Wefan Gymraeg

Kirsty Williams' Spring Conference speech


Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams today addressed members at her party's Spring Conference in Cardiff.

In her speech, she accused Labour of having a "Carwyn Jones-shaped hole" in their plans to 'weaponise' the NHS as an election issue this year.

The full speech is below.

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Each and every one of us here today have been knocking on doors day in day out

Listening

Hearing people's concerns

And let's be honest: Many feel disillusioned

They think politicians seem a long way from reality

When I'm unlucky enough to catch Prime Minister's Questions on TV, I feel that too

It's like a circus

Politicians a million miles away from the real world.

But politics doesn't have to be like that

Politicians don't have to be like that

We, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, the people in this room, we're no different to anyone else living here in Wales

Our kids are in the same schools

Our families use the same health service

Every day I hear people telling me they want the exact same things that I want - good schools for our children, good hospitals for our families, and a safe environment for our communities

They want a stable job and decent public services

To achieve that, we must have a strong economy

You see, a stronger economy is a means to an end

We don't want it just so we can just reel off fancy stats

It's not just about GDP figures, it's about people's lives

We want a stronger economy so that people can provide for themselves and their families

so that people have the chance to succeed

so that everyone can access decent public services

People don't expect the world

Just a fair crack of the whip

And the opportunity to get on life

For their efforts to be worthwhile

Cast your minds back to 2010:

An economy on the brink of collapse,

People's livelihoods taken away,

Homes repossessed.

We took the responsible decision,

the right decision

to form a coalition government.

Labour demonstrated, disastrously, that they can't be trusted with the economy

We showed that not only can we rescue our economy, but strengthen it too:

Employment at a record high,

Inflation rates at record lows,

The fastest growing economy in the G7.

Our record on the economy is a strong one

But that's not enough, there must be more

The Tories would have cast aside social justice

They wanted to cut services for the poorest whilst cutting taxes just for the richest

They wanted to introduce regional pay - penalising Welsh workers

That's not fair and the Tories simply don't care

We do

We're unique

We're the only party to combine economic responsibility and social justice

'A stronger economy, a fairer society'

They are two sides of the same coin

Conference, we go into this Election with our party's message clearer now than it has ever been:

If youwant a stronger economy

If you want a fairer society

If you want a party that listens

one that offers opportunity for everyone

no matter who they are or where they live

Then in 3 months-time cast your vote for the only party that'll deliver this:

the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

 

So yes, conference:

We will build a stronger economy

We will build a fairer society

But we will also build a more Liberal Wales

We are a Liberal party with Liberal values

Being Liberal means you trust in people

Have faith in people

We believe in giving people freedom

Giving them the opportunity, whoever they are, to make the best of their lives for themselves, their families, their communities

People know best, not government

Government should be there to enshrine our freedoms and our liberty

Helping us when we need it

not dictate to us how we behave

Yes we will act as a break on the worst excesses of the Tories or Labour

But we're more than just that:

Not left,

Not right,

But forward

A radical party, built on a Liberal tradition centuries old

We are the party of Lloyd George,

of Gladstone,

of Beveridge,

Yes we have a strong history

But a strong future too

And we'll fight for what we believe in:

Devolving power to the people,

Pro-civil liberties,

Pro-Europe,

Pro-Environment,

Prison reform,

Pension reform,

Drugs reform,

We go where other parties don't dare

Conference: Be Proud. We are Britain's only Liberal party.

 

We are clear what we stand for. But what about Labour?

We all know Ed Miliband doesn't want to fight this election on the economy

Why? Because he'll lose.

Instead, he remains determined to shift the argument

To use his own awful word, he wants to 'weaponize' the NHS

Charming

But there is one major problem with this weoponizing strategy - and I think we all what it is

Three words: Welsh - Labour- Government.

There is a Carwyn Jones shaped hole in Miliband's plan

When challenged to defend the Welsh Government's performance on the NHS, the best Labour's Shadow Care Minister could do was: "err, they do things their own way"

They certainly do

The fact is that Welsh Labour is a weight around Miliband's neck

An embarrassment that won't go away

Like the deficit: Welsh Labour are inconvenient truth that Ed Miliband. would rather forget.

 

But I suspect he won't be allowed to forget it

And Conference, the truth is that we in Wales do have longer waiting lists

But never mind comparing our health service to England, it's bad enough comparing across Wales

Whether it is access to drugs, ambulance response times, or lengthy waits for operations - where you live matters more than anything else

The sad fact is that if you live in the Rhondda and have a heart attack - you can't rely on an ambulance to arrive on time

If you live in Swansea, there's a chance you'll be on the waiting list for an operation for over a year

In Powys, I had a constituent who was refused an important cancer drug that he would have been allowed if he'd lived just two miles away in Carmarthenshire

Conference, NHS staff do extraordinary things day in, day out

Yet the patience of so many is being tested to the limit

This can't continue

Welsh Labour have had their chance to run the NHS - they have failed

While we're hungry for change - they're fat on power

We have ideas - they have excuses

Conference, we must fight for our solutions to be put into action

The Welsh Liberal Democrats would bring forward a new model of healthcare

One with a with a greater focus on community care

We would task GP practices to lead teams to identify people at risk of needing unscheduled care and then pro-actively manage their health

This would preserve the independence and dignity of older people, while relieving pressure on our A&E departments

To end the unfairness on access to drugs, the Welsh Liberal Democrats would create a Wales-wide national panel to make decisions on applications - so everyone is treated the same way

We'd also extend the existing Health Technology Fund, a Welsh Liberal Democrat idea, to include medicines too

And then there is our 'More Nurses' campaign

We will deliver a safe number of nurses on every single ward,

in every single hospital across Wales

It is a fact that a 10% increase in the number of nurses within a hospital can result in a 7% decline in patient mortality rates

And that is why we will make this happen

Across the country thousands of people have already offered their support for this campaign

They recognise it can make a real difference to health care in Wales

Showing that Wales can lead the way

This isn't just a vision for today, but for tomorrow too

Together, we can show that everyone, no matter where they live, can receive decent care:

No more families fighting for loved ones to be treated with dignity,

No more overworked staff unable to deliver decent care,

No more patients ignored as if they're not even there,

Conference, spread the word: We are the party of ideas

A vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats means a health service fit for all.

 

Now, one of the most important moments in any parents life, is that morning they drop off their child at school on their first day

Seeing them for the first time in their new uniforms, preparing for their next significant milestone

You feel proud, of course you do, but anxious too

Will they like it? Will they adapt? Are they ready for such a jump?

What will you do if they burst into tears and cling onto your legs?

Or worse, that they skip off without a single glance back, leaving you the one blubbering at the schools gates

All these questions running through your mind - and all perfectly normal (after experiencing it 3 times, I can tell you: it doesn't get any easier!)

But at that moment you wave them goodbye - what no parent needs, what no parent should put up with - is doubts whether their child will get a decent education, a good education, one that will equip them for later life

Every parent should be able send their child to a good school - no matter who they are or where they live

And too many parents in Wales don't have that option

We used to. but not now

The Welsh education system was once considered amongst the best in the world, something we could be proud of

Things have changed

Whether it's reading, writing or maths - Welsh schools are now the worst performing in the UK

Don't get me wrong, of course we have many good schools, with some great teachers

But Labour's poverty of ambition continues to drag us all down - pupils, parents, and teachers alike

The First Minister has previously shown off that at least Wales' children aren't taught in sheds

That shows his level of ambition for Wales

Our children might not be taught in sheds, but under Labour, over 45,000 children in Wales are currently being taught in schools where a local education authority has been placed in special measures

45,000.

There's been change after change after change, but never support for our teachers to help our pupils

The banding system we were told was 'here to stay' - GoneThe Early Years Assessments known as CDAPs - GoneWales' target to be in the top 20 in international tables - Gone

Our schools have been experimented on too often by Labour - and it is our children and the teaching profession that are paying the price.

 

And as always: it's the poorest in our society that are let down the most

Poor children in Wales, under Labour, get a worse deal than anywhere else in the UK

A new report recently revealed that, despite running for six years, Labour's Foundation Phase has completely failed to break the link between poverty and low attainment

You see, they may talk the talk, but under Labour, Wales is more unequal than ever

It's these failings which convinced us that we had to do more -

Nelson Mandela described education as "the most powerful weapon to change the world"

Conference: Equality of opportunity is at the very soul of our party

That's why we fought for the Welsh Pupil Premium

Designed and delivered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats

And I believe it is our greatest achievement.

We first established this fund in 2011, in exchange for supporting the Annual Budget

And unlike Plaid Cymru, who have changed their priority on a whim every year, we've remained consistent

We've kept fighting for more and that persistence has paid off

Our Pupil Premium is now worth over a thousand pounds per pupil on free school meals

Every school, in every community, in every party of the country can benefit because of us, because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

Here in Cardiff, nearly 9,000 pupils from the poorest families will receive extra support

I will never grow tired of hearing of the homework clubs, the one-to-one tuition and the extra resources that children are getting because of us

Helping them to catch up

Every child in Wales deserves a fair start in life

That's our liberal vision, and that's what we are now helping deliver.

 

Now, we Liberals have argued for devolution for so long, over a hundred years, it's sometimes worth pausing and considering why?

It's because we believe in people

We trust people to make the right decisions

People know what is best for their communities

People who make their own decisions are likely to make better ones

And putting power into the hands of people is fundamentally a Liberal thing to do

In Government, we have shown we are the only party of devolution

After a decade of stagnation under Labour, devolution for Wales has moved faster now than it has done for years

I am immensely proud that the Liberal Democrats are already delivering tax varying powers, borrowing powers and a more accountable Welsh Government

This will help us be more equipped to build a stronger economy and a fairer society

The Tories tried to stop it. But Conference: we fought them and we won

However there is a lot more to do

I welcome the announcement yesterday, of course I do

Wales having more of a say over major things such as energy can be a huge benefit to our nation

It gives us the opportunity to be a world leader on Green Energy

And of course, it's no coincidence that the one major department that didn't try to stop any loosening of power from Whitehall is the Energy department - led by a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State

But the fact is that the Silk Commission report was full of lots of good ideas

Many of them not announced yesterday

And why?

Because both the Tories and Labour wouldn't sign up to anything

It was laughable to hear Ed Miliband speak of devolution last week

I can tell you, it was quite in contrast to what his Shadow Secretary of State was saying in the cross-party meetings

You see, we ensured that the Silk Commission would be cross-party so that Wales could speak with one voice

United, so that Wales would be heard loud and clear

But once again, in typical style, the Tories and Labour are dithering and delaying, disgracefully stopping Welsh progress

Our party remains the only party that is fully subscribed to the Silk Commission's recommendations

and I can assure you, our manifesto will have a lot more where that comes from too

We are the only party that can deliver on our long-held aim of Home Rule.

However, Wales must also have fair funding

Yesterday was a step in the right direction

But again, more must be done

Liberal Democrats only the party with real concrete plans laid out on how we would deliver this, rather than just empty rhetoric

And speaking of empty rhetoric, that brings me to Plaid Cymru

In a desperate need to be relevant, they make outlandish calls on underfunding

The fact their so called allies the SNP are the Barnett Formula's biggest supporters is not an irony lost on us

but I assure you that Plaid will have no influence in Westminster

They never have, they never will

Indeed, the SNP has clarified they would not be negotiating with Plaid in any post-election talks

It's all smoke and mirrors

A vote for Plaid leaves Wales isolated and underfunded

They will deliver nothing

So, I say to the people of Wales:

If you want to make a real difference to Wales' devolution settlement, then it is vital that the Liberal Democrats are in Government

More powers for Wales,

Fair funding for Wales,

A Stronger Wales,

From the days of Cymru Fydd right up to present day:

It is our party that will always fight Wales' corner

 

You see, we will fight Wales' corner just like our Welsh Liberal Democrat MPs have been fighting on their constituents behalves

I am so proud of the work of our Welsh Liberal Democrat MPs: Jenny, Mark and Roger - and in May I expect Jane Dodds to be added to that formidable line up

Polling has shown that people in seats with a Lib Dem MP had far more trust in their representative, than those in seats with Tory or Labour MPs

Another showed that Lib Dem MPs work harder than any other party

And it's true

Government hasn't changed us

We've never taken people for granted - we never will

Roger, Mark and Jenny are still the local champions they always were

But in 2010 an opportunity arose for the Liberal Democrats to direct the future of the United Kingdom

The more cynical commentators will tell you that we would have been wiser to watch from the side-lines

We would have achieved nothing, but enjoyed the security of the opposition benches

We took a braver route

We shouldered the responsibility of government and played our part in achieving the economic recovery

We used this leverage to champion policies from within government

Policies to help everyday people improve their lot

We might have come to office at a time of diminishing finances

But we ensured it wasn't just five years of tightening belts:

Raising the tax threshold - a key Liberal Democrat pledgeEqual Marriage - so people have the freedom to marry who they chooseSupport with child care - so people's choices aren't narrowed Revolutionising pensions -making it fairer by trusting people with their own moneyShared parental leave - giving people the freedom to make their own decisions

Liberal policies that we've put into action

Conference: We have been the good news story, the positive story, the shining light that has come from this Coalition

And that is the proud record we will take to the doorsteps

For we are now just 67 days from the General Election

The people of Wales will then have a decision to make

Labour can't be trusted with our economy

The Tories can't be trusted to fight for fairness

Neither party has the answer

Wales needs a party that can stand up when the Tories and Labour go too far

One that reflects all of society, not just unions and millionaires

A party that will fight for what is right, no matter what

We remain the only way to ensure there's a Liberal voice right at the heart of Government

The only way to ensure Wales has a stronger economy and a fairer society

The only way to ensure opportunity for everyone.


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