Simon Hart MP
Official portrait of Simon Hart MP. Source: Chris McAndrew (via. Wikimedia Commons) CC-BY-3.0
Conservatism, Character and Constitution

Secretary of State for Wales: 2021 Welsh Conservative Party Conference Speech

In December 2019, 550,000 people in Wales voted emphatically for a Conservative government – a Conservative government that pledged to get things done, writes Simon Hart MP. 

And, despite the pandemic, look at what we’ve managed to achieve since then – in a year that has been one of the most difficult in modern history.

It’s been a huge team effort as a country – whether it’s working on the front line, home schooling our children, or staying at home to prevent the virus spreading. 

Businesses across Wales have rapidly adapted their structures to make PPE and hand sanitiser; The British Armed Forces, Local authorities, volunteers have all been extraordinary – it’s been everyone’s effort.

And this government has done its duty too. 

Vital UK-wide measures, including furlough, business loans and self-employment support have protected hundreds of thousands of jobs in Wales. 

We have provided massive levels of direct support for the Welsh Government, upwards of seven billion pounds. And we have procured those all-important vaccines at a world-beating pace. 

Even with the backdrop of a global health crisis, we got Brexit done, with the biggest free trade deal that the EU has ever agreed to. 

We have signed free trade deals with over 65 countries – and that number is increasing by the week. 

We’ve recruited over a third of the targeted 20,000 police officers that we pledged in our election campaign. 

And look what we’ve been able to achieve in Wales in such a short time. 

In the last month alone, UK Government investment has resulted in the support, creation and acceleration of thousands of jobs across Wales.

We’ve committed to the Holyhead hydrogen hub in Virginia Crosbie’s constituency in Anglesey, the Global Centre of Rail Excellence on the border of Fay Jones’ constituency, and twenty million pounds for the decarbonisation of the South Wales industrial cluster.

Governments over the years have talked about spreading investment across the UK, but I can think of few governments as ambitious as this one. 

The £4.8 billion levelling-up fund, which Welsh local authorities can bid into will enable us to fund projects from Caerphilly to Conwy for the first time in decades. 

The £150 million community ownership fund – or ‘buy your boozer’ fund as it is already nicknamed – will allow Welsh towns and villages to protect at risk pubs or theatres and other loved venues, keeping them from closure by running them as a community. 

The last 12 months has shaken the world, both from a public health perspective, with thousands of us losing family and friends, and economically with the biggest financial downturn on record.

And we’re not out of the woods yet. 

Economic indicators show that Welsh towns could prove the worst hit.

Twenty two years of Labour rule in Wales had left the country in fragile economic shape even before the pandemic. 

We need a Government in Cardiff Bay that will work hand in hand with the UK Government to build a better Wales for everyone. 

Andrew RT Davies and his team are offering that chance in May.

As voters would expect from a credible future Welsh Government, we have a responsible recovery plan in our manifesto that confronts challenges created by Covid.

In offering bold, fair solutions to long-standing problems, as well as those created by Covid, this party is showing how committed we are to a prosperous Wales – unwavering even in a global health crisis. 

We are ready to freeze council tax for two years, to create 65,000 jobs, scrap business rates for small businesses, and to invest £2bn in Welsh roads. 

I have long believed that we need a big vision for the Welsh economy.

Transformation won’t happen overnight — but we have a distinct, credible plan which is the blueprint for moving in the right direction. And that is vital.

Without a strong economy, there cannot be a strong health or education system.

Without a strong economy, we cannot fund the public services such as the police to keep our streets safe.  

And we need to work together seamlessly to overcome the challenges ahead of us.

As Welsh Labour fight to out-nationalist the nationalists, our vision is one of positivity and hope, and puts Wales at the centre of a Global Britain in a world full of new opportunities.

Ladies and Gentleman – we are only 2% behind Labour, the closest we have ever been.

Every vote really counts.

A Labour victory is not inevitable.

A Conservative victory has never been more possible.

Simon Hart is the Secretary of State for Wales and the Member of Parliament for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

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