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DAVIES ANDREW RTAndrew
RT Davies is Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly.  Follow Andrew on Twitter.

Welsh
Conservatives are today gathering in Swansea for the Welsh party conference, a
city where things are happening.

The
recent electrification announcement was the biggest rail infrastructure
investment in Wales in  150 years. Journey times to London’s Paddington
Station will be cut by over 20 minutes and South Wales and the Valleys will
have investment fit for the 21st Century. A superb achievement by
colleagues in Westminster.

Swansea
is also a city in sporting celebration. Just a few weeks ago, Swansea City won
the League Cup and continue to play in the highest league in the world. But
as the party gathers in Swansea’s Liberty Stadium – the first party ever to do
so – we meet at a time of great challenge for the party and for the country. Wales
remains the poorest region of the UK. Our
health and education systems continue to decline at the hands of a tired, lazy
Labour Government who think they have a divine right to rule.

The
challenges are there, the focus of the Welsh Conservatives must surely be to
offer the alternative. Change is never an easy aspiration, but we are ready for
the fight and we’re taking the fight to Labour. My
conference speech is about families, it’s about a real plan for the Welsh
economy and about a real challenge for our party.


Firstly,
we need everybody in our society to feel that their aspirations can be
realised. From children who want to go to the best schools and universities, to
parents who want to continue to advance their own careers whilst worrying about
childcare and the cost of living.

For
too long, our brightest and best have left Wales because they don’t see it as
the country of aspiration that we do. Over 30% of our graduates leave almost as
soon as they’ve finished their degrees. The average age of a first time buyer
in Wales is 36.

So
I’m announcing our action plan.

Firstly
a Welsh housing plan that looks at creative ways of using shared equity and
right to buy to get people the homes they want.  This bold plan
compliments our proposals to revitalise the Welsh High Street, unveiled last
October and most recently our plan to improve access to finance for small
business.

I’m
also proud to be announcing a Commission which will report in the autumn with
our plan for childcare. This Commission will be set up by my Shadow Education
Minister, Angela Burns and will work with industry and the professions to see
what they think. To listen to the realities and come up with a plan that works.

But
as we gather, we do so at a time of uncertainty. Our economy is not where we
would like and our challenges remain as grave as they probably ever have. We
also face a fight in Scotland. The unity of our United Kingdom is being
challenged and we’ve got to fight to keep it together. I’m proud to be joined
today by Ruth Davidson, my friend and colleague who is leading the charge.

There
can be little doubt that devolution has changed the nature of the United
Kingdom. For our party, there can be little escaping the fact that devolution
hasn’t been the easiest of issues for the Welsh Conservatives. I believe that
the party has reached its Clause IV moment – there can be no escaping the fact
that devolution is with us and can’t simply be put back into the hypothetical
bottle. There is a difference between criticising what Labour are doing in
Wales and criticising devolution. Let us not oppose devolution because of what
is being carried out in its name – let’s oppose Labour!

I
believe that we can do Conservative things with devolution, that for Wales and
for Welsh policy making, Welsh Conservatives can lead the way and we are doing. I want Welsh Conservatives to leave Swansea
focussed on the task in hand: facing our challenges head on, delivering for
Wales and breaking the yolk of Labour’s divine right to rule in Wales.

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