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Nick Bourne: Short-termism has damaged the Welsh economy

It's great to be back in Llandudno, and to see you all here today.

A few weeks ago at Conference I noted how after our terrific showing in June's European elections it was possible to travel from Cardiff to Manchester without leaving Conservative territory in Wales.

I know we all want to repeat that feat and gain as many seats as possible in the General Election.

And I want that route to extend here to Aberconwy!

To see Guto Bebb take a much-deserved seat in the Commons.

Guto works tirelessly for the party and for local residents. Aberconwy would be in the best possible hands with him.

Just as Anglesey will be with Trefor Jones.

So could I take this opportunity to wish them both well and pledge our full support to their campaigns - and the campaigns of all our brilliant PPCs.

We're not complacent, but we hope they'll soon be led by a superb Secretary of State - and it's great to see Cheryl here today.

<h2>Recession</h2>

Wales needs as many Conservative MPs as possible.

Because only the Conservative Party can bring about the change Wales and Britain so badly needs.

Labour's economic recession has been crippling.

And make no bones about it. Under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, the British economy is in a terrible state.

The doubling of our national debt.

Nearly 2,000 jobs being lost every day.

One in five young people unable to find work.

<h2>Recession in Wales</h2>

Yet Labour's recession has hit Wales even harder.

Consider the latest unemployment figures.

130,000 people are now out of work - more than 6 times the population of Llandudno.

The highest unemployment rate of any UK nation.

The highest rise in unemployment of any UK nation or region.

Which cast 24,000 people onto the scrap heap in the three months to August alone.

So that 1 out of every 4 jobs lost in the United Kingdom in the last quarter was lost in Wales - despite us having only 4% of the UK population.

These figures make a mockery of Ieuan Wyn Jones' claim to have intervened to make the "the crisis as short and shallow as possible."

They show Rhodri Morgan's boast that the Welsh economy was showing "encouraging signs of resilience" to be dangerously complacent.

That they came at the same time as Bank of England Governor Mervyn Jones warned of a "highly uncertain" recovery shows just how complacent they were.

Only David Cameron and George Osborne have been honest with the British public about the state of the mess that we're in.

Their courage and convictions show they're fully ready to take on the challenge of bringing about the change in direction that this country needs.

Labour and Plaid have failed to take the difficult decisions
But it's not just in terms of forecasting that Labour and Plaid have got it so badly wrong.

Labour and Plaid have made this recession worse because they avoided taking difficult decisions that could have given real help to businesses and families when they needed it most.

<h2>Business rates</h2>

In March this year Welsh Conservatives unveiled proposals for a comprehensive and costed scheme of business rate relief.

Which would have directly helped up to 90,000 of our smallest firms.

In Scotland, unemployment is 2 percentage points lower than in Wales.

It is probably no coincidence that our Celtic cousins - supported by the Scottish Conservatives - implemented a generous business rates scheme a long time ago.

Despite soaring unemployment, and the sharpest rise in unemployment of any nation or region, Labour and Plaid don't want to help the 99% of businesses in Wales who employ less than 250 people.

<h2>Manufacturing Strategy</h2>

In March, Conservatives also led calls for the introduction of a Manufacturing Strategy.

A plan to give clear direction and a sense of purpose to a sector on which hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods rely.

The UK Government released its own strategy for England a year ago.

Yet despite the steady loss of manufacturing jobs in Wales, and the closure of well-known, cherished manufacturing companies from our towns and cities, Labour and Plaid haven't felt it necessary to help one of our most vital industries.

As CBI Wales' David Rosser says: "By taking a more strategic approach to industrial policy [WAG] have the opportunity to influence whether we will end up pouring the concrete, or be at the start of an industrial transformation."

Labour and Plaid have avoided that approach.

<h2>ProAct</h2>

Instead, this Assembly Government has put all its eggs in one basket.

I want to be clear: Welsh Conservatives support ProAct.

But so far it hasn't helped a single company in Aberconwy.

It hasn't helped the 8,000 small businesses that have asked the UK Treasury to defer their payments.

And it hasn't stemmed the devastating tide of job losses and factory closures that we continue to see in towns and cities across Wales.

In Denbighshire, Milk Link is to switch its cheese-making process to Shropshire, which could result in the loss of 93 jobs.

Indesit closed its factory doors in Bodelwyddan in July, which saw the loss of 302 jobs to Poland.

270 posts are at risk at F Bender and Anglia Homeserve.

And Wrexham's Air Products will shortly move its manufacturing facility to China, at the expense of 200 jobs.

It's clear for all to see.

Labour and Plaid have simply not made Wales an attractive place in which to do business.

And while welcome in the short term, ProAct won't provide the stable footing that will allow Welsh companies to push on and prosper in the long term.

As an influential EU agency says: "Some evidence suggests that short-time work does not prevent dismissals in the long run but rather postpones redundancies in times of severe economic difficulties."

Which means we simply have to do more - if we are to strangle unemployment and build for a more prosperous and sustainable economy for Wales.

<h2>Labour and Plaid haven't the courage to reform</h2>

The Assembly Government argues a proper scheme for business rates is "not the best use of limited resources."

It says "the choice" is between that and ProAct. "We cannot do both."

On the manufacturing strategy, Rhodri Morgan said the Economic Development department was dealing with transport, and manufacturing would have to wait!

But I ask you: when ProAct is funded largely from European Structural Funds - and not WAG - is there really a 'choice' to be made?

And can a department with a £54 million staff - the second-biggest of any department in WAG - really only handle one project at a time?

Labour and Plaid have got the resources.

They've got the funds.

But they haven't got the courage to properly reform the Welsh economy.

We've seen promise after promise fall by the wayside.

<h2>Ieuan's false dawn</h2>

I've spoken previously of the profound disappointment at Plaid Cymru's u-turn on business rates.

Pre-election, Ieuan Wyn Jones said that for businesses rate relief is the difference "between success and failure."

Post-election, they're suddenly no longer in vogue.

I've spoken as well on Plaid's false promises on laptops.

Pre-election: one for every child.

Post-election, the laptops swept underneath the Ministerial red carpet.

Ieuan Wyn Jones spoke of "a new approach" to R&D in 2007.

Two years later we're promised much of the same.

He talked of an "enhanced role for universities", and repeated that last month.

So when the Deputy First Minister talks now of ending Wales' grant culture, it is only fair to ask:

Is this a promise?

Or more false promise from Plaid?

Is this a principle?

Or something to be ditched in practice later on?

Labour and Plaid have ducked the difficult decisions, and dithered over the reform our country so desperately needs.

<h2>Labour and Plaid don't understand the north</h2>

And nowhere has their legacy of false promises had such a damaging effect than here in the north.

Here, where we saw Anglesey Aluminium's call for help heeded too late.

Here, where communities continue to see their local schools disappear at an ever-increasing pace.

And here, where the construction of a prison was pulled at the last minute, and along with it the chance of 700 jobs.

Labour and Plaid don't understand the north.

But the Welsh Conservatives won't let you down.

<h2>Welsh Conservatives fighting for North Wales</h2>

In 2007, when Edwina Hart threatened to send neurology patients on a 5 hour trip south for care, instead of allowing them to continue to go to Liverpool's respected Walton Centre, Welsh Conservatives opposed it, stood by patients in the North and forced a rethink.

Last year, when the gates were slammed shut on more and more of our rural schools, Welsh Conservatives opposed it, stood by pupils in the North and called a debate to make our views known.

As pubs continue to close up and down Wales, we have opposed this, and will continue to campaign.

The fight doesn't end there.

So today, as Labour and Plaid consider what went wrong with Anglesey Aluminium, I can pledge our support in the Welsh Conservative Party for Wylfa B, as part of a new energy mix.

As Labour and Plaid prepare to hike business rates by as much as 30% in next year's revaluation, which will see businesses on Llandudno's Mostyn Street hit with a combined rise of more than half a million pounds, I can give an assurance that Welsh Conservatives will fight this extra burden on businesses, and fight to see this burden postponed.

And as Labour and Plaid consider saddling our local authorities with settlement increases as low as 1% - in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Powys and Conwy for example - I can assure you that Welsh Conservatives will fight on behalf of councils during the consultation for a better return.

As Dyfed Edwards, leader of Gwynedd Council, admits "this [settlement] will have an adverse effect on services because of the size of the deficit we face in our budget."

Dyfed and other local government leaders should know that they have a dedicated voice and champion in the Assembly with Darren Millar.

Darren, Mark Isherwood and Brynle Williams fight tirelessly for the interests of patients, pupils and businesses in the north, and I would like to pay tribute to their work today.

Along with David Jones, they make a crucial contribution to the political landscape in North Wales and ensure that the north will always be fully represented with the Conservative Party.

Just as every part of Wales has a home in our party.

<h2>Conclusion</h2>

Labour's recession has been devastating for Wales.

With more jobs lost here as a proportion than anywhere else in the last three months.

45,000 lost in just one year.

But Labour and Plaid have made things worse.

Their failure to chart a course for our manufacturing sector has put jobs and livelihoods at risk, as we continue to see factories close and jobs lost abroad.

Their false promises on business rates have put further jobs on the line, when businesses are crying out for a helping hand.

Now they'll face an even greater burden with a surge in rates next year.

The General Election cannot come soon enough.

In Wales, it's time for change.

So that families and businesses can get the help that they need."

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