Wales.

Many more people have gone up a band than down. And despite promises, the process has not been revenue neutral - the council tax yield has risen significantly.

The government's U-turn in England is an acknowledgement of the explosive nature of this policy. The British people have had enough of Labour's stealth taxes. Blair won't touch Rhodri's revaluation with a disinfected bargepole and who can blame him.

We will continue to fight for relief for those who have been hardest hit by council tax revaluation.

I am also pleased to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring Welsh pensioners receive the council tax relief that they so urgently need.

Big on headlines and spin, Labour is strong on gimmicks and hopeless on delivery.

But the people of Wales are not looking for one hit wonders, they want the X-factor.

Welsh Conservatives have delivered on things that make a real difference.

Saving students from top up fees, ensuring that walk-in centres are established in Wales and fighting for relief for council tax payers.

There is much more we can do.

We have ideas and enthusiasm.

We have an exciting future ahead."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech