Ken Skates speech to Welsh Labour Conference 2017

Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, speech to Welsh Labour Conference

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Thank you, Chair.

It is great to have so many friends and colleagues from across the country join us here in Llandudno for Welsh Labour Conference.

And I'm really proud – as a son of North Wales – to be standing in my home region delivering my first speech as Economy Secretary in our Welsh Labour Government.

I'm proud because of the great things our Welsh Labour Government is doing to support our economy in North Wales.

I'm proud of the apprentices we fund at Airbus on Deeside, making a fabulous career for themselves in a world class industry with a bright future.

I'm proud of the £20m we’re investing in a new Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute, which will help secure the manufacturing heart of the North Wales regional economy.

And I'm proud of the work we’re doing to help Anglesey and the economy of the North West make the most of the huge opportunities opened up by new investment at Wylfa Newydd in the coming years.

Friends, North Wales is one of the top ten regions of the world to visit in this, the Year of Legends, and on a day like this it's easy to see why.


I’m proud of what we’ve done across the rest of the country too.

Nearly 150,000 jobs supported in the last Assembly in communities the length and breadth of Wales through major investments by firms such as Aston Martin and General Dynamics.

Over 17,000 young people supported into work through the fantastic Jobs Growth Wales programme. In Wales friends, our purpose is to support our young people, not ignore them.

And with more people in work, employment in Wales is increasing faster than England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Just last month alone we helped create and safeguard 1,600 jobs through direct Welsh Government support.

That's Welsh Labour leading the way.

And talking of leadership, I want to pay tribute to our leader Carwyn Jones for his stirring speech this afternoon and his superb leadership of Welsh Labour over the last 12 months, which helped us win last years Assembly elections against the odds.

In his speech this afternoon Carwyn talked about fairness.

About Fair work

And a Fair Deal for our communities.

And so of all the things we’ve done over the last twelve months, perhaps what I’m proudest of most is the work our Welsh Labour Government has done to support our steel industry when the chips were down.

A Welsh Labour Government making real those values of fairness we all believe in.

As the son of a steelworker in Shotton, I know what tough times look like.

My family lived through the recession of the 1980s.

When we didn’t know if Dad would still have a job next week, let alone next year

And that is why I am exceptionally proud that over the last 12 months, when our Welsh steel industry has had its back against the wall, it has been our Welsh Labour Government that has been there to support them.

£60m of funding made available by the Welsh Labour Government to keep steel jobs and steel production here in Wales.

Our Welsh Labour Government standing alongside our steel communities.

At Port Talbot.

At Shotton.

At Trostre.

And at Llanwern.


However, as I go around the country and talk to businesses and families, I'm struck by one very clear thing.

Whilst growth in the aggregate has been strong, the gains of that growth have not been shared equally across Wales.

Many people in my constituency have heard about an economic recovery, but are left asking 'Whose Recovery?'

Under the Tories, those who have benefited the most during the recovery are those that lost the least in the aftermath of the 2008 crash. In contrast those who were swept furthest from safety are yet to see a better horizon.

For many, recovery is still a distant hope.

Those who have fared the worst in Tory Britain are the young.

Those who don't own their own home.

Those who don't have secure employment.

And as the First Minister has just said, those denied Fair Work.

Today, many people feel less secure about the future than before 2008.

The EU referendum last year clearly demonstrated that too many parts of Wales feel they've not enjoyed a fair share of the economic gains.

Many people feel too distant from the centres of economic prosperity.

And that is why we must do all we can to share the wealth.

To address, head-on, the structural economic problems that still blight many of our communities.

Those places which have long since lost heavy manufacturing such as coal and steel.

Those areas where the fundamentals of the economy are not as strong as they should be.

And when I say 'we' I don't just mean Welsh Government.

Local Government, businesses, the third sector, our universities and colleges, the NHS and other public services should all examine how we can do more to equalise the benefits of economic growth across Wales.

To work together through a new Economic Contract.


With the Tories making a hash of Brexit.

With another round of spiteful welfare cuts on the cards.

And with more austerity on the way from Westminster, that collaboration and co-operation will be more important than ever.

Wales needs Welsh Labour leadership in our Town Halls after May.

We need Carwyn Jones continuing to show the leadership he has.

Wales needs a strong Welsh Labour Government in the Assembly.

That's why we have set out a radical Programme for Government to support a fairer and stronger economy:

For individuals needing Skills for Work, a new Employability Programme built around the individual, that will give skills for work to those that need it most.

For Individuals wanting to get on the promise to create 100,000 all age apprenticeships to ensure everyone that wants it has a route into a better paid job.

For Businesses wanting to grow and take on people, a new Development Bank of Wales to support SMEs to expand and grow.

And for our communities, investment in stronger, more integrated infrastructure to ensure that major projects, such as the Metro, bring transformational change to local economies and local communities.

And conference, that's what I want to do going forward.

To build a stronger, fairer economy.

One that shares the fruits of growth more equally across our communities.

Over the coming months we will set out a new approach to economic development in Wales to ensure everyone gets a share of the prosperity growth we all create.

To help us build an economy and a society in which everyone has a role, a future, a secure income and fair work.

To redistribute wealth by redistributing the opportunities to create wealth.

And conference, I am sure of one thing above all else.

The answer to the challenges we face does not lie in the pulling of drawbridges - in the way the Tories want.

Of fostering the politics of resentment – in the way UKIP try to.

And it isn’t to be found in turning one area against another – as Plaid Cymru do.

It lies in building Labour values into our economy.

Building fairness into our economic structures.

It lies in finding a way of working together through a new Economic Contract.

It lies in raising the spirit level for all.

And in building the better tomorrow that we in Welsh Labour all believe in.

Let's build a country in which everyone is prosperous, is healthy, active, ambitious, in which we are learning, united, connected and friends, in which we are all secure.

Secure in our homes, secure in work, secure in our community, secure in Wales.

Thank you.


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