Politics in Wales is changing and Welsh Conservatives are at the forefront of that change. The days when Wales was perceived as a Conservativ-free zone are over. Now with three Members of Parliament at Westminster, eleven Conservative Assembly Members, a Member of the European Member of Parliament and a seat in the Shadow Cabinet, Welsh conservative politics are on the move.
Since I was appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales in December 2005, in addition to giving Wales a strong voice in the Shadow Cabinet, I have concentrated on four main areas.
Covering the Ground
Having been born and brought up in Cardiff, I have been renewing my knowledge and understanding of Wales, travelling the length and breadth of the country to ensure that I gain as much insight as possible into current issues and developments. These visits cover a vast range of areas from farms to industrial operations, from defence facilities to hospitals and schools and they consume a great deal of time and planning. But they give me the opportunity to learn at first hand what will be required in Government.
I have been impressed by our potential in Wales – from the stunningly beautiful countryside and natural assets to the cutting edge technology in our businesses. But saddened by the poverty and unresolved problems which an incoming Conservative government must address.
My role at Westminster
A large part of 2006 was taken up leading for the official opposition on the passage of the major Welsh Constitutional Bill which has now become the Government of Wales Act. This Bill revisited the entire devolution settlement in Wales so all stages had to be taken on the floor of the House which involves an enormous amount of detailed and painstaking preparation.
Parts of the Bill we were able to support but it was wholly unacceptable that the Labour Government should try and change the electoral system and vary the original devolution settlement without consulting the people of Wales.
I also spend time dealing with secondary legislation and holding the government to account through debates and questions both on the floor of the House and on the Welsh Grand Committee. As powers are only partially devolved to the Assembly, much of the legislation passing through parliament this year will also be applied to Wales. Over twenty Bills at Westminster contain provisions applying to Wales which require attention.
Working with Cardiff Bay
It is important to me that Conservative politicians provide the best possible policies for Wales and this means Assembly Members and Westminster politicians working closely together. Developing a strong working relationship with Nick Bourne AM, who leads the Conservatives on the Assembly, has been a priority and it has meant a new and fresh approach to politics in Wales.
The Assembly is now an established feature of the political landscape and we are committed to ensuring that it works well for the people of Wales. Our Conservative Group has already successfully challenged and overturned some of the Labour administrations policies and will be building on these successes for the next election.
The assembly elections will take place in May this year and my current focus is on supporting our candidates and Assembly Members who will be seeking re-election. The Conservative Group on the Assembly has the reputation of being the hardest working group of AMs and Labour is now seen to have failed to deliver on most of its promises. People are looking at Conservatives as a real alternative and we are offering a vision for services in Wales which is dynamic and exciting.
We believe that the Welsh Assembly Government could do so much better to improve people’s lives and Conservatives want to lead the way.