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'Labour is holding us back' says Lib Dem leader

Kirsty Williams at conference 2013

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will blame Labour for recent negative portrayals of the Welsh health service in the UK media. She'll tell the Welsh Lib Dem conference in Newport that her instinct is 'to jump to the defence of my country' when she reads such headlines.

But she's expected to say although 'some of these stories maybe motivated by a political agenda ... many are accurate and too often based on truth.' And she'll add:

"I am furious that we as nation are being portrayed in this manner. Last week Carwyn Jones said these criticisms weren’t a war on Welsh Labour, or the Welsh Government, but a war on Wales as an entire nation.

How dare he take cover behind the people he is meant to lead. What kind of leader does that? These headlines might hurt our sense of national pride, but we must not forget, it is Labour that is Wales’ weak link. Labour is holding us back, Labour – the weight around our nation’s neck."

- Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader

Welsh Lib Dem conference: day 2

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams will be the main speaker on the second day of her party's conference in Newport. UK Government minister Jenny Willott will also address delegates.

During the conference's first day, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg committed the Lib Dems to a wide-ranging transfer of power from Westminster to Cardiff.

He said the recent Silk Commission report, which recommended devolution of policing, youth justice, energy decisions and teachers' pay, would become the 'blueprint' for his party's 2015 manifesto.

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Scotland vote should be 'giant leap towards Home Rule' Nick Clegg tells Welsh Lib Dems

During his speech to the Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference, Nick Clegg linked his pledge for further devolution in Wales to Scotland's independence referendum this September. He said that whatever the vote's outcome it should represent 'a giant leap towards Home Rule.'

And he said that if further powers are transferred to Scotland, the same should be true of Wales.

The build-up to the Scottish Referendum is now in full swing.

The Party leaders – me, David Cameron and Ed Miliband – have, in a rare moment of consensus, all set out our hope that Scotland chooses to remain in our family of nations.

Their parties have now agreed with our long held view that, should Scotland reject independence, that decision must trigger greater powers for Holyrood and the Scottish people: voting no must not mean no change.

And the ground-breaking work that Ming Campbell has done on what further devolution to Scotland can look like is providing a concrete vision for those of us who want to see September 18th be a giant leap towards Home Rule. But while all eyes are on Scotland, this referendum represents an important moment for Wales. Because why not further devolution to Wales too?

Nick Clegg addresses Welsh Lib Dem Conference

Labour and Tories 'missing in action' on EU says Clegg

Nick Clegg is expected to use his speech to the Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference in Newport to attack Labour and the Conservatives as 'missing in action' in the campaign to defend Britain's membership of the European Union. He'll expected to say:

... remaining in Europe is the only way to protect three million British jobs. Because working with our neighbours is how we keep Britain strong – ensuring we can do all of the things we cannot do alone: promoting trade, tackling climate change, fighting cross-border crime. Because in the modern world there is safety in numbers. Because we always stand tall in the world when we stand tall in our own backyard.

– Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

And he'll accuse the other two UK parties of 'failing to take a stand' on Europe in the face of 'myths and untruths' from UKIP.

Where are the supposedly pro-European Labour party? Or the supposedly moderate Conservative leadership? The country is finally having it out about the single biggest issue facing our future – and where are they?

Absent. Hiding. Missing in action. Paralysed by their own internal divisions. Too scared to speak up for the national interest because it’ll cause them too great a political headache.

It’s party-before-country from leaders who sort of half say they’re IN, but who don’t have the guts to actually come out.

Say what you like about the Liberal Democrats – and people do – but at least we have the courage of our convictions. At least we are willing to stand up and be heard, even when our views are less popular but we believe they are right.

So we will fill the void left by our opponents – make no mistake. Between now and May 22nd we will continue to fight for staying in Europe in order to protect the Britain we love.

– Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

Clegg to promise wide-ranging powers for Wales

Nick Clegg is expected to commit his party to a wide-ranging devolution of powers to Wales in its manifesto for next year's UK Election. The Deputy Prime Minister is to make the promise during his speech to the Welsh Liberal Democrat conference in Newport.

He'll promise that the party's 2015 manifesto will use the recent Silk Commission as a 'blueprint.' The Commission recommended devolving powers over policing, youth justice, energy decisions and teachers' pay.

Last week, Ed Miliband came to Wales with a half-baked promise to make changes to the Welsh settlement, missing out a whole range of important recommendations made by Silk.

Where Labour failed to meet those challenges; the Liberal Democrats will rise to them and I will be the first party leader to fully commit my party to including those proposals in our 2015 manifesto.

The Silk Commission recommendations will be the blueprint for our 2015 manifesto.

Unlike other parties, we are a democratic party and the final manifesto will be approved by our members, but I am clear that just as the Silk Commission has recommended, I want us to fight the next election proposing that we take on the recommendations of the Silk Commission to give you the tools you need to get on with the job.

Because in the General Election next year, Welsh Liberal Democrats in this hall, and beyond, will be able to say to the people of Wales: yes, we are the party of devolution, arguing for it since the days of Lloyd George, yes, we have and we are delivering on our promise of strengthening devolution and yes, we are the only party that is willing and able to give the people of Wales more and better devolution.

– Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

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What to expect from the Welsh Lib Dem conference

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 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.

Welsh Govt must ask why schools struggled say Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the Welsh Government must provide more information about why some schools had unexpectedly poor results in the new GCSE exam. They say more should have been done to prepare schools for a greater emphasis on basic English skills when the exam was marked.

The WJEC have said some schools might have struggled to cope with the changes to the exam and have not prepared well enough. Yet the First Minister seemed unwilling to accept this to be the case. Whilst poor GCSE results might only be a political hiccup and yet another bad headline for the Welsh Labour government, for the pupils these are results that will stay with them for life.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM

Don't be fooled by Plaid's Euro promises say Lib Dems

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say their supporters won't be fooled into voting for Plaid Cymru in the forthcoming European elections. Plaid's leader Leanne Wood has urged disaffected Lib Dems to back her party in May's vote.

But Lib Dem Euro candidate, Alex Dauncey, says Plaid's aim of independence risks separating Wales from the EU. And he made his own appeal, urging Plaid voters to back the Lib Dems

People won’t be fooled by this. After all, Plaid’s whole existence is based on separation and isolation. If their dream of independence was realised, Wales would have to reapply for EU membership which would create huge uncertainty around our economic future and threaten our trade links. If Plaid had their way they would put thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment at risk.

While Lib Dem MEPs have been working hard in Europe to promote Welsh jobs and businesses, Plaid has consistently voted against job creating measures. For example, they opposed the EU-US free trade agreement which could bring thousands of jobs and an extra £10 billion to the UK economy. There is a world of difference between our two parties’ approaches to Europe and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

The Liberal Democrats are the party of ‘in’. Plaid's position on Europe is confused by their desire for Welsh independence. The Conservatives are openly flirting with exit and the Labour Party doesn’t have the courage of their convictions and won’t lift a finger to keep Britain in the EU. If you are a Plaid voter and recognise the benefits of a more devolved Wales, in Britain, in Europe, and want to send a clear message to the dangerous fringes of UKIP, then you should vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

– Alec Dauncey, Welsh Liberal Democrats
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