Nick Clegg Spring Conference 2012 - Cardiff

March 6, 2012 3:59 PM

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This party has a proud history

For generations our predecessors have fought for liberty, equality and community

We follow in the footsteps of some great men and women

Emlyn Hooson was one of one of the greatest Welsh liberals of all

Both Mike German and Kirsty Williams have spoken touchingly today about Emlyn as both a man and a politician

All I will say is that you and I can only fight for the things we believe in today

Because people like Emlyn Hooson blazed a trail before us

Emlyn was the father of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered

The best tribute any of us can pay is to go out there and continue to fight for the things he believed in

...

Vince has spoken about the Kirsty Williams welcome, which is a big smile, a kiss on the cheek and then a right rollicking about all the things we should be doing for Wales.

I've been on the end of one or two Kirsty Williams welcomes myself.

But that's what is so great about Kirsty.

She shows real leadership.

She fights for what she believes in…

And she gets what she wants.

She runs rings around the other party leaders in Wales and punches well above her weight.

And she's not alone.

We have a fantastic team of AMs in Peter, Bill, Aled and Eluned

Eluned in particular, she's barely got her feet under the table and already she has won the Member to Watch award!

We also have three brilliant, committed and hard-working MPs in Mark, Roger and Jenny.

And I'm especially delighted that Jenny has recently joined the Government whips team.

In Kirsty, Jenny and Eluned we have some of the sharpest, shrewdest and most impressive parliamentarians in British politics.

The future of the Liberal Democrats is bright and it is being led by a trio of strong Welsh women.

...

It's no secret we took a hammering across the UK in last May's elections.

And I know you have come under fierce attack in Wales too.

But thanks to all of you we held our own in the Welsh election and it gives me great pride to come here and see our party in such good heart.

We have shown in Westminster that we are prepared to put our differences aside to do the right thing for the whole country.

One of the things I am most proud that we are delivering in England is the Pupil Premium.

It is a sign of Kirsty's leadership and your resilience that you will be able to deliver a Pupil Premium for Wales too.

I have always believed that the best way to give children the fairest start in life and the best chance to fulfil their potential is to help them when they're still young enough for it to make all the difference.

That's what the Pupil Premium does.

Help for those who need it most when they need it most.

We're seeing its impact in England already.

Catch up classes.

One-to-one tuition.

Extra teachers and support staff.

Outreach workers giving help to struggling families.

The Pupil Premium is leading a revolution in schools and making a real difference to children's lives.

But it doesn't just help the poorest, it helps all school children.

Fewer children falling behind means less disruption in class and a better education for every child.

Nowhere is that more important than in Wales, where results lag behind the rest of the country.

That is Labour's legacy to the children of Wales and I'm proud you're putting it right.

Labour has let the spending gap between pupils in England and pupils in Wales grow every year since the assembly was established.

And the results are there for all to see.

Worse GCSE results than English pupils.

Worse A-Level results than English pupils.

Leaving Welsh young people with fewer chances and worse prospects than those in England.

Education used to be something Wales could be proud of.

But under Labour standards have slipped back and back and back.

Labour should be ashamed

It doesn't need to be this way.

Giving our children the best education, the best start in life, is the most liberal, most liberating thing we can do.

That's the difference we're making.

And whether we're working with the Conservatives in Westminster or negotiating with Labour in Wales, we are showing we will put our differences aside to do the right thing for our countries.

But it's not just education in Wales that has suffered at Labour's hands.

There has been a lot of debate over the last year or so, not least inside the Liberal Democrats, about the future of the NHS.

But look at what happened here in Wales when the nation's health was left in Labour's hands.

Longer waiting times than in England.

Worse outcomes than in England.

Labour has spent more money per head on health in Wales than in England...

Yet it has worse results on almost every indicator.

On Newsnight recently, even Labour's shadow health minister couldn't defend their record in Wales

So I will take no lectures from Labour on the NHS.

People in Wales are living with Labour's legacy in health and education.

Just as you and everyone else in the United Kingdom are living with the legacy of Labour's economic incompetence.

Labour promised an end to boom and bust and then gave us the biggest bust for generations.

They bet the house on a gamble they had no right to take and no chance of winning.

There are villages, towns and cities across Wales that still bear the scars of Thatcherism.

Labour's answer was to throw cash at them, some of them anyway, until the money ran out.

They took the taxes from the banks and financial gamblers in the City of London and recycled it in Wales and elsewhere in public spending.

They kept communities afloat by replacing industrial jobs with public sector jobs.

Which would have been fine if it wasn't so short-sighted.

Because when the banks collapsed they left us defenceless.

The money dried up overnight.

And Labour's lie was exposed.

Now those villages, towns and cities have been hit with a double whammy.

First by Thatcherism, then by Labour.

And now it falls to us, acting in the national interest, to start to rebuild.

That's why we have taken the difficult decisions that we have.

And it's why we must show the courage to see them through.

But as we do so we are laying the foundations of a fairer, greener, more liberal Wales.

In a fairer, greener, more liberal United Kingdom.

Building a new, green economy that benefits Wales and the whole country, not just London and the South East.

With new green jobs in advanced manufacturing and technology.

Investing in our young people to give them the skills for the jobs of tomorrow

I know it can be difficult to feel optimistic when times are so tough.

But we are doing the right thing, for Wales and the whole United Kingdom, and I believe we have every reason to look forward with our heads held high.

Not least because of the great work of our councils

In Swansea, under the leadership of Chris Holley, Liberal Democrats have frozen council tax and pumped an extra £1.2m into schools, with money focused specifically on helping children learn to read

In Wrexham, where Liberal Democrats first led by Aled Roberts then by Ron Davies inherited a council with the second worst recycling results in Wales and lifted it into the top five

Or right here in Cardiff, where Liberal Democrats, under the excellent stewardship of Rodney Berman, introduced weekly doorstep recycling and opened new, world class libraries, all the while with Mark Stephens rooting out waste to keep council tax low.

Liberal Democrats in local government, putting our children's education first, giving people help in tough times and going green…

Just like we are in national government.

I am proud of the work of our excellent councillors.

Across Wales, Liberal Democrat councillors are fighting for the things that matter most to their communities.

Our councillors are the lifeblood of our party.

Without your good work we would not be able to make the difference we are making in Wales or Westminster. Thank you.

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Wales is stronger for having Liberal Democrats in national government

But we want to make it stronger still

The only time I've ever wanted a weaker Wales was when I was I at Twickenham with my eldest son last weekend

Liberal Democrats are not afraid to talk about further devolution

Devolving power is in our DNA…

And we are delivering that in Government.

I want more power for Wales.

That's why I was delighted with the Yes vote in last year's referendum…

Which all of you played such an important part in winning.

And it's why the Coalition Government set up the Silk Commission to look at how we give more power to the people of Wales.

I can't say what the commission will ultimately recommend.

It is right that it is independent of government.

But where there is a sensible case for giving more powers to Wales, I will support it.

And that's exactly what Welsh Liberal Democrats have set out in their submission.

More borrowing powers for the assembly to invest in Welsh infrastructure

More control over how money is raised and spent in Wales

At a time when the debate over our constitutional settlement is being had so publicly in Scotland

It is only right that we look at how to give more power to Wales too

The Yes vote in last year's referendum hasn't closed the case for more powers for Wales

And a No vote in Scotland will not end devolution North of the Border

Liberal Democrats believe fundamentally in localism, in giving power back to people

And we will never stop campaigning for the further devolution of power.

...

But we mustn't get sidetracked from what is really important right now

Constitutional issues can feel abstract at a time when so many people are feeling squeezed

I know many of you are worried.

If you haven't had a pay rise for two years or more.

If you can't plan for the future because you look around and you worry about what might happen if you lose your job or if your partner does.

And all the while things are getting more expensive.

One day you come back from the supermarket and wonder why your weekly shop costs more than it did.

The next your gas and electricity bills arrive and they've gone up again, just like they did last time and the time before.

You fill up at the petrol station and the price has gone up again since the last time you filled your tank.

If you're young and you don't own a home you wonder if you ever will.

You get up early, you work hard, you never ask for anything and yet everything is getting harder.

We are coming out of a crisis, an economic heart attack, and there is no magic wand that will make everything better overnight.

But as we build a new economy from the rubble of the old, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government are giving you real, practical help in tough times.

That's why we have cut your income taxes even when we have had to make the tough decisions to raise money elsewhere.

Thanks to Liberal Democrats, by raising the point at which you start paying income tax we put £200 a year back in your pockets last year and another £130 from next month.

And we want to go further and faster, lifting millions of the poorest workers out of paying tax altogether by raising to £10,000 the amount you can earn tax free

putting £60 back in your pockets every month.

That means 200,000 Welsh workers will pay no tax whatsoever.

And 800,000 Welsh workers will see £60 more in their wages every month.

That is a million Welsh people better off because of Liberal Democrats.

The vast majority of all the working people in the whole country.

Liberal Democrat tax cuts - for the many, not the few

This Coalition Government is standing up for the culture of work that is such a proud part of Wales' history.

By making sure that work always pays.

By making sure people can keep more of the money they earn.

And by making sure our young people have the support they need to enter the world of work.

And for those of you whose working life is over, Liberal Democrats are on your side too.

Thanks to our pensions triple lock, more than 600,000 Welsh pensioners will receive the most generous rise in the state pension for a generation.

From next month, you will receive an extra £5.30 a week.

No more of Labour's insulting 75p pension rises.

Liberal Democrats are giving you real help.

...

So when you go out there and knock on people's doors over the next few weeks

Tell them the difference Liberal Democrats are making

Tell them how our councillors are standing up for communities and local people

Tell them how our assembly members are putting our children's education first

And tell them how Liberal Democrats in Government are giving them real help whether they are young or old

Putting more money in their pockets

Giving their children and young people a fighting chance

And fixing the decades of damage done to Wales by previous governments.

We have a great story to tell.

And a great team of people to tell it.

So let's go out there again with our heads held high and show them the difference we are making.

We are building a fairer, greener and more liberal Wales.

What would you like to do next?

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