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What to expect from the Welsh Lib Dem conference

by Adrian Masters
Kirsty Williams speaking at conference 2013
Kirsty Williams speaking at conference 2013

As the Welsh Liberal Democrats begin their conference in Newport you can expect three things to be on their minds.

You won't be surprised to find Europe at the top of their agenda with just six weeks to go until the European Parliamentary elections in May.

The Lib Dems have never won one of the Welsh seats and the polls suggest that that's unlikely to change this year. But the party has positioned itself as the most Europhile of all the UK parties and so you can expect a lot said about how Wales benefits from being part of the EU.

There's another election on the horizon too: next year's UK General Election. There's no doubt the Lib Dems have suffered in successive elections because of the decision to enter coalition government with the Conservatives.

What's important for the party now is to point to the things it's achieved by being in government while distancing itself from its coalition partners. So you can expect much to be made of the raised income tax threshold, particularly because the new tax year is about to begin.

I'd also look out for some significant promises on devolution. The Lib Dems take credit for moves to extend devolution throughout their time in the UK Government, specifically the 2011 lawmaking powers referendum and the Silk Commission.

Senior party figures watched Ed Miliband's speech to last week's Welsh Labour conference with interest and tell me they're determined Labour won't 'out-devolution' the Lib Dems.

So Nick Clegg is expected to promise that the 2015 Liberal Democrat manifesto will take the Silk Commission's proposals for extensive devolution including power over policing and energy decisions as 'a blueprint.'

Welsh Liberal Democrat conference begins

Welsh Liberal Democrats logo
Welsh Liberal Democrats logo

Welsh Liberal Democrats begin their conference in Newport this morning with a speech by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Other senior figures including UK Business Secretary Vince Cable and Welsh party leader Kirsty Williams are also due to address the conference.

With just six weeks to go until the European Parliamentary elections, Europe is expected to play a prominent rôle but next year's UK General Election will also be a significant issue. And there are expected to be pledges on further devolution for Wales.


Plaid leader's Euro appeal to Lib Dem voters

Plaid Cymru's leader Leanne Wood has made a direct appeal to what she calls 'disaffected Liberal Democrat supporters' to vote for her party in this year's European election.

She points out that the Lib Dems have struggled to win support in European elections. The party has never returned a Welsh MEP to the European Parliament.

Leanne Wood says Lib Dems who feel 'betrayed' by decisions taken by their party since forming a coalition government with the Conservatives should find a 'natural home' in Plaid.

I would appeal to all European progressives and in particular to disaffected Welsh Lib Dems not to stay at home in the forthcoming European elections. Staying at home will diminish an already low voter turn out to levels that would only allow the right win Europhobes to benefit.

Plaid Cymru is building a green, progressive and outward-looking Wales.

Anyone sharing this vision, whether or not they have supported us in the past, has a natural home in the Party of Wales.

– Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader

'Hard struggle with Tories' warns Welsh Lib Dem leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will say today that her party's ministers in the UK coalition face a hard struggle to get the Conservatives to agree to tax and borrowing powers for the Welsh Government and Assembly.

Ms Williams is addressing the Liberal Democrat Conference on Glasgow.

Only 9% of people in Wales want independence but they do want more powers. In Wales, the Welsh Liberal Democrats and I have been making a strong case for the devolution of fiscal and further powers for the National Assembly through the work of the Silk Commission.

It was hard work writing that commission into the coalition agreement in the first place It was a struggle to get the Tories to make good on that agreement. It will be harder still to get the Conservatives to implement its recommendations.

But I know that [Deputy Prime Minister] Nick Clegg, [Chief Secretary to the Treasury] Danny Alexander and [Wales Office Minister] Jenny Randerson will push and push and push for the powers that Wales needs.

This isn’t power for its own sake. Wales needs power over stamp duty to boost the housing industry Wales needs the power to vary income tax to ensure the Welsh Government takes responsibility for spending. Wales needs borrowing powers to invest in infrastructure to stimulate the economy.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

Kirsty Williams' speech also mocks Labour leader Ed Miliband for praising First Minister Carwyn Jones with the words “we have a great deal to learn from the great things that Carwyn and his government are doing”.

Great things? Really? Are you waiting for an operation on the Welsh side of the border? Good luck to you as you could be waiting more than 8 months for treatment while your neighbour just across the border waits 18 weeks.

In Wrexham a child on free school meals gets £450 under the Welsh pupil premium. A child a few miles across the border in Chester gets £1,300 towards their education.

On the Welsh side of the Severn Estuary, not a single brick laid and not a single job created in the Cardiff Enterprise Zone. The Bristol enterprise zone on the other hand is employing hundreds of people.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

The Welsh Lib Dem leader will say that apprenticeships in England are up by a third since 2010 but down by a third in Wales.

She'll urge 'anyone who needs a reminder to see what Britain would look like under Labour' to come to Wales.

Clegg - Powers decision taken 'at top of government'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says that a much-delayed decision on giving some tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government will be taken by him and the Prime Minister.

Opponents claim that the decision has been taken out of the hands of the Wales Office and pinned the blame on the Welsh Secretary David Jones for the delay.

Mr Clegg refused to criticise any individual cabinet colleague but did confirm that the decision will the taken 'at the top of government.'


Clegg blames Tories for increased powers delay

The Deputy Prime Minister has blamed Conservative ministers for delays in a decision on giving some tax and borrowing powers to the Welsh Government. An announcement from the UK Government is expected next month but had originally been due in the Spring.

At the Liberal Democrats' conference in Glasgow, Nick Clegg told Political Editor Adrian Masters that he's not responsible for the delay.

Million new jobs needed says Welsh Lib Dem leader

The Liberal Democrats need to concentrate on creating jobs, the party's Welsh leader has told its UK conference in Glasgow. Speaking at the opening rally, Kirsty Williams called for a million new jobs. She joked that there should be one for the former Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire, Lembit Opik.

And also create a further nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine adding to the one million plus private sector jobs we've already created in government.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

Kirsty Williams is vice-chair of the Lib Dems' 2015 Westminster election campaign.

I got a call from Paddy: “Kirsty, you are going to join me in the 2015 election campaign as vice chair, aren’t you?” Not that I would have said no, but the only thing going through my mind was; “I wonder what happened to the last person who said no to Paddy Ashdown.” So here I am, vice chair of the 2015 election campaign. And over the next 20 months, we have to make being in government work for us in this campaign.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

United opposition forced Welsh Government climbdown - Lib Dems

Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black said the credit for forcing the Welsh Government to change its mind on council chief executives' pay should not belong to any one of the opposition parties. He said it was because all three stood firm.

When all three opposition parties work together, we can force the Welsh Labour Government to improve legislation for the better of Wales. It would be quite churlish of one political party to claim ‘victory’ on this issue. The three opposition parties work well together, and indeed with the government, and we hope this will continue. Curbing excessive pay was a priority for us and we are glad that the Welsh Labour Government has listened to us.

– Peter Black AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat
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