It's great to be back in Wales. It's four years since I first addressed this conference. Back then we were just a footnote in Welsh politics. And just look at what we've done since then.
We've won council seats in Denbighshire, in Powys, in Pembrokeshire. We're running councils in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan.
We've got over sixty more councillors in cities, towns and villages and even in Labour's heartland, and yes, even deep in the valleys, even in the Rhonda let's not forget Joel James - he may be the only Conservative in the village but were proud of the progress we've made.
And four years ago, who would have thought that the Conservative Party could top the poll in Wales beating Labour for the first time since the First World War, like we did in last year's European elections? Forget 'how green was my valley' it should be 'how blue is my valley' because the great dragon of Welsh Conservatism has awoken once more. So I want to thank you for everything you've done. And I especially want to thank Cheryl and Nick. You have dedicated yourselves to our revival in Wales. You have led our campaigns from the front. And you should both feel incredibly proud of what you have achieved.
<h2>FIVE MORE YEARS</h2>
Yes, you've all been working hard. But today I'm here to ask you to double your efforts. That general election is just over sixty days away. This isn't an election that it would be quite nice to win. It is an election it is absolutely essential we win because our country is in a complete mess and we have to turn it around. Everyone knows five more years of Gordon Brown would be a disaster for this country. Another five years of his spending, bloat, waste, debt and taxes. Another five years of failing to get to grips with our big social problems. Another five years in our politics of that big, top-down, bossy "I know best" sort of approach.
That's why the choice at the next election is as simple as this: Five more years of Gordon Brown's tired government making things worse or change with the Conservatives, who have the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving again. Change in our economy, backing aspiration and opportunity and aspiration for all. Change in our society, encouraging responsibility and backing those who do the right thing. And change in our politics, giving people more power and control over their lives
<h2>THE CHOICE IN WALES</h2>
And Wales needs that change as much as anywhere else in Britain. In fact, I'd argue it needs it even more. Do you know what Peter Hain said last month? He said "compared with Rwanda...Wales is indeed still a wealthy country". Now, I've been to Rwanda and it's a beautiful place. And I'm proud that Conservative Party volunteers have been there to help out in social action projects.
But what does it say about this Government - and these Ministers - when they compare Wales to the 17th poorest country on the planet? What does it say about this Government - and these Ministers - when the scale of their ambitions for Wales do not seem to go beyond a country that in the last twenty years has been ravaged by war and genocide? What does it say about this Government - and these Ministers - when they think the Welsh should put up with this and just be thankful for what they get?
I tell you what it says. It says this Government is arrogant, out-of-touch and has completely lost any right to govern. So at this election, I want you to show your real passion and anger at how Labour have let down Wales. Because there is a simple fact about what's happened here in the past decade. There's not just a border separating Wales and the rest of the UK - there's a prosperity gap. And under Labour it's got deeper and wider. This is the poorest nation on these islands. It has the highest rates of unemployment and the highest rates of child poverty. There is only one word for what Labour have done in Wales this last decade: failure and I don't want you to let anyone forget it. But more than that, I want you to tell the people of this great country that it doesn't have to be like this. Explain to them the real difference between Labour's approach and the Conservative way.
Take the economy. Labour think you get the economy moving by opening up the big government toolbox, pulling out the old tools like regional development agencies and new initiatives and trying to crank it to life from on high. We understand that in the end it's not government that will get the Welsh economy growing it's enterprise, it's entrepreneurs, people with a great idea and the courage to start their own business. That's why we'll cut corporation tax rates, abolish taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses and get people off welfare and into work.
And look at our different approach to our biggest social problems. Labour say we're wrong to talk about mending our broken society. But when there are towns in Wales where one in five of the working age population live on benefits when one in ten are on some type of incapacity benefit when there are 140 violent crimes a day in this country when about 500 people in Wales die each year from alcohol when so many children are deprived the structure of stable family life how can you pretend our society doesn't need mending? We need a government that's going to face up to the facts, roll up their sleeves and get on with the job. That's exactly what we'll do. It's our ambition to make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe, by recognising marriage in the tax system, supporting couples in the benefits system and fighting back against crime.
And there is a massive difference in the way Labour and the Conservatives see our politics. Labour see a system that is fundamentally sound but just needs a bit of tinkering to sort out the expenses scandal. We see a top-down, bossy, power-hoarding, unaccountable relic that needs to be re-built from the bottom up. Yes, we'll sort out expenses - and we've been leading the way on that - but we need to go much further.We will give everyone in Wales a sense that they are in control of their own destiny. That's why we'll reduce the number of MPs, cut Whitehall bureaucracy by a third and make our politics more local, more transparent and more accountable.
That's the difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Inaction vs action. Defeat vs optimism. Despair for Wales vs hope for Wales. There's no iron law that says Labour must win in Wales. So at this election, I want you to get out there and fight, fight for our party and fight for the change we want bring above all, fight for Wales and fight for the future of Britain.
But let me say this, whatever the outcome in Wales at the next election, we want a relationship of co-operation, not confrontation, between Westminster and Cardiff. I will be a Prime Minister who acts on the voice of the Welsh people and will maintain strong relationships with the Assembly Government. That's why I'm happy to come to the Assembly each year and make myself available to answer questions on any subject. It's why I want Westminster Ministers appearing in front of Assembly committees - and Assembly Ministers appearing in front of Westminster committees. And it's why I will always support devolution and make sure it works for the benefit of everyone. And if people in Wales want a referendum on full law-making powers that is a matter for them - so a Conservative Government will not block it. But let's resolve right here and right now that we will be the ones who stop the endless round of arguments that too often block progress in Wales - and start working together to build this country's future.
<h2>THE BIG QUESTION IN POLITICS</h2>
But today I don't just want to talk to you about how we can secure the future of Wales, I want to set out how we can secure the future of the United Kingdom itself. The greatest task of all will be getting to grips with the monster budget deficit that Labour have created. I think people know by now that the Conservatives are the ones with the grit and the guts to cut public spending to cut the deficit. We've been upfront that there will have to be cuts, upfront about where they will come and upfront that they will have to start straightaway. And people say 'yes, we agree with the Conservatives when they say they want to cut the deficit.' But when we also talk about our big ambitions to reform schools, shake-up welfare, help the poorest in society, they can sometimes think: "hang on a minute, how are you going to make this country better at the same time as dealing with these massive debts?" They're right to ask - because their question goes to the heart of the big argument in British politics today.
At the last few elections, according to Labour the big question in politics was: "who do you trust to spend some more of your money?" That was Gordon Brown's question. Well I've a message for you, Gordon: it's over. There isn't any money left. You've spent it all. No, the question today is this: "how do we make things better without just spending money?" This is the question that will define British politics for the years to come and today, I want to show you how it's only the modern Conservative Party that has the answers.
<h2>BIG SPENDING FAILS</h2>
We've always known that you don't improve things by just spending more money on them. For years now at Prime Minister's Questions I've faced Gordon Brown - and Tony Blair before him - droning on about resources going up, spending going up, investment going up...all to cheers from the Labour benches. They were always less forthcoming about what that money had actually bought. Social mobility, Stagnant. Inequality, rising. Hundreds of thousands more living in severe poverty. They thought it was all about money. It wasn't. And no there is no money left there is nothing left to say. Labour never understand that it's not the numbers on the government cheque that count but the number of people who are lifted out of poverty; who get a chance in life; who get helped or cured or taught or given the opportunity to live their dream .... that's what it's about.
<h2>MORE FOR LESS</h2>
So after all this waste, all this failure and now all this debt, it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party, to restore hope in all those Labour have let down. Showing government can be smarter, better, more imaginative and more competent. Explaining how we can make things better without just spending money, how we can deliver more for less. More for less is not some pie-in-the-sky political promise. It's something that businesses up and down the country do day-in, day-out. They think: how can I deliver more for my customers while reducing my costs? Imagine if they took the Labour approach, believing that every reduction in spending and costs was automatically a calamity for their customers.
Think of the advertising. Good food costs more at Sainsburys. Not "Every little helps" from Tesco, but "Every little Hurts". Businesses are constantly looking for creative ways to get more bang for their buck. Reforming work practices. Buying wholesale when they can. Eradicating duplication. Innovating new delivery systems. Cutting out waste. We need to bring that business sense and imagination to government.
Let me make clear: we are not offering a simple efficiency drive. We're not promising that the path to less spending and better public services is paved with just a few well-chosen cuts. What we propose is something entirely different - something so bold and radical I would call it a whole new type of government. Where it spends money, how it spends money, the way it spends money - that's all got to change. We're going to shape government in a way it has never existed before so we use our instincts as Conservatives, our understanding of how people and communities really work and the latest technology to deliver more for less.
And this means doing three things in particular: First, tackling the root causes of our social problems so that we can make millions of lives better while at the same time reducing the costs on the state. Second, reforming our public services so we deliver both choice and efficiency. And third, making government more local and more transparent so we cut waste as well as improve outcomes. Let me take each in turn.
<h2>REDUCING THE DEMANDS ON THE STATE</h2>
First, reducing the long-term demands on the state. In plain English that means asking the obvious question: why is public spending so high in the first place? We spend so much on prisons because there is too much crime. We spend so much on welfare because there are too many people not properly equipped for work. We spend so much on health because our lifestyles are so unhealthy. We need to rewind and ask: what are the causes of these things? Do you know how much social breakdown costs our country each year? Over £100 billion. That's one and a half thousand pounds for every person in our country. That money gets spent on the family that's broken, the man who's never known what it is to work, the child who's growing up in desperate circumstances, the communities who live in fear of violence and crime and it passes through our education system, our healthcare system, our criminal justice system, our care system, our welfare system.
Now just imagine if we got to grips with our social problems - gave everyone the hope that comes with work; every child the chance that comes with love; every community the purpose that comes with security. We would make life so much better for so many people. And we'd also massively reduce the bills for government. In other words, delivering more for less. The question is: how do we do that?
And here, there's a real difference between our approach and Labour's approach. Labour's approach is just to treat the symptoms of our big social problems by spending more money. For example, when it comes to poverty they think a tax credit here or a benefit change there will make all the difference. But all this does is keep people stuck in poverty while at the same time leaving the state with an ongoing role. Our approach is to tackle the root causes of poverty, like welfare dependency, addiction, debt, poor schooling and above all, family breakdown, so the state is no longer so dominant. That's why we have put such focus on school reform, welfare reform and strengthening families, giving people the chance to lift themselves up and out of poverty, breaking the cycles that have existed for generations, and being the ones who will make British poverty history.
<h2>PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM</h2>
The second way we can deliver more for less is through reform of our public services. In 2001 Gordon Brown said "there is not going to be one penny more until we get the changes" we need to reform our public services. But there's been trillions of pennies since then - and where's the reform? It was blocked. By guess who? Gordon Brown.
He now poses as the champion of public service reform. The truth is that he is to reforming public services what Nero was to fire safety or Tiger Woods to marital fidelity. Speak to doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and they'll tell you what a nightmare it is working in Labour's bureaucratic state machine. They start out idealistic, they go into their training because they have a vocation, they have a love for what they do but that passion is being killed. It's death by a thousand tick boxes, targets, performance indicators, inspection regimes. They're left feeling demoralised, disrespected, disillusioned. Most of all they're pulling their hair out because they see all that money being wasted and they know that it could be spent so much better. That's why our reforms will all led by this common, clear Conservative principle: Public services work better when they're driven from the bottom-up, by people on the frontline. So we're going to take apart the centralised apparatus of command and control and we're going to give that power to people who work in our public services - even going as far as giving them the chance to take complete ownership of the organisation they work for in.
We'll also smash open the state monopoly and open the door to charities and private companies who can play a part in the public sector. And we'll pay them all by the results they achieve. To those who say 'you can't do that', I say 'of course we can - and of course we must.' Our reforms will unleash a new culture of public sector innovation, giving higher morale, better results, lower costs and - you've got it - more for less.
All these changes will have a profound impact on how much government spends. But the truth is it may take years to feel many of the benefits - and we can't afford to wait that long. We need to start getting more for less from day one. So there is a third component to our plans - cutting out waste. Labour's spendaholic culture needs no introduction. This is the Government that has elevated money-burning to an art form. We've all got our own ridiculous Labour waste story.
Since 2003, this Government have paid out £10 million in tax credits - to people who are actually dead. Then there's an agency of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills - they spent, and I promise this is true, £12,000 on branded golf balls. Or how about the Department for International Development? They spent £240,000 on Brazilian dancing in London. Here in Wales you had the huge upheaval of 22 health boards, launched to a great fanfare and scrapped just six years later.
And of course, no list of Labour waste can be complete without Ed Balls. You don't suffer his rule in Wales, but your taxes pay for it, so let me share this with you. His Department for Children, Schools and Families reportedly spent £3 million on lavish new offices - which included a massage room and 'contemplation suite'. While we're on that department, I found my own story this week. Flicking through the Guardian I saw an advert they'd placed taking up a third of a page of prime-time space. Sadly they weren't advertising for a new Secretary of State. They were asking people - and let me quote this accurately - 'to put questions to the National Strategies about primary children's writing.' Leave aside the question of how you put a question to a strategy; just think of the bureaucratic carnival of waste behind an ad like this. A group of civil servants emerge, presumably from the 'contemplation suite' with a novel idea. They want to set up a taskforce for primary reading. The taskforce books a weekend away to devise a strategy. The strategy needs further thought so they hire consultants. Then there's the branding. The auditing. The monitoring. The strategy needs to be legally reviewed, peer reviewed, benchmarked, mentored and mainstreamed but not before there's an allocation resources impact assessment.Then they call the communications department to create a website, design an ad and get it placed.
I could have saved them all that bother and all that money. Writing is about the imagination. What you need is some great teachers, some good books, some pencils and some paper. Is that really too difficult? Now of course, the golf balls, the dancers, the lavish offices, the advertising campaigns - these are just the small examples of waste under Labour. There have been monumental ones too. The £4.5 billion spent - each year - on NHS bureaucracy. That's more than we spend on maternity and reproductive health. The £3 billion lost in benefit fraud and error. That's more than we spend on winter fuel payments. Every pound Labour waste is a pound that should be spent on keeping us safe, educating our children, improving our hospitals. That's why their spendaholic culture isn't a diverting amusement or a mild irritation - it is a complete outrage and we will obliterate it.
I know there are those who will hear us talking about cut waste and say "you'll be no different, you'll have your pet projects, you'll go native when you start living in the land of bureaucrats". So let me explain why we'll be different. We'll be different because we are different. First, our attitude is different. Conservatives loathe waste. Efficiency is in our DNA. We never forget that fundamental fact about public money, which is that it's public, it's yours, not ours. It doesn't undergo some magical transformation at the Treasury to become government money. Those are the same pounds that were earned by you on the factory floor, on the hospital ward, in the office and we will never forget that we have a moral duty not to spend your money but to save it where we can.
Second, our philosophy is different. We don't believe in top-down control; we believe in local control. We don't believe in taking power; we believe in giving it away. And this will have a massive impact on our quest to cut out waste and deliver more for less. It's not just that a pound spent closer is a pound spent wiser - by those who really know the needs of a local community. It's also that a pound spent closer is a pound spent more efficiently - by those who have an interest in keeping costs down.
And third, our approach is different. I don't think people get quite how radical we propose to be. The next Conservative government will be the first genuinely post-bureaucratic government in the world. We will ditch all the wasteful, costly, old-world bureaucratic methods and instead use post-bureaucratic tools. And when it comes to cutting waste, nothing is more important to this agenda than transparency. We're going to publish every item of government spending over £25,000 online. And we're going to publish every government contract worth over £25,000 in full - every clause, every performance measure, every penalty trigger - too.
Think what this simple act of throwing things open will mean. It will mean an army of 'armchair auditors' will be crawling all over the books, scrutinising them and acting as a straitjacket on wasteful spending. It will mean the Minister who lazily signs off a monster contract without checking if he could get it cheaper will be caught out and will have to answer for their actions. It will mean that businesses and social enterprises can compete to offer better government services for less money. I defy anyone to call our plans of changing the way government works timid. They are bold - and they will make a massive difference. And they are why we can look the British people in the eye and say a Tory pound will go further than a Labour pound...that good government costs less with the Conservatives.
We know what we're fighting for. When you're out there on the doorstep, when you're writing a leaflet at 2am, when you're pounding the streets for hours I want you to keep two pictures of Wales in your mind.
First, an image of Wales under Labour. Limping on with high unemployment, increasing child poverty and a government who puts this country in the same bracket as a developing nation. Then alongside that, a vision of Wales with a Conservative government. It would be a more confident Wales, with public spending under control and the deficit being cut. A more prosperous Wales, with enterprise unleashed and jobs created. And a more family-friendly Wales, with marriage recognised in the tax system and parents given more time with their children.
These two visions of Wales are so far apart, but they come together in the polling booth with the real choice that people have at this election. It's our job to keep explaining that choice for the next sixty days. Yes, we have a fight on our hands, but believe me - the Wales that would emerge from our victory - a confident, prosperous, family friendly Wales - will be worth it. So let's get out there and win it.