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  1. Nick Powell

Powers for Assembly 'proud achievement' - Crabb

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has told the Scottish Conservative Conference that the UK Government had "seized this unique moment" to take forward devolution and strengthen the United Kingdom.

The very idea of Britain and Britishness belongs just as much to the peoples of Wales and Scotland as it does to the English – if not even more so. Wales and Scotland have a shared stake in this United Kingdom.

Rather than run from the opportunity [the Scottish Referendum] presented, or close the book and wipe our brows with a relieved sigh, we seized this unique moment and sought to put both Wales and Scotland at the heart of a constitutional debate.

And so for the past five months I have been leading a process to establish the next stage of devolution for Wales – to be announced by St Davids Day, in just over a week’s time. I believe one of the proudest achievements of this Conservative-led Government is how we have taken forward devolution to strengthen the Union.

And we haven’t done this just for the sake of it or simply to surrender to nationalist demands. No. It’s about giving Wales and Scotland the powers they need to grow their own economies from the inside up: Powers with a purpose.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

The Secretary of State added that the Conservatives' "long term economic plan" will need to be shared by the Welsh and Scottish Governments. He called on them to "cast aside old dogma" to secure a private-sector led economic recovery. But at the Westminster election there would be a straight choice about who would be Prime Minister.

The choice between a Prime Minister who understands and loves the Union, who wasn’t afraid to hold a referendum to tackle the big issue in Scotland head on, who is passionate about Wales, who understands why Wales is different, who understands why Scotland is different…

Or the lesser-spotted Ed Miliband – who has hardly appeared in Wales, and doesn’t seem to be very welcome here in Scotland.

Yes, while David Cameron has spent the last five years demonstrating just how much Scotland and Wales mean to him: delivering further devolution, pushing forward big infrastructure investment, laying the foundations for stable growth – actually visiting our nations in the process.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have allowed Scotland and Wales to slip out of their sights. And why? Because frankly, we just don’t matter enough to them.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

Mr Crabb didn't name the Scottish National Party but he acknowledged the SNP's political breakthrough in Scotland, where it enjoys a big lead over Labour in the polls.

What many down South haven’t caught on to yet, is that the single most important political development of the last year has had nothing to do with UKIP. No, it is something which is sending shudders of fear down the backs of Labour in London and in Cardiff too – and that is the collapse of Labour in Scotland – where they have lost their grip on those communities they took for granted for so long.

And I believe there is a day of reckoning coming for Labour in Wales too, because they have committed exactly the same sins as in Scotland; taking for granted their working classes: ignoring; patronising, not doing enough to tackle long-term unemployment; turning their back on welfare reform that actually helps the very people they purport to represent; allowing standards of public services to slide, showing complacency. All this is unforgivable.

– Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb MP

Parties react to poll

The Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have responded to the latest Welsh Opinion Poll, which suggests that Labour will win two of four Welsh seats in the European Parliament next month and that UKIP are in second place.

This poll is consistent with others which have shown the Welsh Conservatives are on course to keep their seat in the European Parliament. Between now and 22 May we will continue to remind people is that if you want to cut the cost of Europe, take back control of our borders, and have the chance to vote in an in-out referendum on Europe then you should vote Conservative. None of the other parties can deliver this.

– Welsh Conservatives

As the only party that puts Wales first, Plaid Cymru will be fighting for every vote in the coming European elections. There is a danger that Wales - our economy, our communities and our culture- could be left totally isolated and under threat if we allow the scaremongering, right wing politics of UKIP to shape our future. People have a choice in this election, and we would urge voters to vote for Plaid Cymru, the only party that will put the interests of Wales first.

– Plaid Cymru

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  1. Adrian Masters

Top Welsh Tories put differences aside for conference

David Jones and Andrew RT Davies with David Cameron in 2013 Credit: ITV News/Adrian Masters

The two most senior figures in the Welsh Conservatives will return to the matter which has so divided them in recent months and led to the sacking of four Tory frontbenchers. But they've put their differences aside, or at least won't be referring to them in public this weekend.

David Jones and Andrew RT Davies will both deliver speeches to the Welsh Conservative conference in Llangollen. They'll both criticise Labour's record of running public services here in Wales and they'll both highlight what their party is achieving for Wales through the UK Government.

They'll both also talk about the devolution of income tax power to Wales but you won't be able to spot much difference between them on the form of income tax power which is being devolved. No mention of the dreaded 'lockstep.'

It doesn't mean the differences have gone away though. It was pointed out to me that the Prime Minister's repeated references to Andrew RT Davies and his commitment to low taxes in Wales amounted to an implicit endorsement of his stance.

But if the differences remain, the heat has certainly been taken out of the dispute in public at least. Anyway, most of this weekend's speeches have concentrated on attacking Welsh Labour's running of public services in Wales.

That at least is something on which they can all agree.

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Welsh Tory leader on Labour's 'war against ambition'

The Welsh Conservative leader will accuse Labour ministers in Cardiff of being 'in office but not in control.'

Andrew RT Davies is expected to pick up on Welsh Labour's claim that repeated criticism of its running of public services amounts to a 'war on Wales.' Mr Davies will say the Conservatives are fighting, but fighting against Labour.

Their management of the Welsh NHS as we heard from Jeremy Hunt and Darren Millar yesterday is scandalous. That’s why we’re fighting. For every single child failed of a decent education. For every patient left waiting in agony.For every single person who wants a successful business but can’t because of Labour’s regulations.

Labour has had 15 years at the helm. They might be in office, but they are not in control. Just look at their record: 1 in 7 on an NHS waiting list. The worst education results in Western Europe. A nationalised airport. When you listen to a record like that, you realise who is really at war. A war against ambition.

– Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader

Welsh Secretary taunts First Minister as 'the Peter Pan of politics'

The Welsh Secretary will call on the First Minister to commit to a referendum on income tax powers for Wales or risk being seen as 'the Peter Pan of Welsh politics.' David Jones will tell his party's conference in Llangollen that tax responsibility is part of 'grown up government.'

We think that there should be an early referendum, that there should be a campaign for a ‘yes’ vote and that that campaign should be based on a commitment to cut the Welsh rate of tax. We Conservatives believe in low taxation because it’s good for the economy. And we believe in lower taxation in Wales, because it will give Wales a competitive edge. It will stimulate enterprise. It will give Welsh people – all Welsh people - more money in their pockets to spend with Welsh businesses. In short, it will be good for Wales.

So I invite Carwyn Jones to commit to that early referendum and commit the Labour Party in Wales to lower taxes, too. Let’s see if he has the ambition, and is brave enough, to do that. To accept the accountability that should go with grown-up government. Or if he wants to be the Peter Pan of Welsh politics.The eternal political adolescent. The First Minister who never grew up.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

Welsh Conservative leader's tax cut call

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies will say the transfer of some powers over tax to the Welsh Government is an 'historic' opportunity to 'put more money back into people's pockets.'

He'll expected to tell delegates to the Welsh Conservative conference in Llangollen that devolution of tax responsibility for taxes is not about power for power's sake:

Under the Welsh Conservatives, there is only way taxes will go – and that’s down! The devolution of taxes means that for the first time – the opportunity is there for us to not only put forward the big thinking we’re already doing, but to cut taxes too and to give people in Wales and those who want to come to Wales the chance to keep more money in their pockets. We’ve already said what we would do with some of those powers. We’d scrap stamp duty on house up to £250,000. We’d freeze council tax. We’d abolish business rates for small business up and down Wales.

Do you know what this would mean for people? It would mean every household in Wales would pay less council tax.13,000 house buyers a year wouldn’t pay stamp duty at all. And over 75,000 businesses would benefit from our business rates policy. This is what low tax:big ideas means. Putting more money back into people’s pockets.

– Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader

Welsh Secretary's criticises Labour's running of NHS

Welsh Secretary David Jones is expected to continue the criticism of Labour's record of running public services during his speech to the Welsh Conservative conference.

He'll tell delegates in Llangollen that 'for thirteen years in Government at Westminster, Labour took Wales for granted. Treated it as a place they thought they could safely neglect.' In particular, he'll say that Labour has neglected the health service.

But none of this is the fault of hardworking doctors, nurses and the other professionals in Wales’s NHS. They are, of course, every bit as competent and dedicated - and work just as hard - as those in any other part of the country.Wales’s health professionals are world class. But what is not world class is the incompetent oversight of the Welsh NHS by the Labour party. The story of the NHS in Wales is the classic tale of lions led by donkeys. Under Labour, the Welsh NHS is lagging behind – that’s a fact.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales

It won't just be an attack on the management of the Welsh NHS. David Jones is expected to criticise the education system in Wales and the First Minister's response to poor performance in international PISA comparison tests.

Carwyn Jones's response to the PISA results – which echoed that of his education minister - was so weak as to be laughable. He said: “We took our eye off the ball.” Given that it was the fourth consecutive decline, one has to wonder whether his eye was ever on the ball in the first place. Or whether he was even in the game.

What a pathetic response from a man who is supposed to have the charge of such an important public service. How limp. How lame. How entirely inadequate. How utterly shameful. The plain truth is that Labour are letting down an entire generation of young Welsh people. With little sign of doing anything to make things better.

– David Jones MP, Secretary of State for Wales
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