11/03/2017 Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference


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11/03/2017

Aled ap Dafydd and Vaughan Roderick introduce live coverage of the Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference in Swansea.


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The battle lines are drawn for the council elections in Wales and today

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the Welsh Liberal Democrats make the pitch.

:00:20.:00:32.

Good morning and welcome to the second of spring party political

:00:33.:00:39.

conference programmes. I'd come with the first out of the blogs this week

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and today it's the turn of the Welsh Liberal Democrats are meeting in

:00:44.:00:49.

Swansea. We will also bring you coverage of Welsh Labour and the

:00:50.:00:53.

Welsh Conservatives. You can join in the debate on twitter. Joining me

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throughout today's programme is Welsh affairs editor. The Welsh Lib

:01:03.:01:07.

Dems are meeting in each school in Swansea, what conclusions can be

:01:08.:01:11.

dropped from that? That Swansea is one of their target seats, perhaps.

:01:12.:01:17.

This is a party that is short of money and short of organisation.

:01:18.:01:24.

They lost all that assembly seats apart from one and the party

:01:25.:01:29.

organisation has had to downscale. Very few professional organisers

:01:30.:01:33.

these days, not really new Welsh Secretary. Basically, the parties

:01:34.:01:42.

being run by volunteers, but the juicy and opportunity coming in May,

:01:43.:01:45.

because this is traditionally a party that has built a base from

:01:46.:01:52.

local government upwards. They've lost in a disastrous set of local

:01:53.:02:01.

elections five years ago. Our eyes and ears at the conference reserve

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reporter. The conference is under way in the hole behind us. They are

:02:11.:02:17.

discussing the 2017 local government manifesto at the moment, they will

:02:18.:02:29.

be defending 75 council seats. They had 160 before, the thing we can win

:02:30.:02:35.

some of them back. The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Mark

:02:36.:02:39.

Williams will be speaking later, as is one assembly member, the

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Education Secretary Kirsty Williams. It is not a full hall at the moment.

:02:49.:02:54.

We had the former leader of Swansea Council welcomed members to the

:02:55.:03:00.

confidence earlier. He welcomed them to Wales' premier city, I don't know

:03:01.:03:06.

how that will go down from people -- with people from Newport and

:03:07.:03:13.

Cardiff. They will be debating the right to buy. We expect the

:03:14.:03:17.

government in the next week or so may introduce legislation to scrap

:03:18.:03:21.

the right to buy. The proposal from the party here today is that the Lib

:03:22.:03:26.

Dems oppose that, so it will be easy just -- interesting to see how that

:03:27.:03:30.

will go down later. We will be speaking to cancel candidates and

:03:31.:03:35.

you will be speaking to Kirsty Williams over the next couple of

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hours. We will have plenty from the conference for you. We will be

:03:40.:03:45.

speaking to Kirsty Williams later. As he mentioned, the conference was

:03:46.:03:52.

opened by the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Swansea Council

:03:53.:03:58.

and he was keen to draw on some sporting inspiration. Good morning

:03:59.:04:03.

delegates and welcome to the premier city of Wales. I was encouraged by

:04:04.:04:13.

colleagues from Cardiff, seeing we have a city with a real bed, as a

:04:14.:04:21.

pause to one that is manufactured. Welcome to Bishop Gore School. This

:04:22.:04:27.

is a typical example of what Liberal Democrats is about, coming back into

:04:28.:04:30.

the community and using the community, which is what we should

:04:31.:04:35.

be doing. Bishop Gore School is a school built in their early 1950s,

:04:36.:04:42.

and as a result, the architecture is quite stunning. I hope you enjoy the

:04:43.:04:49.

visit here, and I hope we have a very good confidence. I think one of

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the things I would say is that when you come into Swansea, the results

:04:55.:04:59.

of the coalition I led a very, very clear. The LC was closed under

:05:00.:05:11.

Labour and we reopened it and made it the most popular paid attraction

:05:12.:05:16.

in Wales, something and all of us are very proud of. I mentioned

:05:17.:05:22.

earlier on about us being the premier city of Wales and that is

:05:23.:05:28.

due largely to the fact of the new stadium, which, again, under the

:05:29.:05:32.

administration I had the great pleasure to run, finished off that

:05:33.:05:41.

stadium and made it my into a class venue for first-class football and

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rugby. And talking about rugby, what a victory last night. Every pundit

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said we were going to lose and what happens? The Welsh came forward.

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That's the sort of spirit we need in the Welsh Liberal Democrats. That is

:06:00.:06:02.

the sort of spirit we need. We did take a beating, let's be blunt about

:06:03.:06:08.

it, in the assembly and that the general election. But we are coming

:06:09.:06:14.

back. 85,000 members, doubled our membership. We are coming back. And

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that spirit that was shown by that rugby team yesterday is the spirit

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that will lead us on again and get back to the numbers of councillors,

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the number of AMs and MPs that they enjoyed before. Have a very good

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conference, I hope everybody enjoys Swansea and with is a bit of luck,

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it would rain. It welcome to Swansea from the leader of the Lib Dem group

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on Swansea Council. Let's talk a little bit about the current state

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of play, as far as the council elections go. We do the Lib Dems

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stand at the moment in Wales? 75 council seats at the moment, it was

:06:58.:07:03.

72 at the last election and they have picked up a few in by-elections

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since then. That's out of a total of 1200, so it's a small base, but is

:07:10.:07:15.

concentrated in particular areas. It's not impossible for the Lib Dems

:07:16.:07:18.

to reach a position where they could be leading some councils after me.

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None of them they good when I write, but where they could emerge as a

:07:23.:07:27.

leader of the coalition. The great prize in that is undoubtedly

:07:28.:07:34.

Cardiff. The parties pretty confident of regaining most if not

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all of the council seats in Cardiff Central, their traditional

:07:41.:07:45.

stronghold. If they did that, then almost certainly Labour would lose

:07:46.:07:49.

overall control, and because of the dysfunction in the Labour group, is

:07:50.:07:55.

highly likely the Lib Dems would end up leading cadre. Other areas they

:07:56.:08:02.

want to make progress is in rural areas, where there are persuading

:08:03.:08:05.

independent candidates to stand as Lib Dems. And the establishing a

:08:06.:08:10.

presence on councils where they were wiped out. Before the last

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elections, there were very few councils were they didn't have at

:08:14.:08:16.

least one Lib Dem on them. They lost a lot of those little groups, and

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are concentrating on individual wards to get those toll holds on

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authorities back. Since the Grexit vote, they have had noticeable gains

:08:28.:08:32.

and a notable victory in Westminster by-election. Do they see an for

:08:33.:08:40.

themselves here, as a party which is staunchly Remain? Indeed. We have

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two conflicting pieces of data, the UK wide opinion polls which suggest

:08:50.:08:54.

the party flat-lining at around 9% with it has been since they went

:08:55.:08:59.

into coalition with David Cameron. But that individual elections, the

:09:00.:09:06.

party has been doing very well. And what it has been doing is to appeal

:09:07.:09:12.

to the core Remain vote in the referendum. They don't have the

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problem that Labour has, of trying to please to different

:09:17.:09:20.

constituencies. We think that is round about 25% of the electorate

:09:21.:09:24.

that not only voted Remain, but still feel very strongly about it.

:09:25.:09:29.

They want to see a second recommend them. 25% is almost three times what

:09:30.:09:35.

they are getting in the polls, so that is the rule we are fishing in.

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I think you will see them doing well in areas that voted very strongly to

:09:41.:09:43.

remain and that includes places like Cardiff, but also some of the other

:09:44.:09:50.

places, more in England and Wales, that have that university vibe,

:09:51.:09:56.

Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford. Those are the sort of places

:09:57.:10:02.

they are looking to get back. One man looking to "Assembly seat is

:10:03.:10:10.

current former assembly member Peter Black. We are effectively over the

:10:11.:10:19.

next two months entering one of the most important paydays for the Welsh

:10:20.:10:23.

party, after the trauma and ups and downs of the last couple of years.

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As you know, we were reduced to one MP in 2015, to one assembly member

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in 2016, and in 2012, we've lost a large number of councillors. Going

:10:37.:10:41.

into these elections on May the force with just over 70 odd

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councillors in Wales, looking to build on that, to take advantage of

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the fact that first we started to climb back in the polls, secondly as

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Chris has already mentioned, our membership has doubled in the UK and

:10:57.:11:01.

increased substantially in Wales. A lot of new members we have here in

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this confidence and also around Wales, who are keen to get out there

:11:07.:11:10.

and do something to start bringing seats in again and get that Liberal

:11:11.:11:16.

Democrat message across in local government elections. It is

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interesting, in terms of that doubling of membership. 40% of our

:11:24.:11:29.

members actually joined in the last year, and that's how new we are the

:11:30.:11:34.

party. We are renewing ourselves as a party and we need to renew

:11:35.:11:38.

ourselves in local government as well. I am very optimistic as to

:11:39.:11:42.

what we can do on May the force. That is potential not only to gain

:11:43.:11:48.

seats, but to get influence on a number of councils around Wales. I

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certainly will be trying to focus on that in Swansea and offering what

:11:58.:11:59.

supporter can elsewhere. But the challenge is in terms of local

:12:00.:12:04.

government is wider. The Welsh government has just published a

:12:05.:12:07.

White Paper that I'm putting together a response to. It is very

:12:08.:12:13.

typical New Labour in a sense that they have copped out of difficult

:12:14.:12:20.

decisions. We are looking at setting up bodies that are unaccountable.

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But also in that White Paper, then this talk about voting at 16, a

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policy that has long-standing way been a Welsh Lib Dem policy. And

:12:33.:12:46.

also a policy of being able to opt into STV. As a party, we should be

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pressing for that to happen. We also need to press the Welsh government

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to say, you have now conceded the principle of voting, maybe we need

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to say that we should be having that proportion across Wales and also

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have all councils elected through fair voting. The Welsh assembly now

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has control over its own destiny, is able to determine how it selected

:13:15.:13:20.

and how many members it has got. And a member of a reference group on the

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Assembly, which is looking at what legislation is needed for that. We

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could potentially in 2021 befriending those Assembly elections

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with electing anything between 80 and 100 AMs instead of 60, and using

:13:36.:13:41.

STV or better fair reporting system than we have at the moment. That

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means that not only do we have to change the way we campaign, but that

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is an opportunity for us to pull back losses that incurred last year

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at the Assembly elections. I think this is an exciting time for

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everybody in local government. There are opportunities everywhere for

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Liberal Democrats to build on what we have done. If we get out there

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and work hard on the doorsteps, get the leaflets out, knock on doors,

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top to people and get our act together in campaigning, we can come

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out of these elections with clear evidence of the Liberal Democrat

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revival in Wales, and I urge you all to go back and do that now. In a

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sense, I'm disappointed we haven't got a lot of people who should be

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here, but they are getting on with the job in the communities of trying

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to get elected. After today, we all need to focus on precision and

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intensity to make sure we get those Liberal Democrats elected councils

:14:47.:14:52.

around Wales. That is my brief introduction, I'm happy to take any

:14:53.:14:57.

westerns on the opening or anything like that. Our united response to

:14:58.:15:05.

the White Paper from the Welsh Assembly on the local governance.

:15:06.:15:12.

Are people reading this on the doorstep? I went to a meeting on

:15:13.:15:17.

Monday about it, yes. The first thing you couldn't we would see from

:15:18.:15:20.

Pembrokeshire is the White Paper doesn't threaten the existence of

:15:21.:15:24.

Pembrokeshire. You will think that is very important and I can

:15:25.:15:30.

understand that. The second thing is that in a sense, it's about delivery

:15:31.:15:36.

of those services, those bigger services. Pembrokeshire is already

:15:37.:15:41.

part of the larger education Consortium. The White Paper suggests

:15:42.:15:48.

that will be provided on a more provisional basis in future. I have

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concerns about that, because it gloss of controlled by local

:15:52.:15:59.

councillors and I have concern about how the decisions by bigger

:16:00.:16:01.

authorities are going to be accountable and how they will be

:16:02.:16:08.

questions and scrutinised. And overturning decisions, there are

:16:09.:16:11.

clear dishes about that. I think you should be saying to them that this

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is not a liberal document, this is a document that has some good things,

:16:16.:16:20.

in that Pembrokeshire stays. It also has some bad things, as well, in a

:16:21.:16:25.

sense that we think there are issues around the accountability and

:16:26.:16:28.

delivered a baby to be questions we need to be asking the Welsh

:16:29.:16:32.

government about that. I think there is concerned that once this new

:16:33.:16:36.

structure comes in, the Welsh government can start dictating more

:16:37.:16:39.

from the centre, so we need to question where that is going. What

:16:40.:16:47.

the right way forward is is debatable, because I don't think we

:16:48.:16:52.

have a consensus on the organisation restructuring, but any structure put

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in place has to have proper accountability and scrutiny and if

:16:59.:17:02.

it hasn't got that, it's not a democratic structure. As Liberal

:17:03.:17:06.

Democrats, we should be making those points very clearly the people on

:17:07.:17:23.

the doorstep. Mike Powell. First ball on housing, Peter, currently we

:17:24.:17:28.

have over 26,000 long-term empty properties in Wales. Would you like

:17:29.:17:32.

to tell the members present what our policy is to actually start bringing

:17:33.:17:38.

them back use, please? We have always advocated that there should

:17:39.:17:41.

be a national strategy on empty properties around Wales, which the

:17:42.:17:45.

Welsh government has never accepted, and I think that's wrong, because

:17:46.:17:49.

there's a lot of good practice going on around Wales in terms of bringing

:17:50.:17:54.

those empty properties back into use. When you have a huge waiting

:17:55.:18:04.

list for social housing, when you have growing homelessness, it is

:18:05.:18:08.

absolutely imperative that you make the best use you can the housing

:18:09.:18:12.

stock you haven't bring as many of those properties back use as

:18:13.:18:16.

possible. So the first thing we need is a national strategy to deal with

:18:17.:18:20.

empty properties, which make sure that every local authority is doing

:18:21.:18:25.

with it to a proper standard. The second thing is to look at the

:18:26.:18:28.

powers local authorities have, in terms of being able to bring those

:18:29.:18:32.

properties back into use. Carmarthenshire has a very good

:18:33.:18:34.

record on this and some local authorities have as well, in working

:18:35.:18:40.

with owners to bring these properties back. But the empty

:18:41.:18:46.

dwelling management orders are not very effective. Compulsory purchase

:18:47.:18:50.

is expensive and bureaucratic, and I think that the Welsh government

:18:51.:18:55.

needs to do a proper review of what powers local government have to

:18:56.:18:59.

force owners of long-term properties to make sure of those -- make use of

:19:00.:19:05.

those assets and let the community use them, because every single empty

:19:06.:19:10.

property is a blight on the community it isn't with costs that

:19:11.:19:14.

community money, it cost that community a lot in terms of the

:19:15.:19:17.

social fabric of that community, and we need to be investing in them.

:19:18.:19:25.

Certainly, one of the homeless acts in last Assembly gave local

:19:26.:19:28.

authorities the power to tax those properties up to 200%, and I think

:19:29.:19:33.

every local authority should be making use of that, because as well

:19:34.:19:37.

as the carrot of grants being available to orders, that also needs

:19:38.:19:41.

to be a stick to make sure you take advantage of those bands. That was

:19:42.:19:47.

Peter Black and he has made his way in double quick time by way of

:19:48.:19:52.

conference magic to keep Carol Roberts company. Yes, Peter Black,

:19:53.:19:59.

Swansea council member and former AM. And a councillor in Wrexham here

:20:00.:20:06.

as well, both of whom were Lib Dem councillors when they are parties

:20:07.:20:13.

were in charge of their councils. But the case any more. Peter Black,

:20:14.:20:18.

it is the whole conference for you. Not that long ago, the Lib Dems ran

:20:19.:20:22.

Swansea Council. It is that likely again this time round? I don't know,

:20:23.:20:28.

to be honest. We'll do our best, but Swansea is still benefiting from

:20:29.:20:35.

when the Lib Dems were in charge. We did a lot of work in a city and

:20:36.:20:39.

invested in schools and we have a good case to go to the people of

:20:40.:20:42.

Swansea about why they should give us a second chance to run Swansea

:20:43.:20:49.

again. We can tell you been making up your leaflets listing your

:20:50.:20:53.

successes. Carroll, Cuba after the Lib Dem group when you run Wrexham

:20:54.:20:58.

Council. What are your chances, do you think? With fielding a strong

:20:59.:21:05.

field of candidates. We have a proud record in Wrexham of campaigning on

:21:06.:21:12.

community issues. We have a strong record of representing our

:21:13.:21:14.

communities, so that is everything to play for, and I am quietly very

:21:15.:21:19.

confident. How difficult hasn't been to be a Lib Dem councillor? New

:21:20.:21:25.

one-year seat again in 2012, but have fewer colleagues lost theirs.

:21:26.:21:32.

Has it been difficult being a Lib Dem councillor in the last five

:21:33.:21:37.

years? Politics is always a challenge. I wouldn't say it has

:21:38.:21:40.

been difficult, because we have a very strong group on Wrexham Council

:21:41.:21:48.

and we have carried out the role of councillors as we always have, which

:21:49.:21:53.

is to make their views known, to represent our board members and to

:21:54.:21:57.

make their voice heard on Wrexham Council. BP is accessible at doing

:21:58.:22:01.

that and our record goes before us and that sort will be campaigning

:22:02.:22:10.

on. Peter Black, we've been talking in the studio about the importance

:22:11.:22:16.

of the Lib Dem grassroots to galvanise the party. With fewer

:22:17.:22:20.

councillors, has that affected the ability to win our lamented

:22:21.:22:28.

receipts? We've always been a party that has relied on our members. Our

:22:29.:22:33.

ownership has doubled in the UK and increase substantially in Wales. We

:22:34.:22:38.

have a lot of new members who are getting involved in campaigning.

:22:39.:22:45.

Some are standing as candidates and we are renewing ourselves as a

:22:46.:22:50.

party. As a councillor, you can make a difference. When I first got

:22:51.:22:54.

elected in 1984, I was the only Liberal councillor in Swansea. We

:22:55.:23:02.

have a very effective opposition group in Swansea, so we are very

:23:03.:23:08.

important to help galvanise the grassroots, but the grassroots also

:23:09.:23:11.

galvanise themselves. But new blood coming through the party is very

:23:12.:23:16.

important. From my experience of covering politics, I know the Lib

:23:17.:23:19.

Dems love campaigning more than any other party, they would tell us.

:23:20.:23:26.

Mark Williams in his notes says he wants you to campaign like you have

:23:27.:23:30.

never campaigned before, which is a bit of an ask for a Liberal

:23:31.:23:35.

Democrat. What more do you do? The bad is in very good heart. You have

:23:36.:23:39.

a lot of people who are already working hard, and as the elections,

:23:40.:23:43.

Naylor, we have a lot of new members in North Wales. I think they are

:23:44.:23:49.

ready to go out and fight back. We have a strong programme to sell, we

:23:50.:23:54.

have a strong message to work on and I'm confident we will go forward in

:23:55.:24:00.

good heart. What is different about the Lib Dems compared to five years

:24:01.:24:06.

ago? Will there be a different message? No, I think the message is

:24:07.:24:14.

the same. We are very much community politicians, representing the views

:24:15.:24:17.

of local residents, but we've also got very strong policy statements

:24:18.:24:23.

around public transport, around schools and education, around

:24:24.:24:29.

building viable and vibrant town centres. We have always been

:24:30.:24:32.

traditionally very strong on environmental issues, so I think we

:24:33.:24:41.

work at both levels, really, we work at policy level and community

:24:42.:24:48.

politics. We know that Kirsty Williams will be speaking later.

:24:49.:24:56.

She's a member of the government now. She's the Cabinet secretaries

:24:57.:25:00.

and education. How has that gone down within the party ranks? That

:25:01.:25:09.

she's part of a Cabinet made up of exclusively Labour assembly members,

:25:10.:25:14.

apart from her. Does the party still support? Yes, because she's putting

:25:15.:25:18.

forward a Lib Dem agenda. The party has always been a party of education

:25:19.:25:24.

and the environment. Kirsty is putting forward distinctive Liberal

:25:25.:25:28.

Democrat policies, smaller class sizes, investing in the pupil

:25:29.:25:32.

premium for the most deprived pupils. And also, distinctly and

:25:33.:25:38.

around rural and small schools, a distinctly Lib Dem agenda. Not only

:25:39.:25:42.

do we have a voice in government as liberal Democrats, but we have a

:25:43.:25:46.

Liberal Democrat taking forward those policies and that's important

:25:47.:25:52.

to the party. Do you think being a member of the cabinet is to looting

:25:53.:25:59.

the Lib Dem message? She is part of a Labour Cabinet. Now, I don't think

:26:00.:26:04.

it's though missing the message, if anything, I think our education

:26:05.:26:08.

policies are hitting home and people are aware that in Kirsty Williams,

:26:09.:26:13.

we have a Lib Dem as a secretary for education. Now, I don't think it's

:26:14.:26:19.

though missing the message, quite the opposite. Thank you very much

:26:20.:26:24.

for your time this morning. The conference will continue and we will

:26:25.:26:28.

speak to mark Williams, the party leader in the next hour or so, but

:26:29.:26:32.

for the moment, we'll hand back to you. You mentioned the qualities of

:26:33.:26:38.

the Lib Dems when it comes to campaigning. If Philip Hammond is

:26:39.:26:44.

the spread sheet Chancellor, the Lib Dems must be the spreadsheet party.

:26:45.:26:49.

Pretend to know where they are locally. The Lib Dems and almost

:26:50.:26:53.

addicted to campaigning and they are very good at it. They're very good

:26:54.:26:57.

at targeting wards and figuring out how to win them. The one thing that

:26:58.:27:01.

unites all the other parties is that they really don't like the Lib Dem

:27:02.:27:05.

campaigning techniques, because the work. It's squeezing the fort, is in

:27:06.:27:13.

encouraging people to vote tactically. It's pointing at holes

:27:14.:27:16.

on the road and overflowing litter bins. They do it because it's

:27:17.:27:23.

effective. Without doubt, I think, we will see Lib Dem gains in me,

:27:24.:27:27.

because they will be working towards that they lost last time, trying to

:27:28.:27:33.

get them back. Without the burden of the coalition with the

:27:34.:27:35.

Conservatives, it's going to be much easier for them. In one sense, the

:27:36.:27:41.

fact that Kirsty Williams is now part of a Labour Cabinet is helpful

:27:42.:27:46.

to them. The sort of Labour voters who used to vote tactically for them

:27:47.:27:51.

to keep the Conservatives out, this is a clear signal that there still a

:27:52.:27:55.

party of the centre-left. I think that in a good place going into

:27:56.:28:00.

local elections, but the bar is quite low. A good result for the Lib

:28:01.:28:06.

Dems would be to see them going back above 100 seats. I think that's a

:28:07.:28:10.

realistic, achievable aim for them, but that's still a long way off from

:28:11.:28:16.

where they were ten years ago. On Kirsty Williams, resounding support

:28:17.:28:19.

from the guess there, the fact she is now a member of the Labour led

:28:20.:28:24.

Welsh government. My understanding was that not every Lib Dem was fully

:28:25.:28:30.

on board with this. Is it a tricky issue for the party? I think there

:28:31.:28:35.

were concerns about it. Let's look at the opportunities and the dangers

:28:36.:28:40.

involved. The opportunity is all about profile. In political terms.

:28:41.:28:45.

As well as achieving things we want to achieve, of course. The danger

:28:46.:28:52.

was that with just one Assembly Member, that the Lib Dems would fall

:28:53.:28:57.

off the radar into one. You can see that with how many times the pier on

:28:58.:29:05.

the news or question Time. But someone with his job is going to be

:29:06.:29:11.

on the radio and television, so it does mean profile. That's the

:29:12.:29:16.

opportunity. The danger, of course, if you're not in a formal coalition,

:29:17.:29:21.

you are just one in AM, you look like Labour's little helper. If

:29:22.:29:26.

Labour is unpopular, that the impact on you and people who might be

:29:27.:29:31.

unhappy with their Welsh government and who might otherwise have voted

:29:32.:29:36.

for the Lib Dems, might vote for Plaid Cymru, because they regard the

:29:37.:29:40.

Lib Dems as being equally guilty with the Welsh government. There are

:29:41.:29:45.

dangers and opportunities involved. My own opinion is that it was

:29:46.:29:49.

probably the correct decision, given where the party was when Kirsty

:29:50.:29:52.

Williams made that decision. Whether it was still the right decision by

:29:53.:29:55.

the time we come to the next assembly elections, I'm not sure. Is

:29:56.:30:02.

she on shaky ground when it comes to Brexit? The Lib Dems are more

:30:03.:30:08.

hardline about it than Labour. Then there's the debate about the right

:30:09.:30:12.

to buy, the Welsh Lib Dems have a different policy on that to the

:30:13.:30:16.

Welsh government. This unit difficult position, balancing the

:30:17.:30:20.

party and our responsibilities as a minister? The danger is of a

:30:21.:30:27.

confused message. On Brexit, very interestingly, Kirsty Williams did

:30:28.:30:30.

break the government in a recent Assembly Fort, and Carwyn Jones was

:30:31.:30:36.

relaxed about that. She is being given a certain amount of wriggle

:30:37.:30:40.

room, particularly on European issue. The dangers confusion. Let's

:30:41.:30:48.

take right to buy. If the party is saying we oppose right to buy,

:30:49.:30:53.

Kirsty Williams is bound by Cabinet responsibility to support it. What

:30:54.:30:56.

sort of message does that send to the voter? That the party is saying

:30:57.:31:01.

one thing in its leaflets were doing something else in government. The

:31:02.:31:06.

truth of the matter is that most voters would be to pay much

:31:07.:31:09.

attention to any of these things, but it does make the messaging more

:31:10.:31:14.

difficult. Thanks for the time being. The Lib Dem conference would

:31:15.:31:19.

be a Lib Dem conference without them discussing PR, and voting reform was

:31:20.:31:25.

on the agenda today. In an earlier session, a motion was proposed at

:31:26.:31:29.

the conference on proportional representation.

:31:30.:31:38.

We have an opportunity to debate one of the Liberal Democrats' favourite

:31:39.:31:52.

topic - electoral reform. I'm not the only person in this room to be

:31:53.:31:59.

disappointed by the white paper that came from the Welsh Government.

:32:00.:32:05.

Local Government reform has been a political hot potato for years. I

:32:06.:32:09.

have lost count of the different merger proposals that have been and

:32:10.:32:13.

gone because none of them have managed to get to grips with the

:32:14.:32:19.

problems. This White Paper has missed an opportunity for more

:32:20.:32:25.

radical change in many areas within local Government. There was a

:32:26.:32:31.

glimmer of light in that paper and matter is an opportunity to

:32:32.:32:37.

implement, albeit on a council basis, to long-standing Liberal

:32:38.:32:45.

Democrat principles. What the motion before you today does is not only

:32:46.:32:49.

give us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to both, we implement

:32:50.:32:57.

them where we may find ourselves able to do so. Let me turn to number

:32:58.:33:04.

16. The principle is tested not just abroad but in Scotland. We know it

:33:05.:33:13.

leads to a young electorate that is engaged for life. It has been tried

:33:14.:33:17.

and tested and we have an opportunity to put that in practice

:33:18.:33:22.

in Wales. I would like us to put that in practice so we can build up

:33:23.:33:31.

the evidence base to extend that as far as we can in different

:33:32.:33:33.

elections. Onto the electoral system, STV ensures the result is

:33:34.:33:42.

far more reflective of the wishes of the electorates themselves. It

:33:43.:33:45.

provides us with opportunities to make inroads in places where we may

:33:46.:33:50.

not have been able to under the present system. There is the fact

:33:51.:33:54.

that in some areas we will lose seats. I am fighting for a four

:33:55.:34:05.

member ward and a march on all the many years. First past the post

:34:06.:34:10.

means despite marginality we end up with all four seats going to one

:34:11.:34:15.

party or the other. I'm hoping all four seeds will come our way but

:34:16.:34:20.

under STV, winning four seats would be nigh on impossible. If I'm

:34:21.:34:24.

successful in May, despite the risk it may post my own council seat, I

:34:25.:34:29.

will walk into Cardiff City Hall and my vote in favour of a fairing voter

:34:30.:34:35.

system as will my colleagues. That is not what the Lib Dems do. We

:34:36.:34:40.

don't do the easy thing, we do the right thing. I want you to take the

:34:41.:34:45.

opportunity to do the right thing. Take this chance to put our

:34:46.:34:49.

principles into action, to inject fairness into our local Government

:34:50.:34:55.

system and back this motion. APPLAUSE

:34:56.:35:04.

Can I call the chair of the policy committee to speak for the motion as

:35:05.:35:12.

a whole? We haven't had a great number of cards for this motion. If

:35:13.:35:16.

there are any more, could you hand them in now? I am not speaking

:35:17.:35:25.

formally for the policy committee but expressing its views in away

:35:26.:35:31.

from a position of chair. My first reaction was do we really need to

:35:32.:35:36.

say we are in favour of STV? Of course, we are. Then I thought

:35:37.:35:48.

clearly this is a key issue for us. A key issue about empowering local

:35:49.:35:53.

communities. This is an opportunity this consultation has brought to us.

:35:54.:35:58.

It is a topical issue, an opportunity for us to reemphasise

:35:59.:36:07.

our commitment to reform of local Government electoral processes. An

:36:08.:36:11.

opportunity to campaign locally on the fact that the consultation looks

:36:12.:36:15.

at putting the power to make these changes more in local hands and we

:36:16.:36:22.

are about to have an election. My conclusion is to say to you clearly

:36:23.:36:27.

go further motion, support the motion. This is an opportunity for

:36:28.:36:37.

us to come together and talk to each other and discuss our campaigns at

:36:38.:36:42.

the local Government election. Talk about it, be prepared for the

:36:43.:36:46.

campaigning that would be required to make the most of this

:36:47.:36:51.

opportunity. Thank you for bringing the motion forward and it gives us

:36:52.:36:55.

work to do and an opportunity. Thank you. Now I have no more cards on

:36:56.:37:08.

this so I am going to point out that we will have a vote. Can I call Pete

:37:09.:37:16.

Roberts? He didn't put in a cardboard like to speak on this

:37:17.:37:19.

motion. Sun-macro the problem is you get asked questions and you miss

:37:20.:37:24.

planning -- putting in cards that you wish to speak on. Look to

:37:25.:37:38.

Scotland. It works. We as a party need to stand firm and be proud of

:37:39.:37:45.

the heritage of fair voting that we have advocated. People say, what

:37:46.:37:52.

about the rural areas? Rural areas at the moment like my own county of

:37:53.:38:01.

Powys, we are inundated with an unchallenged, it independent

:38:02.:38:07.

councillors. Most of whom are ashamed to show the political

:38:08.:38:11.

colours they sign their membership checks for every year. STV and

:38:12.:38:17.

multimember constituencies does mean more villages in the same ward. It

:38:18.:38:23.

does mean a larger area that individual councillors cover but it

:38:24.:38:28.

means three, four, five councillors covering that area. Giving people

:38:29.:38:37.

actual choice and doing away with once and for all the job alive type

:38:38.:38:44.

approach that the rural thief Government and the old, he's a nice

:38:45.:38:51.

bloke we wouldn't stand against him, that is so prevalent in some of our

:38:52.:38:57.

rural areas. It is beyond belief. It doesn't lead to good governance. It

:38:58.:39:05.

leads to lack of direction in local authorities, it leads to alienation

:39:06.:39:12.

from the electorate and it leads to stagnation in our rural economies.

:39:13.:39:18.

We as a party should be proud to stand up for our heritage. We should

:39:19.:39:24.

not fudging our responses and we should actively campaign for STV for

:39:25.:39:30.

every person and every ward within Wales.

:39:31.:39:42.

Can we make the motion? Can I call Joseph Carter, please? You have got

:39:43.:39:54.

five minutes and then we will have a vote. You need to be sitting down

:39:55.:40:03.

and in the room in order to vote. I am grateful for the opportunity to

:40:04.:40:11.

Sa made this motion. My view may ask why have this? It does send a

:40:12.:40:18.

powerful message and bind us together as council candidates and

:40:19.:40:22.

potential councillors. This is something we wouldn't just talk

:40:23.:40:34.

about. It is looking at the Weibo stats are playing out there is a

:40:35.:40:38.

good chance we could be in positions in lots of different authorities.

:40:39.:40:42.

This is a major opportunity for us to influence change. As has been

:40:43.:40:50.

said today, we are liberals. This is not about holding power for the sake

:40:51.:40:53.

of holding power. What message would it send if we did make gains? We

:40:54.:41:02.

have gained free seats. If we then turn around and say we don't believe

:41:03.:41:06.

in this, we want to keep our wards as our own, this means we have to

:41:07.:41:13.

give up some power. We have to give up power to the electorate. I

:41:14.:41:19.

represent a ward which is currently for the general councillors. I

:41:20.:41:29.

accept as part of moving towards STV, we would be looking at holding

:41:30.:41:34.

two of those. That is a sacrifice I will be willing to make as liberals.

:41:35.:41:41.

It is not about holding power for the... It is about power to the

:41:42.:41:47.

community. I am conscious of the wards that we lost in 2012. If we

:41:48.:41:53.

had had STV, we could have kept one out of three councillors and carried

:41:54.:41:59.

on serving communities. This is important. It is not just about Cos

:42:00.:42:05.

all looking to become the largest party. It is about being in a

:42:06.:42:12.

position to influence that county. I pay tribute to Kirsty in this

:42:13.:42:18.

because if it wasn't for her pushing forward this liberal agenda, being

:42:19.:42:28.

an influential person being in the Cabinet as Education Secretary. She

:42:29.:42:32.

is pushing us forward and driving us and is influencing colleagues behind

:42:33.:42:36.

the scenes and we have to be very grateful to have the best. Whilst it

:42:37.:42:43.

is optional, it is us being liberal. If we were the Conservatives and

:42:44.:42:48.

push this through we would make everybody do it. Because we are

:42:49.:42:53.

liberals, we are saying this is up to local people and councillors to

:42:54.:42:58.

decide. This is a positive thing for us to do and it keeps true to our

:42:59.:43:03.

liberal principles. We have had a good debate and I hope going forward

:43:04.:43:07.

it will make those council gains in order to make this possible up and

:43:08.:43:15.

down the land. That was a discussion on changing the voting system. There

:43:16.:43:20.

are some proposals by the Welsh Government to bring it in in local

:43:21.:43:24.

elections. The last contributor made the point that Kirsty Williams might

:43:25.:43:28.

be in charge of education but influence on this point within the

:43:29.:43:35.

Welsh Government is there for everybody to see. It is a big topic

:43:36.:43:44.

for the Lib Dems, isn't it? Forming the voting system, you are talking

:43:45.:43:49.

about the two issues that really push the button for the Liberal

:43:50.:43:52.

Democrats. They feel passionately about it. Ukip support PR as do

:43:53.:44:03.

Plaid Cymru. It is not just a Lib Dem issue but one they feel

:44:04.:44:07.

particularly strongly about. What the Government has said is they

:44:08.:44:14.

would enable local authorities, if they chose, to move to STV. Why is

:44:15.:44:19.

the Government fudging that? It would have been difficult for them

:44:20.:44:23.

to say nothing about the voting system because of Kirsty Williams'

:44:24.:44:29.

presence in the Cabinet. There are many things that Labour control and

:44:30.:44:35.

they know STV came in, they would be hung councils. You looking at

:44:36.:44:41.

Caerphilly and so on. There is a lot of resistance to changing the voting

:44:42.:44:45.

system from Labour councillors. The Labour Party said they are in favour

:44:46.:44:49.

of it but it wouldn't work in their favour. -- would work. It doesn't

:44:50.:45:00.

matter what the voting system is, if you don't feel any candidate.

:45:01.:45:15.

There are places where they find real difficulty at the moment.

:45:16.:45:54.

One-man is going to talk to us now. Mark Williams joins us now. You have

:45:55.:46:05.

a good chunk of time with them now and you will go through the speech

:46:06.:46:10.

line by line. The main line that jumped out from the conference guide

:46:11.:46:13.

is you are going to call on people to campaign like you have never

:46:14.:46:20.

campaigned before. What will that mean in practice? A vigorous

:46:21.:46:23.

campaign across the country. There is a necessity there after what we

:46:24.:46:33.

admit has been pretty bad elections in 2015 and 2016. These elections

:46:34.:46:36.

are pretty important and critical to the communities in which we are

:46:37.:46:41.

fighting the critical for the party as well. Fighting to gain more

:46:42.:46:45.

Liberal Democrat can -- councils across the country. You have won one

:46:46.:46:58.

Assembly Member. Nine MPs overall. The House of Commons has 650. Why do

:46:59.:47:04.

you think these council elections will be any different? Why will

:47:05.:47:07.

people turn to the Lib Dems when they haven't in the previous two

:47:08.:47:14.

years? They are important elections and it is important they vote. The

:47:15.:47:20.

West Minster elections -- the Westminster elections were very

:47:21.:47:27.

painful. As was Kirsty losing her four colleagues. People should vote

:47:28.:47:31.

because of a renewed clarity of message. When you see the work

:47:32.:47:36.

Kirsty is undertaking as Education Minister, active work, working with

:47:37.:47:43.

Labour colleagues, maybe that is a good thing. Working to reduce class

:47:44.:47:49.

sizes, working to get the progressive system of student

:47:50.:47:53.

support in the UK. They are important reasons to vote Lib Dem.

:47:54.:47:59.

What we are saying about social care and house-building in our community

:48:00.:48:03.

as well. I also think this has to take place against the backdrop of

:48:04.:48:08.

Brexit and what we are saying about Brexit. How we are standing up

:48:09.:48:15.

fighting for Wales within these uncertain periods. That is very

:48:16.:48:21.

important if you represent a farming constituency, and objective one area

:48:22.:48:26.

where we have had money from Europe. There is clarity from the leader on

:48:27.:48:30.

these matters and I hope they will be more clarity for me also. The

:48:31.:48:39.

party's position as a referendum, another referendum. The first

:48:40.:48:42.

referendum was lost. Respect the decision. I do respect the decision.

:48:43.:48:49.

Wales voted to withdraw and I understand that will stop I was

:48:50.:48:54.

gutted by the results as some do that is committed to Europe and I

:48:55.:48:59.

see the benefits in my constituency. People wanted to leave but people

:49:00.:49:02.

didn't know the destination of travel and that's why we have

:49:03.:49:11.

constantly pressed to Reza's may Government -- Theresa May's

:49:12.:49:15.

Government. That is why we should have an opportunity when the deal

:49:16.:49:18.

has been concluded and it would be a long way off. There should be an

:49:19.:49:24.

opportunity for the people of Wales to look at the deal that is offered.

:49:25.:49:29.

Is it good for the economy of Wales? What if we don't have unfettered

:49:30.:49:34.

access to the single market? What is the impact that will have on Wales?

:49:35.:49:42.

Wales' voice needs to be heard. It won't just be a referendum in Wales,

:49:43.:49:51.

it will be UK wide. It would be a UK wide referendum will stop Theresa

:49:52.:49:58.

May will carry on ignoring you, won't she? She will press for hard

:49:59.:50:05.

Brexit. Is she going to be more measured and responsive to the

:50:06.:50:11.

legitimate concerns that farming unions and businesses are raising? I

:50:12.:50:17.

will praise the First Minister and the principal opposition party the

:50:18.:50:23.

coming up with a concrete plan. The Assembly Government, the white paper

:50:24.:50:27.

they produced. It is imperative that Theresa May listens and acts on what

:50:28.:50:33.

First Minister and others have been telling her. You mention Brexit.

:50:34.:50:44.

With people more interested in the councils dealing with dog mass when

:50:45.:50:52.

it comes to these elections? It is about bigger issues across the UK.

:50:53.:51:00.

People are constantly raising Brexit at the moment. They are fearful of

:51:01.:51:05.

what happens next. People use any election as an opportunity to raise

:51:06.:51:13.

this. People will be reflecting on a whole range of issues, local ones,

:51:14.:51:18.

electing local champions. The bigger picture as well. The comeback starts

:51:19.:51:33.

now. You have been in charge in the past. Cardiff, Swansea, Bridgend.

:51:34.:51:39.

Those days must seem like hundreds of days ago now will stop you are

:51:40.:51:48.

right. I used her four colleagues in the House of Commons. We are where

:51:49.:51:52.

we are and the party is determined to move forward, to build up. That

:51:53.:51:59.

is happening on the ground. Council Danes in Newport, Cardiff. Building

:52:00.:52:03.

up to our strongest position for weirs. It will take that take time.

:52:04.:52:11.

Of course it will take time. We came to a great low and it will take

:52:12.:52:16.

time. No one can doubt the fact that the sincerity of the Lib Dems, we

:52:17.:52:20.

will build up. It has happened before and it will happen again.

:52:21.:52:26.

Politicians have a right to project numbers that they might win. You

:52:27.:52:33.

have defended 75 -- you are defending 75 seats. Do you think you

:52:34.:52:42.

can get back up there? I will agree. I will not give you a figure. Are

:52:43.:52:49.

you struggling to find candidates? We're finding candidates in new

:52:50.:52:53.

areas. I was down in Carmarthenshire where we have not had councillors or

:52:54.:52:58.

candid as the years. A very active group working hard there. You will

:52:59.:53:05.

get an answer to that question later down the line but I will be bitterly

:53:06.:53:12.

disappointed were we not to end election day in May with more

:53:13.:53:15.

Liberal Democrat councillors. The aspiration should be a high one. It

:53:16.:53:20.

has to be moving in the direction we were in 2004 when we had a lot of

:53:21.:53:28.

control across a lot of the country. That is the aspiration and we have

:53:29.:53:33.

to get to it. You have been an MP for 12 years. It is possibly the

:53:34.:53:37.

worst time in the party's history. Is this the biggest job you have had

:53:38.:53:42.

in politics? It is frustrating because you can see the potential

:53:43.:53:45.

out there. You talk to people and they agree with the course -- cause.

:53:46.:53:54.

It is about motivating people. I have had higher and lower points in

:53:55.:53:59.

my career. There is also a question of responsibility to Wales and the

:54:00.:54:06.

party and that is why I do what I do. Thank you for speaking to us

:54:07.:54:13.

today. That is Mark Williams and his speech begins at 3:45pm. You will

:54:14.:54:18.

hear the best bits of that later this evening.

:54:19.:54:23.

That didn't sound like a leader that has been decimated in recent

:54:24.:54:28.

elections. He sounds positive. Are they starting from such an open it

:54:29.:54:32.

-- pace that they are anticipating a relatively good night in May? I

:54:33.:54:37.

think they will probably get one. It is more than that. This isn't the

:54:38.:54:43.

first time this party has been in the position it is in now. There

:54:44.:54:48.

have been two previous occasions where they have been down to one

:54:49.:54:53.

seat in Wales will stop this is a party that knows how to go into

:54:54.:54:59.

survival mode. They are back where they were 25 years ago in terms of

:55:00.:55:05.

organisation, in terms of parliamentary representation, in

:55:06.:55:08.

terms of local Government. What the older hands will tell you is we have

:55:09.:55:15.

done it before and we can do it again. There is little doubt in my

:55:16.:55:20.

mind that they will make some progress in May. It won't take them

:55:21.:55:23.

back to where they were ten years ago but it may take them back to

:55:24.:55:27.

where they were 15 years ago. That is the way the Liberal Democrats

:55:28.:55:33.

think. Something the former Chief Executive said committed membership

:55:34.:55:36.

as a matter for the Welsh party but I lost count of the times an e-mail

:55:37.:55:41.

about an English matter was sent to our members despite being entirely

:55:42.:55:44.

irrelevant. Even in an Assembly election year, I suppose he means

:55:45.:55:48.

Welsh council elections, our members were targeted with requests that

:55:49.:55:54.

cash from HQ that undermined our fundraising efforts. What does that

:55:55.:55:57.

say about the interaction between the party centrally and its

:55:58.:56:01.

relationship with a party in Wales? There is an awful lot of tension.

:56:02.:56:07.

Part of the problem is the Lib Dems on paper, unlike the Conservatives

:56:08.:56:14.

or Labour, are a federal party. The party in Wales is semi --

:56:15.:56:17.

semi-autonomous. It is largely financed from the centre. If you

:56:18.:56:24.

talk to people in the party, they will say everything around Liberal

:56:25.:56:27.

Democrat HQ is aimed at the number of seats sitting on the green

:56:28.:56:31.

benches in Westminster. Come the general election, there is plenty of

:56:32.:56:39.

help for us. We have new campaigning techniques but come an Assembly

:56:40.:56:42.

election, that help isn't there. There is a lot of frustration and

:56:43.:56:47.

tension. Not just with the party in Wales will stop if you go to the

:56:48.:56:54.

website, Liberal Democrat voice you will see a huge argument there by

:56:55.:57:00.

one of their site's editor. Why am I getting all this stuff about England

:57:01.:57:06.

all the time from the head office? There are tensions between what they

:57:07.:57:11.

call the state parties, which is the Welsh party, Scottish party and

:57:12.:57:16.

English party and the Federal party. They have lost quite a bit of

:57:17.:57:20.

funding and we know a lot of political parties use the status of

:57:21.:57:24.

the group in an Assembly to fund other activities because it gives

:57:25.:57:29.

them a profile, it gives them reach. How difficult has it been since

:57:30.:57:34.

losing those Assembly members? It is difficult. There was no suggestion

:57:35.:57:42.

that used public money in any way improperly. It is impossible to do

:57:43.:57:46.

things like employing someone that three days a week to work for the

:57:47.:57:50.

group but you are giving them a full-time income. You are getting

:57:51.:57:55.

some help from the party. Nothing illegal, improper, wrong about doing

:57:56.:58:00.

that. It does mean that now they have had to fall onto their

:58:01.:58:08.

voluntary work. If the Government announces something, the group would

:58:09.:58:12.

respond and the group press officer would respond. Now with the

:58:13.:58:16.

Government announces something, the responses haven't come from outside

:58:17.:58:20.

the Assembly, particularly if the response is different from what

:58:21.:58:26.

Kirsty Williams would say. You will see e-mails that would have come

:58:27.:58:33.

from within, now coming from various places around Wales as they respond

:58:34.:58:38.

to various activities going on. The Kirsty Williams herself, as the move

:58:39.:58:43.

into the Welsh Government been a good move? She's saying that they

:58:44.:58:48.

have won concessions on education. To what extent could they have had

:58:49.:58:53.

these anyway had they have struck a budget deal with the Welsh

:58:54.:58:58.

Government? Did she have to be within the Government to have done

:58:59.:59:04.

the things that she's done? Some of them. She could have achieved some

:59:05.:59:15.

of them from outside. What would her position be as being a single

:59:16.:59:20.

Assembly Member on the backbenches? She wouldn't be a recognised group.

:59:21.:59:29.

Herbert would be important. -- her vote. There was a personal element

:59:30.:59:39.

here. She has been in the Assembly since the beginning, since 1999. The

:59:40.:59:45.

opportunity for a politician, an ambitious politician, to be in

:59:46.:59:50.

Government and in the Cabinet table dealing with an issue like health

:59:51.:59:58.

and education, I don't see how on a personal level she could have turned

:59:59.:00:00.

that opportunity down. Is there a danger she should be the

:00:01.:00:13.

first one to go? I think she is probably the safest member of the

:00:14.:00:19.

Cabinet, given the mathematics. They are not as desperate for her

:00:20.:00:29.

support. Thomas is not the reliable of votes if you talk to people. They

:00:30.:00:35.

don't know which way he is going to vote on any particular issue in

:00:36.:00:41.

advance. I think Kirsty Williams is fairly safe. I think she will be

:00:42.:00:48.

there in that job. Certainly while Carwyn Jones is First Minister. If

:00:49.:00:55.

Carwyn Jones stands down in the year or so before the election, that will

:00:56.:01:02.

give Kirsty Williams a chance to reconsider and whoever the First

:01:03.:01:07.

Minister, whether she wants to go into an election in Cabinet or

:01:08.:01:11.

whether she should step back so she can differentiate between the

:01:12.:01:15.

Liberal Democrats and Labour. One of Kirsty Williams' legs in Cardiff Bay

:01:16.:01:24.

is keeping company to Carl. I am joined by William Powell.

:01:25.:01:29.

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats on Powys council. Good

:01:30.:01:37.

morning. You will be speaking later on in the conference. What is your

:01:38.:01:42.

main message is going to be? The Lib Dems are back in business. Are they

:01:43.:01:49.

really? If you look at the three council election wins we have had in

:01:50.:01:54.

recent times at local Government level, also across the UK. We have

:01:55.:02:01.

surged to 85,000 members. We are the party that given people a sense of

:02:02.:02:07.

hope and the rebuilding of trust that is all too lacking in some of

:02:08.:02:11.

the other parties. The single biggest engine for that is our

:02:12.:02:18.

commitment to making the best deal of the Brexit situation which we

:02:19.:02:24.

find ourselves. Brexit is going to have some impact. Who knows if it

:02:25.:02:30.

will be positive or negative? It will have an impact in Wales. We

:02:31.:02:36.

need to make sure the maximum number of environment options and the

:02:37.:02:41.

maximum level of support is still in place for our rural communities. The

:02:42.:02:46.

landscape which we have, one of our great assets, is not there by

:02:47.:02:51.

accident. It is the result of the wider economy, the intervention of

:02:52.:02:56.

farming over time and we need to ensure we are there standing up

:02:57.:03:01.

strongly with farming union representatives and other key

:03:02.:03:04.

representatives of our rural heartlands because there is no doubt

:03:05.:03:10.

that there is a real danger that Brexit represents a major threat to

:03:11.:03:15.

the survival of our economies. We need to be there for them and we

:03:16.:03:20.

need to make sure we make the best of the situation in which we find

:03:21.:03:26.

ourselves. I imagine you will be campaigning. Is Brexit coming up? It

:03:27.:03:35.

is coming up and it is increasing and I have noticed a shift where

:03:36.:03:40.

people are opening up and talking about it and talking not so much

:03:41.:03:44.

about their sense of optimism, but their concerns and they want that

:03:45.:03:49.

reassurance. Particularly members of the farming community that feel they

:03:50.:03:54.

have been sold short by the promises that have been made that are

:03:55.:03:55.

evaporating. Can the Lib Dems position on Brexit

:03:56.:04:07.

attract voters? It's clearly attracting members, because we've

:04:08.:04:12.

picked up thousands of members. It is a main engine for us, because

:04:13.:04:18.

people can identify clearly what our position is and that ultimately we

:04:19.:04:21.

are committed to there being a second thought and a vote on the

:04:22.:04:26.

terms of the referendum. But given there was no clarity on destination,

:04:27.:04:34.

we are there to provide that second opportunity, so that people can

:04:35.:04:38.

endorse the terms on the bench or otherwise. Few would introduced as a

:04:39.:04:42.

former Assembly colleague of Kirsty Williams. She sits in the Cabinet

:04:43.:04:49.

now. Few are a member of the Liberal Democrats in Brecon. I would be

:04:50.:04:52.

interested in your views, but also people who are members of the

:04:53.:04:58.

constituency party about Kirsty's position or the party to back Kirsty

:04:59.:05:02.

to go into government. Is it a popular one? I must say it is,

:05:03.:05:08.

because people continue to judge Kirsty by what she has achieved at a

:05:09.:05:13.

local level but also nationally. It is a wonderful opportunity that we

:05:14.:05:19.

now have, even in challenging circumstances, to deliver their

:05:20.:05:22.

priorities, such as commitments on class sizes for the first time ever.

:05:23.:05:29.

Dedicated and customised rural schools policy. And the upcoming

:05:30.:05:33.

leadership academies, so that we have quality leadership across

:05:34.:05:39.

schools and colleges in Wales, and a whole host of other areas. These are

:05:40.:05:43.

not in areas where we are standing on the sidelines making noises, we

:05:44.:05:48.

had in there, shaping things in government. We are intervening by

:05:49.:05:53.

people to advance them and put them in a better place for their quality

:05:54.:05:56.

of life and their futures. Don't you think it dilutes or is the minimal

:05:57.:06:01.

Liberal Democrat presence in the Assembly, then? No, I think to the

:06:02.:06:08.

contrary. The fact is we were elected with a single member. I am

:06:09.:06:14.

sure viewers will understand that if you have a single Assembly Member,

:06:15.:06:18.

you have no group structure, you have very little opportunities to

:06:19.:06:25.

contribute as a single freestanding member. Being able to be at the

:06:26.:06:29.

heart of the governments at the Cabinet table, shaping things, and

:06:30.:06:34.

not only within the education portfolio, but across the piece in

:06:35.:06:40.

policy terms. And crucially, from my perspective, advancing the cause and

:06:41.:06:45.

understanding of rural communities and the importance that their voices

:06:46.:06:47.

heard loud and clear that the of government. Thank you for your time.

:06:48.:06:54.

William Powell will be speaking to the conference later. Back to the

:06:55.:06:59.

studio. Earlier this morning, Bob Griffin,

:07:00.:07:02.

the party's economic spokesman, addressed the conference. Our stance

:07:03.:07:10.

on staying in the European market is clear. As a public sort out fact and

:07:11.:07:15.

fiction in the discussion on Brexit, the real life impact on their jobs,

:07:16.:07:21.

on the industries and on their areas and communities will be apparent,

:07:22.:07:24.

and our view becomes more and more credible. I've also got to see that

:07:25.:07:31.

we have a whole debate on this later on in confidence, so we can all

:07:32.:07:35.

voice our concerns and our opinions on that at a later time this

:07:36.:07:44.

weekend. In terms of statistics, in Wales, it's nice to see our

:07:45.:07:48.

unemployment is falling and wages are rising faster than in England.

:07:49.:07:54.

But the above statistics, we start from a low base. We have a lot of

:07:55.:07:59.

catching up to do. One in three people in Wales is paid out of the

:08:00.:08:05.

public purse. This percentage is incredibly high and is unsustainable

:08:06.:08:10.

in the long-term, as we look for greater devolution in Wales, we have

:08:11.:08:16.

to change this balance, so that there are more people earning in the

:08:17.:08:20.

private sector in wealth generation and less dependent on the public

:08:21.:08:27.

purse. So we need to promote the growth in our private sector, the

:08:28.:08:32.

wealth generators, start-ups helping expanding businesses and innovators.

:08:33.:08:43.

BC from time to time the Welsh government condemned for making bad

:08:44.:08:49.

decisions, but we have to accept that if we are investing in the

:08:50.:08:53.

private sector, some are just not going to work. And if more than half

:08:54.:08:58.

work, perhaps we can set a benchmark on that, then that is fine. But

:08:59.:09:03.

would also going to get failures or was with grant aid to the private

:09:04.:09:09.

sector. But the fear of getting it wrong has meant that our process of

:09:10.:09:13.

giving grant aid and other support to the private sector has got more

:09:14.:09:18.

complex, more bureaucratic, to the point where I have been talking to a

:09:19.:09:27.

fairly major food processor, who has been waiting 16 months Wednesday

:09:28.:09:31.

decision as to whether he can proceed or not without grant that

:09:32.:09:36.

would generate over 30 jobs. This is hopeless. In those 16 months, we've

:09:37.:09:42.

voted to leave the EU, his whole world has changed, his export market

:09:43.:09:45.

is now in danger, the cost of its raw materials has gone up. The world

:09:46.:09:50.

has changed in the time he put that in. This is replicated many times

:09:51.:09:55.

over, so that we need to see that our grant aid, help for businesses,

:09:56.:10:02.

is simple, is fast and is consistent, which it isn't now. We,

:10:03.:10:13.

in Wales, have places like Swansea, like Cardiff, where economic growth

:10:14.:10:18.

is good, and there are places like where I come from, from Merthyr

:10:19.:10:22.

Tydfil, where economic growth is very slow, and despite a lot of

:10:23.:10:26.

projects, hasn't really taken off. We have another problem with the

:10:27.:10:32.

heads of the valleys areas, in that many people live in social housing.

:10:33.:10:39.

This might seem a long way from economic growth, but the truth is,

:10:40.:10:44.

if you do social housing, it's very difficult to move. If work is

:10:45.:10:48.

available outside of the commute area, you don't do it, you cannot

:10:49.:10:53.

move easily, if you're in social housing. So part of my brief to do

:10:54.:10:57.

with infrastructure is also looking at ways in which we can help people

:10:58.:11:02.

in economic blackspots, like the heads of the valleys area, be able

:11:03.:11:09.

to get themselves to places like Cardiff and Swansea, to be able to

:11:10.:11:15.

work. The projects would like to see include the electrification of the

:11:16.:11:20.

valleys lines, proper integrated transport structures, a whole host

:11:21.:11:26.

of things we want to see in terms of infrastructure. And things that will

:11:27.:11:32.

inspire and pick Wales on the map, in terms of our very local Swansea

:11:33.:11:42.

Bay generation scheme. And there is a great range of economic growth

:11:43.:11:48.

structures that we could do. Any minute now, the former leader of the

:11:49.:11:53.

Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, will be addressing

:11:54.:11:58.

conference. We've topped about it already. I suspect she will be

:11:59.:12:02.

talking about her work as a government minister, especially in

:12:03.:12:08.

terms of the concessions she has had from the Labour government and some

:12:09.:12:13.

education policies. Yes, and she's in the fortunate position at the

:12:14.:12:16.

moment as someone who is still in the first year in the job, of not

:12:17.:12:21.

having to defend what she has inherited from the previous

:12:22.:12:28.

government. The poor at Pisa figures happened on her watch, but she can

:12:29.:12:31.

say, I'm already changing things, you will see the fruits of my work

:12:32.:12:37.

in a few years' time. In terms of her record on education, I do the

:12:38.:12:43.

tour have any problem. She can pledge that it will delivered on

:12:44.:12:46.

time. But she does face a difficult problem. She is by far and away the

:12:47.:12:56.

best public six speaker -- the best public speaker the Lib Dems cracks

:12:57.:13:01.

of court. Tim Fallon 's not here because it's his wife's birthday.

:13:02.:13:10.

She has to do more than just talk about her time in government. There

:13:11.:13:15.

are also the Donaldson reforms. She could be out of office before the

:13:16.:13:22.

fruits of our Labour become evident. That's a problem for everyone.

:13:23.:13:25.

People will sensibly our education system is going. People deal with

:13:26.:13:29.

the education system on a daily basis, so they have a perception of

:13:30.:13:34.

how their children's schools are doing and I think people will be

:13:35.:13:39.

able to judge her effectiveness, even if we haven't yet reached the

:13:40.:13:49.

next Pisa results. We can sense the direction things moving in. The Lib

:13:50.:13:54.

Dems were hammered for going into coalition with the Conservatives in

:13:55.:13:59.

Manchester. This is not a formal coalition in Wales. How is it

:14:00.:14:04.

different? Many ways, her hand was forced on this, because if she

:14:05.:14:07.

wanted a profile, there was no one else convertible. That's the first

:14:08.:14:13.

point, but the other point is, I would query the assertion that they

:14:14.:14:17.

were hammered for going into coalition. I do think that's

:14:18.:14:20.

necessarily the case. I think what they were hammered for was for

:14:21.:14:24.

abandoning some key commitments wasted on. It was the sort of

:14:25.:14:29.

coalition they went into which appeared far, far too friendly, far

:14:30.:14:33.

too close with the Conservatives, that they were punished for. If they

:14:34.:14:39.

had taken a more pragmatic, defending seated stands, had

:14:40.:14:44.

insisted more on questions around student finance, for instance, we

:14:45.:14:48.

know David Cameron would have given them or if they had asked for more,

:14:49.:14:50.

then they might not have been hammered in the same way. In public,

:14:51.:14:56.

we haven't seen any tension between Kirsty Williams and the Welsh

:14:57.:15:00.

government on the policy front. We did see one, on the Brexit vote. She

:15:01.:15:06.

was allowed to vote that way. But it did raise eyebrows. Carwyn Jones, at

:15:07.:15:11.

the start of this agreement, said Kirsty Williams would have to accept

:15:12.:15:16.

Cabinet collective responsibility. There haven't really been issues

:15:17.:15:21.

that have arisen yet that would cause an embarrassment, apart from

:15:22.:15:25.

that Brexit one, and on that, she was given a pass. There will be

:15:26.:15:30.

issues. I have no doubt, where she finds herself in a difficult

:15:31.:15:36.

position, where she has to support government positions that are

:15:37.:15:38.

opposed to her own opinions and official party policy. People talk

:15:39.:15:42.

about the influence she has in government. That might be apparent

:15:43.:15:49.

with the Welsh government getting ?200 million extra as Barnett

:15:50.:15:54.

consequential. To what extent she can persuade the Welsh government to

:15:55.:15:59.

spend that in her area. We will see where that money goes. What we could

:16:00.:16:07.

see is the personal relationship between Carwyn Jones and Kirsty

:16:08.:16:11.

Williams is good. I think that because the personal relationship is

:16:12.:16:17.

good, she actually has slightly more influence than you might expect,

:16:18.:16:21.

just from being one single member of the Cabinet. But when it comes to

:16:22.:16:26.

everyone pushing for more money, we know there will be pushing for more

:16:27.:16:28.

spending on social care, for instance, she will face a difficult

:16:29.:16:33.

fight, because it's not really that much money. I think they are giving

:16:34.:16:37.

her the big wide but the moment. Let's cross over to the conference

:16:38.:16:42.

floor. Issues, Kirsty Williams herself, waiting their turn. Let's

:16:43.:16:50.

tune into what is being said. Welcome, Kirsty, and we look forward

:16:51.:16:55.

to hearing from you. APPLAUSE

:16:56.:17:07.

Thank you to everybody for your warm welcome. It's great to be back here

:17:08.:17:13.

in Swansea. Peter Black always used to tell me that I grew up on the

:17:14.:17:20.

wrong side, but actually, I have very strong family roots here in

:17:21.:17:30.

Swansea. That ugly, lovely town, crawling, sprawling by the side of

:17:31.:17:34.

the long and splendid curving shore. The sea town was Dylan Thomas's

:17:35.:17:40.

worlds, and it was mine. My mother was born on Gorse Avenue and as a

:17:41.:17:47.

family, we wouldn't Swansea every weekend. I learned to ride my two

:17:48.:17:51.

wheeler bike in the park around the corner, I ate my ice cream at

:17:52.:17:58.

Joel's, and when I was a little bit older, I might occasionally have

:17:59.:18:05.

ventured along the Mumbles My old. Of course, political parties are a

:18:06.:18:12.

lot like families. The Addams family, in the case of Ukip. The

:18:13.:18:17.

Welsh Liberal Democrats are also a family. In fact, here in Swansea, it

:18:18.:18:22.

is very much a family affair. So much so that my uncle Phil, his

:18:23.:18:26.

son-in-law John and my little brother Ben, a role Welsh Liberal

:18:27.:18:32.

Democrat candidates this month of May, regularly Swansea. APPLAUSE

:18:33.:18:43.

So yes, maybe we do take being like a family just a little bit too

:18:44.:18:47.

seriously at times. Conference, it has been said that nothing remains

:18:48.:18:56.

the same, and that has never been truer. Since last spring conference,

:18:57.:19:01.

our world has completely changed. In Wales, we have seen you can spread

:19:02.:19:06.

the toxic division to the National Assembly. In London, we have a

:19:07.:19:09.

government refusing to say that EU nationals have a right to stay and

:19:10.:19:14.

call our country home. And in America, we have seen a man

:19:15.:19:20.

unapologetic in his sexism and racism take the most powerful office

:19:21.:19:24.

in the world. These are worrying times. But worrying times when

:19:25.:19:32.

movements are built. Boiling times when people realise that there are

:19:33.:19:35.

things they hold dear that we must all fight for. Leonard Cohen sang,

:19:36.:19:43.

or at least he spoke deeply, that there are cracks in everything, and

:19:44.:19:52.

that is how the light gets in. The grey clouds of division continued to

:19:53.:19:56.

lead all the rows, and I don't know about you, but I can see the rays of

:19:57.:20:01.

light shining through. People across Britain have found something not

:20:02.:20:04.

just a fight against, but to fight for. To fight for tolerance,

:20:05.:20:11.

community and fairness. The people of Britain need an opposition party

:20:12.:20:15.

that both fight with these values, and that party is ours, the Liberal

:20:16.:20:20.

Democrats, and our party will take the lead. APPLAUSE

:20:21.:20:29.

And let us be clear, that fightback has begun. We have more members than

:20:30.:20:33.

at any time in our party's yesterday. We are winning council

:20:34.:20:37.

by-elections across the country, and then I see it, even the polls are

:20:38.:20:44.

beginning to look up a bit. People are feeling ignored, marginalised,

:20:45.:20:51.

forgotten. But we are listening. And we now that it is dealing with the

:20:52.:20:56.

present and shining a light into the future, rejecting a false, nostalgic

:20:57.:21:01.

nationalism, it is that that will make a real difference to people's

:21:02.:21:07.

lives. Conference, it has been tough for us since last spring, but now is

:21:08.:21:12.

the time to stand up, now is the time to lead and now is the time to

:21:13.:21:19.

promote the Welsh Liberal Democrats. APPLAUSE

:21:20.:21:27.

We know that division and fear always rise up when people feel

:21:28.:21:34.

helpless. To fight this, we as liberals, believe that education is

:21:35.:21:40.

the key to empowering people. Education, as Carol said, is at the

:21:41.:21:45.

heart of what we stand for. In the last Assembly, which party

:21:46.:21:48.

prioritised education in negotiations with the Welsh

:21:49.:21:53.

government? Was it Plaid Cymru? In those five years, did the Tories do

:21:54.:22:00.

it? Not once. It was only the Welsh Liberal Democrats every single year.

:22:01.:22:06.

Because of this determination, we secured over ?300 million additional

:22:07.:22:11.

funding for our schools. Not bad for a party of just 5ams. And now in

:22:12.:22:20.

government, we, and mean me, still prioritise education every single

:22:21.:22:26.

day. Conference, we are still achieving more than the other

:22:27.:22:29.

parties put together and we're still very much the party of education.

:22:30.:22:35.

Raising standards, reducing the attainment gap in delivering an

:22:36.:22:39.

education service that is a source of national pride and national

:22:40.:22:45.

confidence. International mission. Our mission. Conference, we will

:22:46.:22:54.

show the way as Liberal Democrats. But we also know that it is not

:22:55.:23:02.

going to be easy. The Pisa results show was that there is much to do,

:23:03.:23:08.

and hard work ahead. Wales needs strong leaders, eight national

:23:09.:23:17.

mission needs strong leaders. You will know that I recently invited

:23:18.:23:25.

international experts to provide progress on how we are doing. The

:23:26.:23:30.

report was positive. The live a long way to go, but the reforms we have

:23:31.:23:33.

put in place have their backing. However, they share my strong view

:23:34.:23:40.

that Wales has not done enough to support and develop our leaders. The

:23:41.:23:45.

Welsh Liberal Democrats made this point time and time again in the

:23:46.:23:50.

last Assembly, and that is why we promised in our manifesto the

:23:51.:23:54.

establishment of a leadership Academy, something I have

:23:55.:23:57.

prioritised since being in government. I can issue you that

:23:58.:24:02.

leadership development will be a prime driver of our reforms. No more

:24:03.:24:06.

than ever, wales needs strong leaders who adopt that the

:24:07.:24:10.

challenge, and our academy will focus on the needs of the next

:24:11.:24:14.

generation of teachers. It will develop career routes for those who

:24:15.:24:21.

want to be headteachers it will make sure that our leaders are

:24:22.:24:23.

well-prepared for the job we ask of them. Wales needs strong leadership.

:24:24.:24:27.

Conference, Wales has been crying out for an Academy like this for

:24:28.:24:32.

decades. So you can be proud that it is because of us that we are making

:24:33.:24:50.

it a reality here in Wales. APPLAUSE I spoke earlier of the need to

:24:51.:24:58.

listen to what people tell us. Since becoming Cabinet Secretary, it

:24:59.:25:01.

has been a privilege to visit schools, meeting teachers, pupils

:25:02.:25:04.

and parents right across the country. They are all spell out a

:25:05.:25:10.

clear message to me. We must reduce class sizes. While the Welsh Lib

:25:11.:25:17.

Dems have listened to that message. The Tories and Plaid Cymru continue

:25:18.:25:23.

to fight back. Briefing parents and teachers are wrong and that class

:25:24.:25:27.

sizes don't matter, and that we should sit back and accept growing

:25:28.:25:30.

numbers in our classrooms year on year. Well, we want. We have listen

:25:31.:25:37.

to concerns that that the international evidence. Just down

:25:38.:25:44.

the road at the last primary School, I announced ?56 million investment

:25:45.:25:50.

to reduce infant class sizes. Evidence shows that this investment,

:25:51.:25:55.

links to our other reforms, book improve attainment and to have a

:25:56.:25:58.

significant impact on blood of pupils and will support teachers to

:25:59.:26:05.

be more eminent of all stop -- will support teachers to be more

:26:06.:26:13.

innovative. Conference, we have elections coming up. Tell everyone

:26:14.:26:17.

about this policy on the doorstep. Tell everyone we have listened and

:26:18.:26:21.

tell them we're delivering it in government. The Welsh Lib Dems are

:26:22.:26:35.

raising standards for all. APPLAUSE A year ago, in the Assembly in

:26:36.:26:39.

opposition, I hosted a debate in the chamber in title, The Importance Of

:26:40.:26:45.

Rural Schools, How Schools Are The Lifeblood Of The Rural Community.

:26:46.:26:51.

Not the catchiest of titles, I know, but based on a simple truth. Without

:26:52.:26:58.

schools, how can communities flourish? Young families need

:26:59.:27:02.

schools near them or they will move away. Communities will simply

:27:03.:27:08.

decline. Never did I imagine that so soon after that debate, I would

:27:09.:27:13.

actually be able to do something about it. Too often we hear about

:27:14.:27:20.

how people across Wales feel left behind and that devolution has

:27:21.:27:26.

become a Project limited to Cardiff. That is why was proud earlier this

:27:27.:27:31.

month when the government unveiled plans for the North Wales metro, are

:27:32.:27:36.

planned that will be transformative. I was proud to introduce Wales's

:27:37.:27:40.

first ever rural and small schools strategy. For the first time, Wales

:27:41.:27:47.

will have a definition of the rural school. We will also introduce rules

:27:48.:27:54.

presuming against the closure of rural schools. It's not simply about

:27:55.:27:58.

keeping schools open, it's also about making sure all schools get a

:27:59.:28:02.

fair hearing when their future is considered. This is about the Welsh

:28:03.:28:07.

Lib Dems raising standards in all of our schools, no matter where they

:28:08.:28:11.

are based. You may ask, what about the funding? I have guaranteed ?10

:28:12.:28:17.

million additional investment to support this policy, because I know

:28:18.:28:22.

that warm words are simply not enough. We recognise that children

:28:23.:28:26.

in small and rural schools deserve the same opportunities as children

:28:27.:28:32.

across Wales. The Welsh Lib Dems will always be on the side of our

:28:33.:28:45.

rural communities. APPLAUSE But

:28:46.:28:45.

let us think. Let us reflect. Is there anything

:28:46.:28:59.

more heartbreaking than knowing that the pool family, the less likely it

:29:00.:29:05.

is that the child will be able to reach their full potential?

:29:06.:29:12.

Regardless of their talent, regardless of that ability,

:29:13.:29:15.

regardless of their intellect. Too often in our society, poverty means

:29:16.:29:20.

it shall's life chances are stolen away from them. This injustice is

:29:21.:29:27.

what drives all of us, each and every one of us in this room. And

:29:28.:29:32.

that is why I am so proud that we established the Welsh pupil premium

:29:33.:29:39.

in the last Assembly. Together, we secured this extra funding for our

:29:40.:29:44.

schools. And in government, I took the decision to double this

:29:45.:29:48.

investment again for our youngest pupils. As we all know, it is the

:29:49.:29:52.

early years that really matter the most. One-to-one tuition, extra

:29:53.:29:59.

staff, outreach programmes, all supporting our most disadvantaged

:30:00.:30:05.

pupils. This is meant over ?25 million extra investment in

:30:06.:30:10.

Swansea's schools alone. Conference, being in no doubt, that the decision

:30:11.:30:14.

to back the Welsh government's budget to support our poorest pupils

:30:15.:30:19.

was the right one. And it is making a difference. You know my proudest

:30:20.:30:23.

moment as Cabinet Secretary was welcoming this year's GCSE results,

:30:24.:30:29.

that showed that the attainment gap closed between the Buddhist pupils

:30:30.:30:33.

and their peers, and that is in large thanks to our pupil premium.

:30:34.:30:39.

Conference, I can guarantee to you here today that this investment will

:30:40.:30:47.

continue, it will continue until once and for all, a child's life

:30:48.:30:51.

chances are based on their ability and never, ever on their background.

:30:52.:31:03.

Of course, our national mission reaches further than schools. No one

:31:04.:31:14.

can accuse us of having a quiet year in government. Reforms have been

:31:15.:31:17.

wide-ranging and will lead a long-lasting, progressive legacy

:31:18.:31:21.

that we can be proud of. I have announced that we will establish a

:31:22.:31:25.

new strategic authority to oversee skills and higher education and

:31:26.:31:30.

further education. It is clear to me at the various sectors are regulated

:31:31.:31:33.

and funded in different ways by different bodies, and that has

:31:34.:31:37.

resulted in counter productive competition, as well as gaps and

:31:38.:31:42.

confusion for learners. My focus is on making sure there are high

:31:43.:31:46.

quality options and outcomes for all other citizens. In our working

:31:47.:31:55.

lives, they are no longer the dues rapidly. We need a system that makes

:31:56.:31:58.

it easier for people to learn and acquire skills throughout their

:31:59.:31:59.

careers. Across-the-board in England, they think the answer is

:32:00.:32:03.

more marketisation and privatisation, and I reject this.

:32:04.:32:07.

Drawing on international best practice, we will go forward with a

:32:08.:32:13.

sector that is coordinated, coherent and places learners at its heart.

:32:14.:32:18.

This is a radical, radical change, but one that is truly necessary. The

:32:19.:32:25.

Welsh Liberal Democrats, we take difficult decisions, but also the

:32:26.:32:29.

right ones. Topping of difficult decisions, I have also announced

:32:30.:32:32.

changes to higher education and student finance. But the truth is,

:32:33.:32:37.

we're the party had already taken this difficult decision. We've

:32:38.:32:42.

learned the lessons from the past, and this time, we went into the

:32:43.:32:46.

election with the clear but achievable policy. Beware the first

:32:47.:32:50.

party in Wales show leadership on this. Heading into the election, we

:32:51.:32:55.

were the only parted to be brave enough to be upfront and revealer

:32:56.:33:00.

hand. We knew and we said so, that the current system was

:33:01.:33:04.

unsustainable. What importantly, we were the only party that recognised

:33:05.:33:10.

it was living costs, not fees, that deterred poorer people from going to

:33:11.:33:15.

university in the first place. That in government, we're putting our

:33:16.:33:19.

principles into practice, securing stable and sustainable funding for

:33:20.:33:23.

higher education in Wales, and I the fact that NUS in Wales have

:33:24.:33:30.

supported these proposals. Because of the Welsh Lib Dems, students will

:33:31.:33:34.

receive the equivalent of the national living wage while they

:33:35.:33:39.

study. Because of the Welsh Democrats, we are introducing a

:33:40.:33:44.

system that is fair and consistent, for full-time, for part-time and for

:33:45.:33:48.

postgraduate students. Because of the Welsh Lib Dems, Wales will have

:33:49.:33:51.

the most generous and progressive system anywhere in the UK and

:33:52.:33:58.

indeed, it will be unique in Europe. Tough decisions, yes, but

:33:59.:34:01.

conference, decisions that we can be proud of. APPLAUSE

:34:02.:34:14.

My experience over the last ten months, alongside international

:34:15.:34:23.

evidence, has told me that effective leadership is the key that unlocks a

:34:24.:34:28.

better future for any education system.

:34:29.:34:33.

But now one leader can raise standards, transform lives and build

:34:34.:34:37.

better communities on the lawn. No single teacher, headteacher or

:34:38.:34:45.

school, not even a single cabinet secretary. But if we had a party, as

:34:46.:34:54.

candidates, as councillors, if we commit to listening and leading,

:34:55.:34:59.

then we will deliver a Wales that is open, tolerant and United. So,

:35:00.:35:04.

conference, let's be leaders in our communities and in our councils

:35:05.:35:08.

across our country. Let's have the courage and the confidence to make

:35:09.:35:13.

the case that tomorrow can and will be better. The Welsh Liberal

:35:14.:35:18.

Democrats meeting in all parts of Wales, leading for all people in

:35:19.:35:29.

Wales. Kirsty Williams with more than one reference in her speech to

:35:30.:35:35.

listening to the electorate. Quite a bit about her record since she

:35:36.:35:41.

joined the Welsh government. Yes, it was interesting that she

:35:42.:35:44.

concentrated so much on education. Almost as if she felt she had to

:35:45.:35:51.

justify that decision to go into government, saying that the Liberal

:35:52.:35:55.

Democrats have always been a party of education. Maybe under the

:35:56.:35:58.

surface there is a little bit more disquiet than we are picking up on.

:35:59.:36:04.

The fact that Kirsty Williams had to really put a strong defence of

:36:05.:36:05.

adorable in government. Is there a danger they could be seen

:36:06.:36:16.

as a one topic party? That is a danger but what else can you do? You

:36:17.:36:22.

can't be a minister that everything. Education isn't a bad subject to be

:36:23.:36:28.

associated with. More difficult if she had accepted the health

:36:29.:36:33.

portfolio. Health is an issue where there are always problems. However

:36:34.:36:37.

much money you have, there will always be difficult is somewhere

:36:38.:36:42.

within the health service. Education throws up less curveballs in terms

:36:43.:36:49.

of unexpected surprises, unexpected bad news. I think she would be on a

:36:50.:37:02.

sticky wicket if she had taken the health process. She was referring to

:37:03.:37:07.

listening to people and made a reference to people on Brexit. To

:37:08.:37:11.

what extent are the party listening to the majority of people in Wales

:37:12.:37:17.

who voted to leave the -- leave the European Union? The truth is they

:37:18.:37:22.

are not. They believe in the European Union. To be fair to them,

:37:23.:37:28.

will we have expected Ukip members to become supporters of Europe at

:37:29.:37:35.

the vote on the other way? Why should a party which has

:37:36.:37:40.

pro-Europeanism as part of its foundational values abandon that? It

:37:41.:37:54.

is more of a calculation. Plaid Cymru didn't give up after the 1979

:37:55.:38:01.

devolution referendum. They carried on pushing and another referendum

:38:02.:38:05.

came along. The party is saying they respect the result and the verdict

:38:06.:38:11.

of the people that that doesn't mean our values or our commitment to

:38:12.:38:22.

Europe has changed. That is a perfect standpoint to take. What you

:38:23.:38:27.

get into more difficulties as people sense you are trying to prevent the

:38:28.:38:31.

will of the people from being fulfilled. It is a difficult balance

:38:32.:38:36.

and people would respect them for sticking to their values but would

:38:37.:38:41.

resent them if they thought they were using Parliamentary tactics to

:38:42.:38:45.

draw out the process or prevent the process. We will hopefully hear from

:38:46.:38:50.

Kirsty Williams who hopefully will be joining me live in no time at

:38:51.:38:55.

all. In the meantime, let's hear from a former member. We have heard

:38:56.:39:01.

from a few of them already on the programme. Lynette Parrott has been

:39:02.:39:09.

talking and taking apart -- taking part in localism. We pride ourselves

:39:10.:39:14.

on our long term commitment to localism. Some of my earliest

:39:15.:39:19.

members are running away from dogs on housing estates with focus

:39:20.:39:25.

leaflets in my hand or folding them in front of the file with my family.

:39:26.:39:31.

At the core of today's motion is the reason why that is crucial in

:39:32.:39:34.

today's politics more than ever before. The conference notes section

:39:35.:39:43.

talks about the disconnect we have between communities and Government

:39:44.:39:47.

at all levels here in this country. The dangers of that should be

:39:48.:39:52.

obvious to all of us. We have seen a frightening slide towards the right

:39:53.:39:55.

in our country over the last few years and people who are desperately

:39:56.:39:59.

searching for ancestor the problem is that they feel and the

:40:00.:40:04.

disconnection may feel from decision-making have been throwing

:40:05.:40:07.

themselves into the arms of people who may offer those easy ounces but

:40:08.:40:13.

they offer no solutions and they won't attack the needs of those

:40:14.:40:18.

communities in the long term. We must be an alternative that is

:40:19.:40:23.

credible and viable. We must be that bridge between our communities and

:40:24.:40:31.

Government at all levels. Whether we are in a local community council

:40:32.:40:34.

serving our local commutes or whether we are in the House of

:40:35.:40:41.

Lords. That connection is crucial. We must be so careful to ensure that

:40:42.:40:48.

our iteration of localism is consistent with our values, our

:40:49.:40:54.

aspirations and a recognition of what strategic priorities should be.

:40:55.:41:06.

Localism must never sink to -- into parochialism. We have to do what is

:41:07.:41:13.

right for everyone. We can recognise the need for housing, how's our

:41:14.:41:21.

young families and the homeless. And oppose every planning application.

:41:22.:41:30.

We have to make brave choices that are consistent with the long-term

:41:31.:41:33.

needs we have. We must be brave enough and honest enough to

:41:34.:41:46.

sometimes say no to the community. That is honest localism and it will

:41:47.:41:52.

protect our values and needs for the future as a party but part of our

:41:53.:41:59.

local communities to. We need to be brave to reject those campaigns that

:42:00.:42:05.

may seem expedient now that undermine our belief in fairness and

:42:06.:42:08.

opportunity for everybody in the long-term. Who else would be that

:42:09.:42:19.

honest and that brave? Who could fill that gap. If there was no Lib

:42:20.:42:28.

Dem party, there would be a need to invent because there is nobody else

:42:29.:42:35.

who will be honest enough to do so. Don't just vote for this motion, go

:42:36.:42:41.

back and live this motion. Now it is needed more than it ever was. People

:42:42.:42:47.

need somebody to turn to. Go and give them a reason for it to be you.

:42:48.:42:53.

Applause macro -- APPLAUSE .

:42:54.:42:59.

Tim Farron is missing from this conference. He has some family

:43:00.:43:08.

commitments. It is his wife's birthday, apparently. It is not a

:43:09.:43:14.

snub. We don't always see the Prime Minister at a Welsh Conservative

:43:15.:43:28.

conference. I do think Tim Farron is the asset to the party that Nick

:43:29.:43:36.

Clegg was. Nick Clegg had a very good relationship. He was a very

:43:37.:43:42.

prominent public figure. Back in the days, the Lib Dems used to get a lot

:43:43.:43:48.

of their time. The leader of the Lib Dems was someone that people knew. I

:43:49.:43:54.

am not many -- I am not sure how many people know Tim Farron. He's

:43:55.:43:57.

having to fight to establish his profile at the moment. He isn't yet

:43:58.:44:03.

a major asset that the party can deploy because an awful lot of

:44:04.:44:07.

people have no idea who he is. He's not going to be the one who will be

:44:08.:44:13.

winning votes for the Lib Dems in May? Not at this stage. It would be

:44:14.:44:22.

the focus leaflets. Winning elections is what the Liberal

:44:23.:44:27.

Democrats are good at in terms of targeting of rewards in terms of

:44:28.:44:30.

campaigning tactics and that is what they will be depending on. We are

:44:31.:44:38.

joined life by Kirsty Williams, the sole Welsh Liberal Democrat. Good

:44:39.:44:51.

afternoon. Good afternoon. 75 councillors down from 115. One Welsh

:44:52.:45:03.

MPs, no MEP's. Is it a back to basics campaign? It has been a tough

:45:04.:45:08.

time for the party but what we have seen in recent months is a huge

:45:09.:45:15.

swelling of our membership figures and a new-found sense of

:45:16.:45:18.

self-confidence to get out there and campaign. We have seen electoral

:45:19.:45:23.

successes in council by-elections across the UK. A fabulous

:45:24.:45:28.

Westminster constituency one and we share that sense of optimism and the

:45:29.:45:35.

need to get out there, working communities and be the community

:45:36.:45:39.

champions and fight those local elections with optimism, enthusiasm

:45:40.:45:45.

and a sense of determination. This is your first Welsh conference since

:45:46.:45:49.

becoming part of the Welsh Government. Have you had any

:45:50.:45:53.

conversations with anyone within your party who was unhappy about

:45:54.:46:02.

that move? The party endorsed my move to be part of the Government.

:46:03.:46:07.

The world's developed -- the Welsh Democrats have a clear mechanism. I

:46:08.:46:11.

couldn't have done it unless they Welsh Democrats had endorsed that.

:46:12.:46:15.

They did that last May and we have been able to demonstrate the value

:46:16.:46:20.

of having a Welsh Liberal Democrat in the Government. In terms of

:46:21.:46:23.

education, something that the party is traditionally campaigning on a

:46:24.:46:29.

main previous assemblies it was our priority that prioritised spending

:46:30.:46:33.

and education. I have a national mission to raise standards, close

:46:34.:46:37.

the attainment grabbed and ensure our education system is a source of

:46:38.:46:43.

national pride and conference. Our influence goes beyond education. We

:46:44.:46:50.

will increase the number of nurses working in that community, sport our

:46:51.:46:55.

rural communities. We have ensured a better deal for local Government. We

:46:56.:46:59.

will build more affordable homes. It is not just education. It allows us

:47:00.:47:07.

to make a real difference in our communities. It sounds like you are

:47:08.:47:12.

enjoying life with Labour. Hardly a day goes by when we don't see

:47:13.:47:15.

another expose on Wales' public services. Wales has become the

:47:16.:47:24.

weakest link. If that still your view? The differences I recognise

:47:25.:47:29.

there is a job of work to do to improve public services in Wales. My

:47:30.:47:32.

Cabinet colleagues would say the same. I haven't changed my tune. I

:47:33.:47:40.

believe it now as Cabinet Secretary. The crucial difference is I now have

:47:41.:47:45.

the opportunity and the powers to do something about it. Talk is one

:47:46.:47:50.

thing. Criticism is one thing. The ability to hold the Government to

:47:51.:47:56.

account is another. I have an opportunity to change our education

:47:57.:47:58.

system, put in place the investment and leadership in class sizes,

:47:59.:48:04.

teacher's professional learning that will make a difference for our

:48:05.:48:06.

children and the teaching profession. You might change your on

:48:07.:48:13.

public services but have you changed your view on labour who you have

:48:14.:48:20.

described as Wales' weakest link? Is that still your view? No one Lib Dem

:48:21.:48:27.

Cabinet member can single-handedly reverse any decline in public

:48:28.:48:35.

services, surely? What the cabinet can do is work with politicians in

:48:36.:48:39.

other parties to make a difference. With the best will in the world,

:48:40.:48:48.

having been good at Prime Minister's Questions, it was a valuable thing

:48:49.:48:51.

to do but it didn't make a difference. Working with the

:48:52.:48:56.

Government by agreeing a budget deal that saw additional resources

:48:57.:48:59.

invested, to support the education of our poorest children, we saw the

:49:00.:49:05.

gap at GCSE levels between our poorest children and their richer

:49:06.:49:09.

counterparts close. I got into politics to do things and I am

:49:10.:49:13.

willing to do it because what is important to me is the policy of

:49:14.:49:18.

public services. It is important to the Government as a whole. I am to

:49:19.:49:23.

bring ideas, commitment enthusiast and to make a difference to

:49:24.:49:27.

communities. You mentioned a people premium. This is what an independent

:49:28.:49:34.

report said about the people premium. There is some ambiguity

:49:35.:49:43.

about how the pupil death probation --... It predates his introduction.

:49:44.:49:51.

This is your flagship policy which has a lot of questions around it. I

:49:52.:50:03.

was recently in a school in one of our most challenging communities.

:50:04.:50:06.

The chairman of governors, the headteacher, they are using that

:50:07.:50:09.

money to invest in additional staff to give the children the additional

:50:10.:50:12.

help and attention they need. Last year we saw they closing of our GCSE

:50:13.:50:21.

results. We are seeing at the end of primary school that our primary

:50:22.:50:23.

schools are able to use that resource to ensure their poorer

:50:24.:50:27.

children are going into secondary School on the same basis as they're

:50:28.:50:32.

better off counterparts. If you listen to teachers, school

:50:33.:50:36.

governors, the parents of that that -- those children, the pupil premium

:50:37.:50:39.

is giving opportunities to children that would not be there without it.

:50:40.:50:45.

The message I get is please keep on spending this money, keep on

:50:46.:50:48.

investing and keep on closing the attainment gap. Can we rattle

:50:49.:50:53.

through some of the topics. You said you are listening. How are you

:50:54.:50:59.

listening to the majority of the Welsh people on Brexit to fated

:51:00.:51:06.

believe -- voted to leave? My party has accepted the fact that the Welsh

:51:07.:51:11.

party and the UK have made a decision to leave the European

:51:12.:51:14.

Union. That doesn't mean we should abandon our beliefs. It is about

:51:15.:51:20.

working to go other and we will move our country forward. My party is

:51:21.:51:26.

saying that they hope and aspiration for a number of people wanting to

:51:27.:51:33.

stay in the European Union. They need to be listen to. From a Welsh

:51:34.:51:39.

context, we need to ensure the Tory Government in Westminster to do news

:51:40.:51:43.

to negotiate a deal that gives us unfettered access to the single

:51:44.:51:48.

market. Not to do that, to have a hard Brexit which is where the

:51:49.:51:52.

Tories seem to be willing to take us, will be disastrous for the Welsh

:51:53.:51:56.

economy and disastrous for the economy will mean bad news for our

:51:57.:52:00.

public services because you won't have the wealth to win best. One of

:52:01.:52:07.

the first speakers was Peter Black. He says it is disappointing haven't

:52:08.:52:11.

got people here who should be here. Did he have Tim Farron in mind? Tim

:52:12.:52:19.

has a family engagement this weekend. Politicians are people also

:52:20.:52:23.

and there been times in the past when leaders haven't been able to

:52:24.:52:27.

come to conferences for a whole variety of reasons. I Welsh leader,

:52:28.:52:37.

Mark Williams, it is that commitment to his community that saw him return

:52:38.:52:44.

so successfully. He is here and our counsel candidates are here. We are

:52:45.:52:48.

determined to use the opportunity of this we can to share ideas, share

:52:49.:52:52.

good practice and let communities now that it would be this party that

:52:53.:52:56.

is willing to listen to them and willing to be their community

:52:57.:53:03.

Champion in County halls across the country. On a similar conference

:53:04.:53:06.

programme, we discussed your project. Project 32 or project 35. I

:53:07.:53:17.

am kindly said it was now Project 3.2. Wheel in a school Assembly Hall

:53:18.:53:20.

today. Would you conceive that is probably the only Assembly hall that

:53:21.:53:25.

you are likely to dominate the quite a while? We know as a small party we

:53:26.:53:35.

always punch above our weight in the National Assembly and in Westminster

:53:36.:53:38.

we are the only party come despite our small size, that is holding the

:53:39.:53:43.

Tory Government to account for the disastrous policies it is pursuing.

:53:44.:53:48.

It has been a difficult time for this party. Membership is up,

:53:49.:53:52.

council candidates are up. We are determined to be the community

:53:53.:53:56.

champions the Welsh people need. Thank you very much for your time.

:53:57.:54:04.

What did you make of that? The Liberal Democrats are keen that

:54:05.:54:12.

recycling. Kirsty Williams was sure-footed as ever. The party has

:54:13.:54:17.

no option but put his hands up and say it is in a bad place. They have

:54:18.:54:23.

to start rebuilding somewhere if they are not going to disappear

:54:24.:54:27.

entirely. I think Kirsty Williams' job is to hold the fort and hope it

:54:28.:54:34.

goes well. One thing that is interesting is there was hardly any

:54:35.:54:39.

apology from Kirsty Williams on the stance on Brexit. Quite obvious

:54:40.:54:45.

which side of the argument they are now representing. They don't have

:54:46.:54:49.

the problem Labour has of having two distinct constituencies and they

:54:50.:54:56.

leave constituency. The SNP showed you can turn a minority in a

:54:57.:55:00.

referendum into a majority of first past the post election. If the Lib

:55:01.:55:08.

Dems could get off the Remainers, half the people who voted to remain,

:55:09.:55:12.

they will be doing three times better than they are now. That is

:55:13.:55:17.

what they are aiming for. Would a good night in May give them a

:55:18.:55:22.

springboard, put the foundations in place looking had to the next Welsh

:55:23.:55:28.

Assembly elections? They have always had a decent amount of Assembly

:55:29.:55:37.

members. If you look at it, the correlation between how people lived

:55:38.:55:40.

in local elections and Assembly elections is closer than it is

:55:41.:55:43.

between local elections and Assembly elections. If you do well in a

:55:44.:55:50.

sufficient number in a region, it should deliver you a regional seat.

:55:51.:55:58.

It is a long time. It is four years away to the next Assembly election.

:55:59.:56:02.

These local elections will have been forgotten. What it does is

:56:03.:56:05.

councillors give you organisation. It gives you feet on the ground,

:56:06.:56:11.

leaflets to doorsteps and that is rarely what equips you to get those

:56:12.:56:15.

regional seats in. On her record since she took office, quite a

:56:16.:56:22.

robust defence around the things she has been doing, deprived pupils so

:56:23.:56:31.

one. You would expect that sort of defence. Time will tell on some of

:56:32.:56:35.

these issues. She said in her speech that there was evidence that

:56:36.:56:41.

reducing class sizes was beneficial for pupils. The OECD say not. They

:56:42.:56:46.

say there are more important things than you can do class sizes. We will

:56:47.:56:55.

know whether she succeeds or not. We can pop over quickly for some more

:56:56.:57:01.

reaction from the conference. We will get some reaction on Christine

:57:02.:57:07.

Humphreys. Former President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Kirsty

:57:08.:57:12.

Williams has spoken. What did you make of what she had to say? It was

:57:13.:57:18.

a marvellous speech and I like the fact she started with the fact that

:57:19.:57:24.

we're a family. When you come to Welsh Lib Dem conferences, it is

:57:25.:57:28.

like meeting of the family again and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as

:57:29.:57:31.

well as getting involved in policy. All the things that Kirsty has

:57:32.:57:38.

delivered as the Cabinet Secretary fair education, they are really

:57:39.:57:43.

putting Lib Dem policies into action and that makes us proud that she has

:57:44.:57:48.

been able to do the things that we have decided in conferences in the

:57:49.:57:54.

past. For Lib Dems, it is the conferences that set policies. She

:57:55.:58:00.

has been enacting what we want to do. There is no tension with the

:58:01.:58:06.

fact that she is in the Cabinet? We would like her to have a team around

:58:07.:58:11.

her again but no tensions at all. Thank you for joining us. It is

:58:12.:58:15.

lunchtime here and everyone has gone off for their lunch. I will do the

:58:16.:58:21.

same. 75 councillors, 168 back in 2008.

:58:22.:58:31.

How much of that can be bridged? The first key is how many candidates

:58:32.:58:37.

they managed to find. We will find that out pretty soon. Realistically

:58:38.:58:40.

they need to get back into three figures. Over 100. They will get

:58:41.:58:48.

back up to 160. If you are drawing a target, I would guess they would be

:58:49.:58:54.

hoping for somewhere around 120 seats. Thank you very much. We'll

:58:55.:59:01.

back at S4 C at 2:30pm. Thanks for watching and goodbye.

:59:02.:59:03.