Speech to Welsh Conservatives Spring Conference 2004
"The Conservatives care about Wales.
We may not have agreed with the decision to form the National Assembly but we respected the referendum and it is because we want the best for the people of Wales that we have the most active, most talented and most successful group in Cardiff. I pay tribute to Nick Bourne and his team for all they are doing.
We have shown that we can adapt and move on, that by accepting devolution we can build our recovery in Wales and show that we are a Government in Waiting.
Today, just a short time after the Richard report we are discussing not the past but the future for Wales.
Naturally we favour a referendum before further powers are devolved although this is something that Labour seems to fear. What is wrong with trusting the people of Wales?
We are prepared to examine the key relationship between a future Conservative Government and possibly opposing a Labour/Lib Dem/Plaid Cymru Welsh Executive.
In the future the role of the Secretary of State for Wales will be far more important in resolving conflicts. That person should be the link between the two administrations.
This does not necessarily mean we would move away from the Labour Party's decision to give the Welsh Secretary an additional Cabinet role. But Peter Hain's title is just a subtitle on his business card.
The Conservative Party must send out clear signals of its willingness to work constructively with the Welsh Assembly.
The two must learn to work together. There are clearly issues in the respective powers which have not been answered.
We do not rule out changes to the Government of Wales Act to examine issues which are of shared concern.
However, there is no rush on these matters - there must be mature reflection in the light of experience.
We are going to consult and consider, with you through the Conservative policy forum.
The ink is barely dry on the last Government of Wales Act, yet already people are trying to change it.
There is also the issue of the West Lothian Question, which will not go away no matter how often the Labour party denies it.
In Scotland they are wrestling with it and we believe that a solution exists in English and Welsh only legislation as designated by the Speaker. This will allow Scottish MPs to debate but not vote on these bills.
The UK is founded on a partnership between the four nations. Each has its own separate culture and identity, but each is better off in a British nation, which is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.
Labour has created the current imbalance in our constitution. The next Conservative government will find a way to deal with this situation, which strengthens the Union.
We must also deal with the increase in Assembly Members and the reduction in Welsh MPs.
We cannot have one without the other and we regret the recommendation to increase from 60 to 80 the number of AMs at a cost of an extra £2 million.
What we really need is more AMs like Nick Bourne and fewer like Rhodri Morgan.
The people of Wales should not have to 'make do' with the worst health service in Western Europe.
With an 83% rise in waiting times despite a 40% increase in health spending over the last four years, over 10% of people in Wales are on a waiting list.13,857 people in Wales are waiting over 18 months for an inpatient or outpatient appointment.
The people of Wales deserve better than this. 96 administrative bodies and a 106% increase in department of health civil servants.
It is finally transparent that more regulations, more targets, more bureaucrats do not make for greater improvements.
The Conservative Party is the party of low tax and less regulation. Labour is the Party of taxing and spending, and failing.
They have a credit card chancellor spending today and taxing tomorrow. That is why people fear Labour's third term tax rises.
Labour's 66 stealth tax rises mean that we are paying £42 a week more in tax for every man, woman and child in the country.
The average council taxpayer in Wales has to pay £235 more than they did four years ago.
We must reach out to council taxpayers throughout Wales because we have a much better deal to offer them.
We believe high taxes make people feel low. Low taxes enable people to make their own decisions on how to spend or save their hard-earned income.
We want public spending to grow less quickly than the economy.
Wales must know that there is a simple choice,
Labour third term tax rises or a low tax Conservative government.
There has been a 200% increase in the number of asylum seekers accommodated by National Asylum Support Service in Wales since December 2001. In Cardiff there are 1235 asylum seekers supported in NASS accommodation.
The Governments failure to control our immigration system is a disaster for the genuine asylum seekers and those in fear for their lives. Only the Conservatives can restore confidence in the immigration system .
In 2002/3 overall Crime rose in Wales from 241,765 to 294,846 that is up by 21%.
Drugs currently cost the nation more than the government spends on education.
A Conservative government would reverse the Government's reclassification of cannabis from class B to class C. Drugs make lives hell, we won't be sending out the wrong message to our children.
We will make sure that the people of Wales feel safer; we have pledged a 30% increase in the number of police officers in Wales. That is 2199 additional officers. People can be assured that Conservatives will not sit back and let the criminals win.
Children are the future for Wales. Their education must be cherished and their potential fulfilled.
The Conservatives in Wales will give schools more power over pupil exclusions, and audit all higher education courses in Wales. The Conservatives will also emphasise vocational education for future generations.
We do not believe it is right to charge students top up fees and condemn them to tens of thousands of pounds of debts, discouraging those from modest backgrounds.
With the astronomical price of housing, on top of student debt, what future will the brightest Welsh students hope to have under Labour?
The Conservatives are the only credible united strength in Wales. All of us here have the same ambition, which is to improve the lives of those people in Wales who are suffering under this incompetent, deceitful Labour party from poor public services constrained by over-bureaucracy and over-regulation.
Unlike this Labour government who say one thing and do the opposite, these are not meaningless promises. We will deliver. We can be trusted.
Our policies and philosophy is one of common sense, of fairness and that which will bring greater opportunity, freedom and prosperity.
Wales is full of talented, hard-working able people who we believe should be free of government interference to achieve to the best of their abilities.
We have a renewed unity under the brilliant Leadership of Michael Howard. Born and brought up in Wales, we again have a leader with experience of senior Government office, with vision, with dynamism, who says and does the right thing and a leader that I for one am proud to follow.
No one can win by themselves and therefore I want to congratulate you for choosing such first-class candidates at every level.
And here they are, David Davies in Monmouth, Andrew Davies in Brecon and Radnorshire, David Jones in Clwyd West, Stephen Crabb in Preseli Pembrokeshire, David Morris in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Alun Cairns in the Vale of Glamorgan, Jonathon Morgan in Cardiff North, Guto Bebb in Conwy, Simon Baynes in Montgomeryshire, Michael Murray in Gower, Gotz Mohindra in Cardiff Central and Felicity Elphick in the Vale of Clwyd.
I know that you will support and fight for them so that we win seats at Westminster, in the European parliament, and on councils.
And finally and most important, we have you.
More Party members than Labour and the Liberal Democrats put together, and of far better quality too.
We are the largest party in local government. And now more than ever we are proud to be Conservatives.
Our challenge must be to translate these strengths into victory in Wales.
The local government and European elections on 10 June will be our platform to highlight the strength of the Conservative Party.
We have the candidates, we have the will-power, we have the leadership and policies to deliver real success, we have the passion and the ability and we have a Labour Party that is taxing, spending and failing.
We must not fail because there is nobody else between the people and Labour third term tax rises.
125 years ago another group of Welsh people faced a tremendous battle against a horde which vastly outnumbered them.
Like you, they refused to give in, like you they had tremendous courage and determination, and like you will, they triumphed!
I refer to the 145 brave soldiers at Rorkes Drift.
That day they won 8 Victoria crosses, we shall only win seats, they fought for their lives, and we too fight for better lives and a better future for the Welsh people.
The Labour hordes in Wales think that they cannot lose, but they are wrong!
The grip of Labour is loosening because the people of Wales are fed up with this untrustworthy Labour government.
There are only two options: Labour's third term tax rises and a government that thinks it knows best; or lower taxes with the Conservatives.
We know we have a battle on our hands, but like your very own forefathers, we will be victorious. It's in your blood.
We are back now and we will not be stopped. We will win these elections not for just you and me, not just for Michael but for the people of Wales."