Carwyn Jones' Speech to Welsh Labour Annual Conference 2-16

Together for Wales - Carwyn Jones' inspiring speech to Welsh Labour Annual Conference 2016. 

Together for Wales – the next stage of our journey

I’d like to start by thanking Jeremy for being here today, his inspirational words this morning, and for his commitment to a Welsh Labour win. 

To Nia, our Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and campaigner extraordinaire - thank you for everything you do fighting Wales’ corner in Westminster.

And also to our retiring AMs – I’m going to miss you all, the Assembly will miss you, Wales will miss you – but I know you will be supporting our superb new candidates and our Welsh Labour team in winning again in May. Thank you all for your hard work.

Conference, it is always a great pleasure to speak in Llandudno.

I remember before we met here in 2011 speaking to some of the staff at Welsh Labour, they said they wanted to do something a bit different with the branding and do something focused on me.

I’d not been leader very long, and I suppose they wanted to cash in on that fresh-faced optimism. 

I said fine – it’s a bit odd. A bit uncomfortable for me. But do what you think will work, as long as it isn’t too over-the-top.

They said great – don’t worry – it will be very understated.

So what did I see when I walked in that first morning, a banner of me outside some 30ft tall. 

I think the BBC nicknamed it Carwynzilla. 

Believe me, in this job, you get used to the brickbats, criticism and worry – but you really don’t know what self-doubt is until you’ve seen your own face made 5ft wide.

I did ask if Lisa wanted to keep it. She laughed.

Apparently we’ve now used it to wrap up the Ed-stone somewhere on the south coast.

So, anyway, I’m very glad that we have got some more traditional Welsh Labour branding on show today. 

Ar nodyn mwy difrifol mae’n werth mynd yn ol I’r foment honno yn 2011 pan wnaethom gasglu yn y fan hon i fyfyrio ar yr hyn ddywedwyd gennym ar yr adeg honno.

Roedd y Toriaid wedi bod mewn grym yn San Steffan am 9 mis. Ac eisoes roeddynt wedi mynd ati I chwalu ffabrig cymdeithasol Prydain. Ymosodiad ar ol ymosodiad ar ein cymunedau – yn gwastraffu cyfleoedd, ac arberthu’r syniad sylfaenol or degwch ar allor cynuldeb.

Roeddem ni yn Llafur Cymru yn gwybod bod genym anferth o gyfrifoldeb at ein hysgwyddau. Fe wnaethom addo sefyll cornel Gymru – ac rydym wedi gwneud hynny.

On a more serious note, it is worth going back to that moment in 2011 when we gathered here to reflect on what we said at that time. 

The Tories had been in power in Westminster for 9 months. And already they had set about wrecking the social fabric of Britain. Attack after attack on our communities – laying waste to opportunity, and the basic notion of fairness was sacrificed on the altar of austerity.

We in Welsh Labour knew that we had a mighty responsibility on our shoulders. We promised to Stand up for Wales – and we did it.

When the Tories cut our budget – we made tough choices in order to protect the NHS and our schools, spending more on education and health than is the case in England.

When the Tories closed down Remploy – we said no – we stood with our disabled workers, and helped save jobs.

When the Tories tried to slash the pay of farm workers – we said no. We went to the Supreme Court, and won a victory for fairness and a worker’s right to a decent wage.

When the Tories trebled tuition fees for students – we stepped in, and said to young people in Wales – “we will pay the difference, because we believe in your future.”

And do you know what makes me more proud than anything else we did?

When the Tories cut the Future Jobs Fund – when they took away a lifeline to young people in the very teeth of the recession, when people needed a helping hand more than ever before – we did not stand idly by and point the finger of blame.

We created Jobs Growth Wales, and now 15,000 young people have been given a chance to work. Welsh Labour did that, and don’t let anyone forget it.

And now the Tories are trying to foist upon us a Wales Bill that will drag power back to Westminster, undermine the devolution settlement and give power back to faceless bureaucrats in Whitehall – and we will say no to that too.  

This constitutional wrangle has gone on for long enough; even I’m bored of it now. And as many of you know, I’m more fond than most of a constitutional debate. But, this mess has got to stop.

The Wales Bill debacle is just another result of Cameron’s Chaos in Westminster. 

This is the Prime Minister who almost lost Scotland.

The pantomime we have just witnessed in Brussels has done little to help the “In” campaign for the European referendum.

He’s instigated unprecedented junior-doctor strikes in England.

And his constant undermining of the settled will of the Welsh people is a gift to the otherwise moribund nationalist movement in Wales. 

It is time to send a message to David Cameron that Wales is not a second class nation, Wales will not put up with second best and Welsh Labour will fight you every step of the way.

The Tories have never been a friend to Wales, and week after week we have seen them try to use our communities to set the agenda in London.

When they lied about our NHS; we called them out and now we have the international evidence to support our case.

We stood up for Wales, we still do stand up for Wales – and every day will fight the corner for our country. But, now we need to do more.

In 2011, I promised a decade of delivery. A ten-year focus on the bread and butter issues that matter to people’s everyday lives. 

There is no question that in the early years of devolution, our young Assembly became an ideas factory of inventive policy. 

The foundation phase, the Welsh baccalaureate, free bus passes, a cap on care charges – ideas that we have kept, and refined and that will deliver for our young people. Now, ours is the task to combine ideas and delivery. 

That is the mission of my political lifetime. To deliver on that early promise. 

That is why we have made some tough decisions – and why we’ve taken some flak. 

Schools tests – many were sceptical, but for the parents and children it was the right thing to do.

Tuition fees policy – some didn’t like, some still don’t, but for our students it was the right thing to do.

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in special measures – a step we’d never taken before, but a step that was right for the patients here in North Wales.

I’ve not been afraid of the tough decisions over the last five years, and I won’t be afraid to make more in the next five years. 

This is a Government ready to stand up to the vested interests.

And since 2011, and despite the Tory cuts, we have made enormous progress.

Since 2011 pupils GCSE results have risen by 7.8 per cent.  

Results for pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds have increased faster still. 

A* results at A-level are the highest they have ever been.

The poverty attainment gap is now closing at every key stage of statutory education. 

Cancer survival rates are improving faster in Wales than anywhere else in the UK, even as more and more people are being diagnosed.

In Wales the numbers of people suffering Delayed Transfers of Care are coming down, in England they are at record levels. 

Next year, we will be training more nurses than ever before, the highest since devolution – a 10% increase on this year.

In 2011, unemployment was at 9.3% now it is at 5.3%. Lower than Scotland. Lower than London.

Our inward investment figures are the best for 30 years.

In the six years I’ve been First Minister, I’ve left no stone unturned in getting out and selling Wales to the world. And in these last five years, the world has come to Wales.

Our record inward investment figures make a mockery of those who would want a return to the days of the Welsh Development Agency.

The biggest dip that Wales ever saw in our GDP happened in the so-called halcyon days of the WDA in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The jobs that did come in were secured over expensive lunches, with promises of a low pay economy. 

They were here today, and gone tomorrow jobs.

But, my Ministers have been out and fought for the best – good jobs, decent wages. We’re not interested in waiting for scraps from the table.

Wales is on the up.

And on every measure that matters – and yes, despite the record cut to our budget – we are doing better.

And because we are getting the basics right, it means that our people and our institutions have more opportunity to shine.

Wales is on the up. Wales is on the map. We are half way through that decade of delivery and making progress every day.

The momentum we are seeing in our schools, hospitals and in our economy can only now be scuppered by a change in political direction in the Assembly. 

You know I’m not in the habit of agreeing with Andrew RT Davies. 

For those of you who don’t know him, and there’s no reason why you should – he’s the Tory leader in the National Assembly for Wales. 

And he’s said two things in response to some recent polls which I totally agree with. 

He said that the Tories are the only alternative to Welsh Labour in the Assembly – and he has also said that it is a straight fight between me and him for who will be the next First Minister of Wales. 

And he’s dead right on both counts.

There are distractions on the side-lines, not least from UKIP, but we can never lose sight of the fact that this election is a straight fight between Labour and the Tories. 

Our vision and values against theirs.

That is not a fight the people of Wales can afford us to lose.

So, Together for Wales, we must make our case – more clearly, more passionately, and more persuasively than ever before.

We have achieved so much. But, there is much more to do. 

So we have made six new promises to the people of Wales.

 

Pledge One - childcare

30 hours of free childcare for working parents – covering not just 38 weeks of the year as elsewhere in the UK, but 48 weeks’ worth of care for 3 and 4 year olds. Our commitment doesn’t centre on what Government wants to deliver – it centres on what parents actually need. 

This will supplement the Flying Start scheme we already have in place in our most disadvantaged communities. This is an investment not just in working families, our children’s future – but in our economy too. 

We know how hard it is for so many working mothers in particular to get back to work and today’s commitment will make family life that much easier.

With Welsh Labour, Wales can have the most ambitious, most comprehensive childcare offer in the UK. That’s something to fight for.

 

Pledge Two – schools standards fund

Last year Wales recorded our best ever GCSE results. Thanks to our Schools Challenge Cymru programme, some of our most challenged schools reported increases of over 10% on their good GCSE results. But, when it comes to our children, we can’t ever be too ambitious. 

And so we commit to establishing a £100m schools standards fund to improve still further on the results our pupils and teachers are achieving, together.

With Welsh Labour, we can prove that all schools can be good schools. That’s something to fight for.

 

Pledge Three - Apprentices

And when people finish their education, they have a right to a good job, with excellent training and good prospects. That is why a future Welsh Labour Government will pledge to fund 100,000 extra apprentices by the end of the next Assembly.  

This scheme will be open to all ages – that means everyone has the opportunity fulfil their potential in the workplace. As far as possible, we will meet that challenge of a good job, closer to home.

With Welsh Labour, good quality work and training. That’s something to fight for.

 

Pledge Four – tax breaks for small business

We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and of our communities and high streets too. So we will give a tax-break to all small businesses in Wales using our new powers on business rates. 

This will help three quarters of business premises in Wales and half of all eligible businesses will pay no business rates at all in the future. 

The message we get from SMEs is for Government to keep it simple, and to let them get on with it. This level of support will do exactly that – no red tape, no complicated forms – just a helping hand in tough times. 

With Welsh Labour, a business friendly government on your side. That’s something to fight for.

 

Pledge Five - a New Treatment Fund 

We will develop a new Treatment Fund in Wales to ensure that people suffering life-threatening conditions can have access to the latest medicine and treatment. 

We know that new technology, medicines and treatments represent a serious challenge to NHS budgets, just as they also represent a new lifeline to seriously ill patients.  

We know these treatments are being developed and tested on an almost weekly basis, and this dedicated central fund would enable the most advanced drugs and high cost treatments for life threatening illnesses to be available in Wales first. Not just for cancer, but other conditions such as cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis.

With Welsh Labour, an NHS that will stay free from privatisation, but keep pace with modernisation. That’s something to fight for.

 

Pledge Six – Capital allowance doubling

Finally, we believe that people in old age who need extra help - those who have played fair and paid in – they deserve a fairer deal. So we will double the capital limit they will be allowed to keep on the sale of their home should they need to go into care. 

That's £50,000 that people can now pass on to their family. They’ve earned it, they should be allowed to use it. 

With Welsh Labour, responsibility rewarded. 

That is the kind of Wales I believe in.

Where those that put in a decent shift, get a fair deal.

 

Those are the six pledges we announced this week, which we will take to the people of Wales.

But I want to add to that today - I can say with absolute certainty, that when income tax powers are devolved to Wales, there will be no tax rises under the next Welsh Labour Government.

This again will demonstrate responsibility rewarded. If you work hard, we are going to stand with you and be there in the tough times. 

Working Together for Wales. 

And as we are in North Wales I have one more pledge to share with you today. 

If we form the next government, then just as the South East of our country will get the METRO project, so too will we start planning for the North to get its own integrated transport system.

Our vision is to create a reliable, efficient and quality integrated transport network across the region – it will connect people to communities, jobs and services.

 

And when additional powers over rail are devolved, we will have the tools to develop a truly integrated system. Faster and more frequent trains to major employment centres and to the airports of the north west.

 

Improved  train stations, a reliable bus network, combined ticketing arrangements - and walking and cycling routes that link communities. 

 

Integrated travel hubs would facilitate travel across the region.


The A55 is of course a key trunk road and we will, in tandem, continue to invest in improving its resilience.

That's what will happen if we form the next government.

 

The UKIP Challenge

We need to be very clear in our own minds about the challenge ahead of us in May. This will be our toughest ever Assembly election campaign.

 

Coming off the back of a difficult General Election; trying to manage the record cut to our budget; fighting a Tory-Government doing everything they can to undermine us – and for another reason too. 

 

The UKIP Challenge – it is very real, it isn’t going away and the General Election showed us in Wales, in particular, just how badly it can hit us in seats we hold. 

 

How do we answer this challenge? What will UKIP do to our politics?

 

It can do one of two things – it can challenge us to be better, or worse. 

 

It could make us change our message. To tone down our positive, progressive, internationalist values. To mimic UKIP – to offer a red-tinge to the answers they give on the issues of immigration, Europe, and community cohesion. 

 

We could give in to the Trump-etisation of politics, to kid people on, and let them think there really are easy answers to tough questions.

 

But, to respond in that way, I think would be to make our politics worse. 

 

 

Or, it can challenge us to be better. Do better. Not to give anyone in our communities the excuse to turn to UKIP – to make sure that mantra “you’re all the same, you always break all your promises” – to make sure that is never true of us. 

 

To make sure the NHS is there for them. To make sure our cities, towns and villages are a source of pride. To make sure there is housing for those who need it.

 

And above all, to create jobs – good jobs accessible to all, as local as we can make them – with good pay, good prospects and decent training.

 

Faced with the UKIP challenge, that is the path that Labour must take – to listen harder to what people are telling us; work harder to earn their trust and do better at delivering for them. That’s the right response. 

 

That’s the Welsh Labour response. 

 

The answer doesn’t lie in the gutter, but in raising our game.

 

Let those people thinking about voting UKIP hear that message loud and clear today, we’ve heard your complaint – and we pledge to listen to you, and to deliver for you. 

 

Other parties will seek to define us in the months ahead. Their attacks will be lazy – you can write them now. They’ll say we’ve had long enough, it is time for a change. 

 

Well, last time I checked, democratic politics doesn’t work on the basis of muggins turn. 

 

If you want power, you must compete for it, and win the people over. You must win the battle of ideas.

 

You must have a compelling vision for Wales that is ambitious, deliverable and affordable. 

 

I make no apology for Welsh Labour wanting to win that contest again and again. And I make no apology for saying we are going all out for another win in May. 

 

So, let me tell you about the Welsh Labour Party I am proud to lead. 

We are a party that knows the true meaning of the word aspiration.

 

That’s not a word that belongs to a home-counties focus group, it belongs to us all. 

 

My mam and dad wanted the best for me, and I want the best for my kids – as we all do. 

 

It is the most natural instinct in the world, and we in Labour need to be proud of our role in helping everyone realise their ambitions.

 

People aspire to have a decent roof over their heads – that’s why we are going to end the Right to Buy in the next Assembly.

 

Maybe you are ready to buy your first home – that’s why we established and will extend the Help to Buy scheme.

 

People want the very best start for their young children, but don’t have the networks or money to do the classes, parents groups and coffee mornings that bring others together. 

 

That’s where our new childcare scheme, allied with Flying Start comes in – making sure all parents, all children have access to the best practise and best facilities at that crucial age. 

 

Some people aspire to set up and run their own business. That is why we have established a new £50million entrepreneurial fund, and why we’ll cut business rates.

 

Depending on where you are on life’s journey, your ambitions and you aspirations will be different – but Welsh Labour believes that Government has a role in helping to achieve. We are not – and never will be the sink-or-swim party.

 

Together for Wales – that’s a phrase that really means something to us in this hall.  We need to make sure that it means something to everyone in every corner of Wales before this election campaign is done.

 

It feels as though I’ve already been to every town and village in Wales - a few times over – and I will do so again. 

 

This is the bit we got into politics to do – to get out there, make the case, meet the people, make a difference. 

 

That is what we need you to do over the coming months. 

 

This week I was with our excellent candidate for Llanelli, Lee Waters. 

 

It was a brilliant visit to a local nursery to talk about our childcare pledge – and a young girl there in a tutu took a real shine to Lee. 

 

She kept running up to him and wouldn’t let him go.  

 

He went a very traditional Labour red.

 

Lee is a great candidate, but I’m not sure he’s ever suffered from being over-hugged before. 

 

But, that’s what the campaign trail is all about – it is where you really experience the fun side of the job. 

 

I was with Jane Hutt later in the week – and she took me on the famous high street tour of Barry. 

 

For a socialist of true-renown, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone on first name terms with so many business owners. 

 

One tip though – if you’re in the Deli that specialises in joke and novelty party food – DO NOT eat the so-called “rhubarb & custard cream”. 

 

I’ve not experienced anything that sour since the last Katy Hopkin column.

 

But, that pledge to cut tax for those High Street firms was just music to the ears of the people we met. 

 

Running a small business is a labour of love, it really is. 

 

Small margins make a big difference. Do you take someone on? Do you take the risk? Our pledge will help businesses say “yes” to those questions.

 

Just yesterday I was with Ann Jones in Sam's Learning Tree Nursery in Rhyl.

 

I talked with Michelle who runs the Nursery, about the difference Flying Start is making to so many families in Wales.

 

We know our new childcare pledge is going to make a massive difference to families in Wales. 

 

It will help so many mums, in particular, to get back to work.

 

And thanks to what we’ve done in recent years, we know there are jobs there waiting for them too.

 

Nid Cymru yn unig yr arweiniom ni drwy'r storm economaidd.

 

Nid goroesi'r toriadau yn unig wnaethom ni. Fe wnaethom ni'n well na hynny.

 

Fe wnaethom ni newid Cymru er gwell.

 

Fe wnaethom ni sichrau fod Cymru yn frand byd-eang.

 

Fe wnaethom ni estyn llaw i’r di-waith.

 

Fe wnaethom ni achub ein maes awyr cenedlaethol.

 

Fe wnaethom ni roi cyflog byw wedi’i warantu i bawb yn ein Gwasanaeth Iechyd Cenedlaethol.

 

Fe wnaethom ni ddweud na i ffracio, ac ie i ynni glân.

 

Fe wnaethom hyn i gyd, a llawer mwy, gyda Llywodraeth Dorïaidd yn ceisio chwalu'r cyfan yn rhacs o San Steffan.

 

Ond mae angen i ni wneud mwy. Gwneud hyn i gyd eto. Gwneud yn well fyth.

 

Rydym yn awr hanner ffordd drwy'r ddegawd cyflawni, ac mae angen cadw’r momentwm.

 

We didn’t just take Wales through the economic storm. 

 

We didn’t just weather the cuts. We did better than that. 

 

We changed Wales for the better.

 

We made Wales a global brand.

 

We gave our unemployed a helping hand.

 

We saved our national airport.

 

We gave everyone in the NHS a guaranteed living wage.

 

We said no to fracking, and yes to clean energy.

 

We did all this, and so much more, with a Tory Government trying to wreck it  all from Westminster.

 

But we need to more. Do it all again. Do better still. 

 

We are half way through that decade of delivery, and we cannot let the momentum go now. 

 

The pledges we have made this week show that we have the ideas, the energy and the passion to win again and to govern again.

 

I’m incredibly proud to be First Minister of Wales – incredibly proud to be Welsh Labour leader – it means more to me than I can tell you. And it is something I will never, ever take for granted. 

 

I know just how tough this election is going to be. 

 

Every one of us will have to play our part, to pull together, and work together, and campaign together. 

 

Our future is bright; our best days are ahead.  Let’s get out there, win the arguments, door by door, street by street, and win a better future for our country.

Together for Wales.


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