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  1. Nick Powell

Labour say Welsh Government's achievements will be "robust shield" for Assembly election campaign

First Minister Carwyn Jones will tell AMs later that his government is on course to deliver on the promises it made to the voters in the 2011 election campaign. In his final report on his programme for government before he faces the electorate again, he's expected to say that out of more than 500 commitments, more than 95% have been delivered -or are on track to be delivered in the next few months.

Credit: PA

Welsh Labour claim that this includes all the main pledges in the the 2011 manifesto, such as Jobs Growth Wales, extra money for schools, low tuition fees for Welsh students, and longer GP opening hours. One source called Labour's record in government in Wales "a robust statistical shield" against attacks from political opponents. Nevertheless, the Conservatives say they will challenge the Welsh Government on its record.

On health – on education – on the economy – the evidence is clear; Wales continues to fall behind and Labour ministers have no answers. Don’t take it from me – listen to the experts, the independent reports and the cold hard statistics.

Over 400 thousand people are waiting to start NHS treatment in Labour-run Wales. When Carwyn Jones became First Minister that figure was just 200 thousand. Global school test performance lags behind other parts of the UK and business support is nowhere near where it should be.

This is the real programme for government update and an urgent focus is desperately needed on our schools, our NHS services, our businesses and our communities.

– Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies AM

New Conservative AM for South Wales West sworn in

A new Assembly Member for South Wales West has been sworn in at the Senedd, replacing Byron Davies, who stood down after becoming MP for Gower.

Dr Altaf Hussain, a retired orthopaedic surgeon, takes his place as a Conservative regional AM, without the need for a by-election.

Dr Altaf Hussain says improving the NHS will be one of his priorities. Credit: Welsh Conservatives

Dr Hussain also stood at the general election, finishing third behind Labour and UKIP candidates in Swansea East.

He was born in Srinagar, Kashmir, and worked for the NHS for 25 years, before retiring in 2009. He has been involved in campaigning for the Welsh Conservatives since then, and is also a school governor.

I am honoured to be serving South Wales West as an Assembly Member and I am committed to continuing the determined work of my predecessor.

I relish the opportunity to be an incredibly strong voice for my region.

With a background in medicine and medical science, it will be no surprise to hear that one of my main priorities will be continued work to ensure improvement of the National Health Service in Wales.

– Altaf Hussain, South Wales West Assembly Member

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  1. Nick Powell

Selection as Cheshire MP would be "huge honour" says AM

North Wales Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach has confirmed that she's applied to be chosen as Tory candidate in the safe seat of Eddisbury in Cheshire.

It would be a huge honour to be chosen. North Wales and Cheshire are neighbours and we have always had close links.

– Antoinette Sandbach AM

Although she is still waiting to hear officially that she has been shortlisted, Antoinette Sandbach added that if she's selected she would donate her Assembly salary to charity until polling day on May 7. So it seems highly unlikely that she would remain an AM if elected an MP. But she was unwilling to speculate about what would happen after the voters of Eddisbury have chosen their MP.

  1. Nick Powell

Tory AM shortlisted for safe Westminster seat

A North Wales Conservative AM is one of three people shortlisted by Tories in a Cheshire constituency to be their new candidate for Westminster.

Antoinette Sandbach is in the running to be the next MP for Eddisbury, just over the border from Wrexham. The present MP, Sir Stephen O'Brien, has a majority of 13,255 and received more than half the votes cast in 2010. He's leaving the Commons to take up a senior post at the United Nations.

Antoinette Sandbach is looking to swap the Senedd for Westminster Credit: Welsh Conservatives

Antoinette Sandbach has been a regional list AM for North Wales since 2011. She stood for the Flintshire seat of Delyn at the last Westminster election and came within 3,000 votes of defeating its Labour MP, David Hanson. Today she refused to comment about her shortlisting in Eddisbury, where the candidate will be chosen next Wednesday, March 25.

Despite a recent change in the law, to stop AMs "double-jobbing" by sitting as MPs as well, Antoinette Sandbach would be allowed to hold both posts for up to a year. That would take her up to the next Assembly election but as a regional AM, she could stand down without causing a by-election. Her seat would be filled by the next person on the Conservatives' North Wales list, Janet Howarth, who's a Tory councillor in Llandudno.

  1. Nick Powell

Welsh Tory leader sees case for more AMs

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has signalled that his party is no longer totally opposed to an increase in the number of Assembly Members, so long as the "total cost of democracy" does not go up. Mr Davies says the Welsh Government's growing powers and responsibilities make it difficult for an Assembly with so few backbenchers to hold it to account.

Are we really going to have another five years with just 60 AMs? It's already evident that there are huge pressures on the Assembly's ability to scrutinise the government.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

It's possible that an increase in AMs could be linked to a cut in the number of local councillors as part of the local authority mergers expected in the next few years. Also the Conservatives are likely to revive plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 if they're still in power at Westminster after May's election.

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Welsh Conservative Leader calls for 'living wage'

Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives addresses Party Conference Credit: Welsh Conservatives

Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies says all public sector workers in Wales should earn the 'living wage'.

Speaking at his party conference in Cardiff, Mr Davies said they will seek to make the change by 2021 if the Conservatives win next year's Assembly election.

Around one in four Welsh workers earn less than the living wage.

"This sends a clear message that a future Welsh Conservative Government will tackle unfair pay and set a clear example to all employers to value and invest in their staff."

– Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives

Welsh Conservatives hit back at Labour 'broken promises'

The Welsh Conservatives have hit back at criticism from First Minister Carwyn Jones at Welsh Labour's Conference in Swansea.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said it was "more empty rhetoric from Labour's First Minister of broken promises. In a week when Carwyn Jones talked of ‘juvenile politics’, Welsh communities will rightly see through his hypocrisy."

This is the Welsh Labour leader who said his party took its eye off the ball on education. This is the Welsh Labour leader who runs the only UK health service where funding is falling. Like a scratched record, he repeats the same promises, yet delivers on none. Welsh Conservatives are the only alternative to a lazy Labour government that has run out of ideas.

– Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader
  1. Nick Powell

Support for new motorway tested in Senedd vote

There's no agreement on the best solution to congestion on the M4 around Newport Credit: PA

Conservative AMs will force a vote in the Senedd today on whether there should be a review of the Welsh Government's plan to build a new motorway south of Newport to relieve pressure on the existing M4.

The £1 billion project is highly controversial, both because of its cost and because of the environmental impact on the Gwent Levels wetlands. Some business groups prefer the idea of upgrading the existing Southern Distributor Road to a motorway, arguing that it would be a cheaper and quicker solution.

That's angered residents who live near the distributor road who fear the noise and pollution that might be caused by a motorway. Now the Conservatives' transport spokesman, Byron Davies, says he's not convinced that a full motorway is required and that more modest improvements might be enough to relieve pressure on the M4.

It doesn't have to be a motorway.

– Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies AM

That's roughly in line with what the Liberal Democrats have been arguing, while Plaid Cymru oppose spending such a major part of the transport budget on just one road scheme.

There's also been opposition from some Labour AMs, including two former ministers. So it would appear that most Assembly Members at least have doubts about the project. The Welsh Government has already conceded that construction work won't get the go-ahead before the 2016 Assembly election.

Welsh Govt didn't pay attention to rail deal say Tories

The Welsh Conservatives have blamed a lack of attention to detail by Labour ministers when Valleys rail electrification was first announced for the row over money that put the entire project at risk. Originally the UK government expected the entire £460 million cost to be repaid by the Welsh Government, primarily by increasing train fares.

Under the new deal announced today the UK Government will contribute £230 million to the scheme, though the rest of the money will still have to be repaid.

This deal will have a hugely beneficial impact on the lives of tens of thousands. It is a massively important investment that puts Wales first, prioritises infrastructure and transport, and provides a hugely welcome boost for business.

Labour didn't electrify an inch of rail track – and their mistakes and lack of attention to detail led to the circumstances preceding today’s solution. In stark contrast - this announcement is the real action Wales needs.

I wholeheartedly welcome the hard work of Conservatives in Wales in securing a pivotal and life-changing deal for our communities. From Newport to Swansea and - crucially, into the Valleys - this is what the region needs to secure growth and move forward.

– Shadow Transport Minister Byron Davies AM
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