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Hague: Conservatives can win in Wales

In a speech to a press conference in Cardiff this afternoon, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the Conservative Party:

"It is a great pleasure for me to be back among friends in Wales, a part of the United Kingdom for which I have the greatest possible affection and which for me will always be a particularly special place.

"I have never been in any doubt about the potential, the talents, the creativity and the enterprise of the people of Wales. When I was Secretary of State I saw all of those qualities in abundance. Now I see them every day at home.

"My ambitions for Wales know no limits. But I also have a great fear for Wales. It is the fear that in four years time the people of Wales will find themselves living in a country in which taxes are even higher, competitiveness has been weakened, crime on our streets is out of control, public services are in permanent decline and more of our independence has been surrendered to Brussels.

"And the tragedy is that all of these things will have happened not because the British people consented to them, or even desired them, but simply because they didn't think they could do anything about them.

"Well the people of Wales can do something about them.

"They don't have to live with Labour's broken promises that in Wales have led to rising violent crime, bigger secondary class sizes, longer hospital waiting lists and the largest peacetime tax increases in history.

"They don't have to live with a Labour Government that has presided over the decimation of manufacturing in Wales, that has allowed the devastation of Welsh agriculture and brought the Welsh rural economy to its knees.

"They don't have to live with the arrogance of Labour and Liberal politicians who are spending up to £47 million on the new Assembly building in Wales - a monument to their own vanity that nobody in Wales wants.

"They don't have to live with any of these things, because the people of Wales have a choice. And it is that clear choice that we set out in the Conservative Manifesto for Wales that I am launching this morning.

"It is a Manifesto for the next phase of the Conservative revival in Wales. A revival that has been led by people like Nigel Evans, who is in charge of our campaign in Wales at this Election, Nick Bourne, who leads our excellent team in the Assembly and Jonathan Evans, standing up for Welsh interests in Europe. A revival that will put Welsh Conservatives back in Westminster and the Conservative Party back in Government.

"This Manifesto contains the most ambitious Conservative programme for Britain in a generation.

"It is based on Conservative values and principles that are shared by the great mainstream majority of people throughout Wales and the whole of the United Kingdom.

"It sets out the Conservative vision of a country in which people are free to live their own lives, where we build the responsible society and a country where we know who we are, rather than a country where more of what people earn is taken away, which encourages dependency on the state and where we have given up on governing ourselves.

"It is a Manifesto that is rooted in the common sense of the Welsh people.

"And it is time for common sense in Wales.

"It's time for a Conservative Government that will cut taxes. And that includes the most unfair, indiscriminate and hated stealth tax of all - petrol tax. It's a tax that hits the old, the worse off and people living in rural parts of Wales the hardest, people for whom the car is not a luxury but a necessity.

"So in our first Budget we will cut fuel duty by 6p a litre, or 27p a gallon.

"The next Conservative Government will cut taxes for families, for savers, for pensioners and for businesses - all the people who have borne the brunt of Gordon Brown's stealth taxes.

"Welsh Conservatives will campaign to set our public servants free so that they can get on with the jobs they were trained to do.

"We will set Welsh schools free from red tape and bureaucracy and allow the National Assembly to provide funding directly to schools.

"We will ensure that teachers in Wales are free to teach rather than spending their time filling in endless forms or carrying out diktats dreamed up in London or the National Assembly. And in consultation with the Assembly we will abolish nonsensical rules that make it difficult for Head to exclude disruptive pupils.

Conservatives in Wales will work with the National Assembly so that doctors and nurses in Wales can treat patients according to their medical needs, without interference from politicians.

"Our police should be free to get on with the job of catching criminals, instead of being held back by political correctness. And when those criminals are caught they should be made to serve the sentence handed down in court and not be let back onto the streets under Labour's early release scheme.

"The next Conservative Government will build a responsible society that supports marriage and the family and gives pensioners the respect that they deserve.

And the next Conservative Government will value those things that make us who we are. The things that define us as a nation.

"That means getting the right balance between town and country by stopping the erosion of our green fields. It also means standing up for farmers and the countryside so that the Welsh rural economy can become viable again.

"Conservatives believe in Wales and believe in the United Kingdom.

"Conservatives accepted the decision - albeit by the narrowest of margins - of the people of Wales to vote for a National Assembly. Our priority today is to work for an Assembly that delivers for all the people. But that is not happening under the cynical and unprincipled Labour-Liberal Coalition that is failing the people of Wales today.

"That is why our Manifesto for Wales makes clear that, as a matter of urgency, the next Conservative Government will establish an independent commission to conduct an inquiry into the workings of the National Assembly. It will look at all the functions of the Assembly and make recommendations as to how the body can better deliver for all the people of Wales.

"At the same time we will ensure that Wales maintains its strong voice within the British Cabinet. Even after devolution that is something that is essential if the distinctive needs of Wales are to be properly recognised.

"So the next Conservative Government will preserve the office of Secretary of State for Wales.

"Conservatives will build a strong Wales in a strong United Kingdom. We will restore Britain's self-belief as a nation.

"We will stop the steady erosion of our sovereignty and the transfer of more of our powers to Brussels.

"We will halt onward march of a European Superstate.

"And at this Election the Conservatives are the only party committed to keeping the pound.

"On 7 June the choice for Wales could not be clearer.

"Between Labour who trusts the Government above the people or Conservatives who trust the people above the Government.

"Between Labour who believe in spin and political correctness or Conservatives who believe in plain speaking and common sense.

"If the people of Wales want a Government that will cut their taxes.

"That will unleash a war against crime.

"Strengthen the United Kingdom and Wales's place in it.

"And will be in Europe not run by Europe.

"Then it's time for the Conservatives.

"It's time for common sense."

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