The Conservative Spring Forum and Annual Welsh Conference in Cardiff this weekend gives cause to reflect on how Conservative policies are supporting the successes of working people and enterprises across Wales.
Wales is busily reasserting its heritage as a great exporting nation. In 2015, the value of Welsh exports was £12.6 billion, with 60% going outside the EU. In 2015-16, Wales attracted 97 new Foreign Direct Investment projects creating 5,443 jobs. Wales is now a global centre for the advanced technology powering modern telephony. Over half the world’s commercial aircrafts are now flying with wings manufactured by Airbus in Broughton in Flintshire. The decision to locate the F-35 global repair hub in North Wales and prestige carmaker Aston Martin’s decision to manufacture their world-famous vehicles in at St Athan, shows that Wales continues to be a great manufacturing nation.
Since 2010, Wales has seen the fastest economic growth per head in the UK outside London and 126,000 more private sector jobs have been created in Wales since the beginning of the decade. Incentives to work are now stronger then ever. The Budget Personal allowance will increase to £12,500 by 2020-21, which will reduce the income tax bill for 1.4 million individuals in Wales by 2018. Wales is closing the Economic Inactivity Gap with the rest of the UK with Conservative welfare reforms helping to re-incentivise work
With the Lib Dems’ only AM now in coalition with Labour giving them a working majority in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru in a ‘Compact’ with the Labour administration and UKIP irredeemably split, only the Welsh Conservatives in Cardiff Bay offer credible scrutiny to a woeful Labour administration.
Welsh Conservatives in the Assembly have led the charge for Welsh enterprise and SMEs in Wales (which make up 99% of all Welsh firms), spearheading calls for extra money to be made available to small firms affected by business rate revaluations and forcing changes in Welsh Assembly Government policy. Their Small Business Charter would abolish business rates for small businesses with a ratable value of less than £12,000, provide tapered relief, guarantee better access to public procurement, support universal superfast broadband and promote free town centre parking.
Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies has rightly called Brexit “A beacon of opportunity” for Wales. Across Wales, 52.5% of Welsh people on a 71.7% turn out, supported Vote Leave on 23rd June 2016. Welsh Labour’s Carwyn Jones, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and the Lib Dems’ Kirsty Williams hold a post-Brexit view of Wales pessimistically at odds with the democratically expressed will of their own constituents (Vote Leave won 54.6% in Bridgend, 53.7% in Rhondda and 53.7% in Brecon and Radnorshire). They backed the Welsh Government’s £84,000 intervention in the ‘Brexit case’ at the Supreme Court, derided by David Davis MP as “a peacocking exercise… and an unwillingness to abide by the democratic process.” The Welsh Government’s ‘European Advisory Group’ consists of twenty members including arch-federalist Lord Kinnock and only one confirmed Leave supporter (5% of the total membership).
By contrast Conservatives are getting on with the task of supporting the next generation of Welsh exporters. While Europe is a key market for Wales, non-EU countries including Singapore, Qatar and Japan all feature in the top 10 destinations for Welsh exports with the USA remaining Wales’ largest market (receiving £2.8 billion worth of Welsh exports in 2015).
The British exit will deliver substantial gains for Wales in terms of trade, agriculture, fisheries, environmental policy and regional funding as policy decisions come to be taken more closely to the surface-reality of economic life in Wales. The Wales Office, the Department for International Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are fighting Wales’ corner with Welsh exporters benefiting from Trade Missions, Embassy and Consulate support and Networking opportunities.
There is a “Valley of Opportunity” to be seized by Welsh businesses and the UK Government is ‘determined to secure export markets for quality Welsh produce’ after Brexit. Welsh lamb, Penderyn Whiskey and Anglesey Sea Salt are now global brands. In the last year the Department for International Trade has supported 600 Welsh companies with export service deliveries, establishing many other footholds in overseas markets.
Conservative economic policies in town halls across Wales, as well as in Westminster, would deliver an additional boost to local communities and enterprises across Wales.
The local elections taking place across Wales, are of crucial importance in laying the foundations of Conservative municipal leadership, at a time when Welsh Labour are ideologically more preoccupied with revoking right to buy for social housing tenants.
CWF will be campaigning to support Welsh Conservative candidates over the weekend of the Spring Forum and Annual Welsh Conference. Further details of how you can help support Wales’ future prosperity can be found here.
Matt is from Cardiff. He fought Cardiff Central in 2011 and Bethnal Green and Bow in 2015. He worked as a Policy Analyst for Vote Leave and is a lawyer.