11/03/2017 Welsh Liberal Democrats Conference

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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


the Welsh Liberal Democrats make the pitch.


Good morning and welcome to the second of spring party political


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


organisation has had to downscale. Very few professional organisers


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Cardiff. The parties pretty confident of regaining most if not


all of the council seats in Cardiff Central, their traditional


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


are concentrating on individual wards to get those toll holds on


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


problem that Labour has, of trying to please to different


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Democrat message across in local government elections. It is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


government is wider. The Welsh government has just published a


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


could potentially in 2021 befriending those Assembly elections


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


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


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


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


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


everybody in local government. There are opportunities everywhere for


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


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


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


out of these elections with clear evidence of the Liberal Democrat


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


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


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


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


intensity to make sure we get those Liberal Democrats elected councils


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


of those services, those bigger services. Pembrokeshire is already


part of the larger education Consortium. The White Paper suggests


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


concerns about that, because it gloss of controlled by local


councillors and I have concern about how the decisions by bigger


authorities are going to be accountable and how they will be


questions and scrutinised. And overturning decisions, there are


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


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


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


sense that we think there are issues around the accountability and


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


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


structure comes in, the Welsh government can start dictating more


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


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


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


in place has to have proper accountability and scrutiny and if


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


properties back into use. Carmarthenshire has a very good


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


with owners to bring these properties back. But the empty


dwelling management orders are not very effective. Compulsory purchase


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


community issues. We have a strong record of representing our


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


councillors, has that affected the ability to win our lamented


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


important to help galvanise the grassroots, but the grassroots also


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


around public transport, around schools and education, around


building viable and vibrant town centres. We have always been


traditionally very strong on environmental issues, so I think we


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and the environment. Kirsty is putting forward distinctive Liberal


Democrat policies, smaller class sizes, investing in the pupil


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


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


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


Liberal Democrat taking forward those policies and that's important


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


unhappy with their Welsh government and who might otherwise have voted


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Welsh government. This unit difficult position, balancing the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the conference on proportional representation.


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


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


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


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


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


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


problems. This White Paper has missed an opportunity for more


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


principles into action, to inject fairness into our local Government


system and back this motion. APPLAUSE


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


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


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


formally for the policy committee but expressing its views in away


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


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


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


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


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


our commitment to reform of local Government electoral processes. An


opportunity to campaign locally on the fact that the consultation looks


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


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


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


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


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


campaigning that would be required to make the most of this


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Powys, we are inundated with an unchallenged, it independent


councillors. Most of whom are ashamed to show the political


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


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


does mean a larger area that individual councillors cover but it


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


every person and every ward within Wales.


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


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


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


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


powerful message and bind us together as council candidates and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


particularly strongly about. What the Government has said is they


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


West Minster elections -- the Westminster elections were very


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


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


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


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


sizes, working to get the progressive system of student


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


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


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


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


fighting for Wales within these uncertain periods. That is very


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


legitimate concerns that farming unions and businesses are raising? I


will praise the First Minister and the principal opposition party the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


hear the best bits of that later this evening.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


organisation, in terms of parliamentary representation, in


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


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


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


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


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


think. Something the former Chief Executive said committed membership


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


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


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


Welsh council elections, our members were targeted with requests that


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


say about the interaction between the party centrally and its


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the Assembly, particularly if the response is different from what


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


give Kirsty Williams a chance to reconsider and whoever the First


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


whether she should step back so she can differentiate between the


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


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


Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats on Powys council. Good


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


strongly with farming union representatives and other key


representatives of our rural heartlands because there is no doubt


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


reassurance. Particularly members of the farming community that feel they


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


evaporating. Can the Lib Dems position on Brexit


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


now have, even in challenging circumstances, to deliver their


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


Dedicated and customised rural schools policy. And the upcoming


leadership academies, so that we have quality leadership across


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


understanding of rural communities and the importance that their voices


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


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


studio. Earlier this morning, Bob Griffin,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


public purse. This percentage is incredibly high and is unsustainable


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


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


private sector in wealth generation and less dependent on the public


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


valleys lines, proper integrated transport structures, a whole host


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


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


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


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


Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, will be addressing


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


talking about her work as a government minister, especially in


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


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


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


having to defend what she has inherited from the previous


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Dems were hammered for going into coalition with the Conservatives in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


had taken a more pragmatic, defending seated stands, had


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Cabinet collective responsibility. There haven't really been issues


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


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


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


position, where she has to support government positions that are


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


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


with the Welsh government getting ?200 million extra as Barnett


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


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


see is the personal relationship between Carwyn Jones and Kirsty


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


to hearing from you. APPLAUSE


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Democrat candidates this month of May, regularly Swansea. APPLAUSE


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


unapologetic in his sexism and racism take the most powerful office


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


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


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


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


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


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


light shining through. People across Britain have found something not


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


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


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


Democrats, and our party will take the lead. APPLAUSE


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


promote the Welsh Liberal Democrats. APPLAUSE


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


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


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


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


prioritised education in negotiations with the Welsh


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Raising standards, reducing the attainment gap in delivering an


education service that is a source of national pride and national


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


establishment of a leadership Academy, something I have


prioritised since being in government. I can issue you that


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


than ever, wales needs strong leaders who adopt that the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Dems have listened to that message. The Tories and Plaid Cymru continue


to fight back. Briefing parents and teachers are wrong and that class


sizes don't matter, and that we should sit back and accept growing


numbers in our classrooms year on year. Well, we want. We have listen


to concerns that that the international evidence. Just down


the road at the last primary School, I announced ?56 million investment


to reduce infant class sizes. Evidence shows that this investment,


links to our other reforms, book improve attainment and to have a


significant impact on blood of pupils and will support teachers to


be more eminent of all stop -- will support teachers to be more


innovative. Conference, we have elections coming up. Tell everyone


about this policy on the doorstep. Tell everyone we have listened and


tell them we're delivering it in government. The Welsh Lib Dems are


raising standards for all. APPLAUSE A year ago, in the Assembly in


opposition, I hosted a debate in the chamber in title, The Importance Of


Rural Schools, How Schools Are The Lifeblood Of The Rural Community.


Not the catchiest of titles, I know, but based on a simple truth. Without


schools, how can communities flourish? Young families need


schools near them or they will move away. Communities will simply


decline. Never did I imagine that so soon after that debate, I would


actually be able to do something about it. Too often we hear about


how people across Wales feel left behind and that devolution has


become a Project limited to Cardiff. That is why was proud earlier this


month when the government unveiled plans for the North Wales metro, are


planned that will be transformative. I was proud to introduce Wales's


first ever rural and small schools strategy. For the first time, Wales


will have a definition of the rural school. We will also introduce rules


presuming against the closure of rural schools. It's not simply about


keeping schools open, it's also about making sure all schools get a


fair hearing when their future is considered. This is about the Welsh


Lib Dems raising standards in all of our schools, no matter where they


are based. You may ask, what about the funding? I have guaranteed ?10


million additional investment to support this policy, because I know


that warm words are simply not enough. We recognise that children


in small and rural schools deserve the same opportunities as children


across Wales. The Welsh Lib Dems will always be on the side of our


rural communities. APPLAUSE But


let us think. Let us reflect. Is there anything


more heartbreaking than knowing that the pool family, the less likely it


is that the child will be able to reach their full potential?


Regardless of their talent, regardless of that ability,


regardless of their intellect. Too often in our society, poverty means


it shall's life chances are stolen away from them. This injustice is


what drives all of us, each and every one of us in this room. And


that is why I am so proud that we established the Welsh pupil premium


in the last Assembly. Together, we secured this extra funding for our


schools. And in government, I took the decision to double this


investment again for our youngest pupils. As we all know, it is the


early years that really matter the most. One-to-one tuition, extra


staff, outreach programmes, all supporting our most disadvantaged


pupils. This is meant over ?25 million extra investment in


Swansea's schools alone. Conference, being in no doubt, that the decision


to back the Welsh government's budget to support our poorest pupils


was the right one. And it is making a difference. You know my proudest


moment as Cabinet Secretary was welcoming this year's GCSE results,


that showed that the attainment gap closed between the Buddhist pupils


and their peers, and that is in large thanks to our pupil premium.


Conference, I can guarantee to you here today that this investment will


continue, it will continue until once and for all, a child's life


chances are based on their ability and never, ever on their background.


Of course, our national mission reaches further than schools. No one


can accuse us of having a quiet year in government. Reforms have been


wide-ranging and will lead a long-lasting, progressive legacy


that we can be proud of. I have announced that we will establish a


new strategic authority to oversee skills and higher education and


further education. It is clear to me at the various sectors are regulated


and funded in different ways by different bodies, and that has


resulted in counter productive competition, as well as gaps and


confusion for learners. My focus is on making sure there are high


quality options and outcomes for all other citizens. In our working


lives, they are no longer the dues rapidly. We need a system that makes


it easier for people to learn and acquire skills throughout their


careers. Across-the-board in England, they think the answer is


more marketisation and privatisation, and I reject this.


Drawing on international best practice, we will go forward with a


sector that is coordinated, coherent and places learners at its heart.


This is a radical, radical change, but one that is truly necessary. The


Welsh Liberal Democrats, we take difficult decisions, but also the


right ones. Topping of difficult decisions, I have also announced


changes to higher education and student finance. But the truth is,


we're the party had already taken this difficult decision. We've


learned the lessons from the past, and this time, we went into the


election with the clear but achievable policy. Beware the first


party in Wales show leadership on this. Heading into the election, we


were the only parted to be brave enough to be upfront and revealer


hand. We knew and we said so, that the current system was


unsustainable. What importantly, we were the only party that recognised


it was living costs, not fees, that deterred poorer people from going to


university in the first place. That in government, we're putting our


principles into practice, securing stable and sustainable funding for


higher education in Wales, and I the fact that NUS in Wales have


supported these proposals. Because of the Welsh Lib Dems, students will


receive the equivalent of the national living wage while they


study. Because of the Welsh Democrats, we are introducing a


system that is fair and consistent, for full-time, for part-time and for


postgraduate students. Because of the Welsh Lib Dems, Wales will have


the most generous and progressive system anywhere in the UK and


indeed, it will be unique in Europe. Tough decisions, yes, but


conference, decisions that we can be proud of. APPLAUSE


My experience over the last ten months, alongside international


evidence, has told me that effective leadership is the key that unlocks a


better future for any education system.


But now one leader can raise standards, transform lives and build


better communities on the lawn. No single teacher, headteacher or


school, not even a single cabinet secretary. But if we had a party, as


candidates, as councillors, if we commit to listening and leading,


then we will deliver a Wales that is open, tolerant and United. So,


conference, let's be leaders in our communities and in our councils


across our country. Let's have the courage and the confidence to make


the case that tomorrow can and will be better. The Welsh Liberal


Democrats meeting in all parts of Wales, leading for all people in


Wales. Kirsty Williams with more than one reference in her speech to


listening to the electorate. Quite a bit about her record since she


joined the Welsh government. Yes, it was interesting that she


concentrated so much on education. Almost as if she felt she had to


justify that decision to go into government, saying that the Liberal


Democrats have always been a party of education. Maybe under the


surface there is a little bit more disquiet than we are picking up on.


The fact that Kirsty Williams had to really put a strong defence of


adorable in government. Is there a danger they could be seen


as a one topic party? That is a danger but what else can you do? You


can't be a minister that everything. Education isn't a bad subject to be


associated with. More difficult if she had accepted the health


portfolio. Health is an issue where there are always problems. However


much money you have, there will always be difficult is somewhere


within the health service. Education throws up less curveballs in terms


of unexpected surprises, unexpected bad news. I think she would be on a


sticky wicket if she had taken the health process. She was referring to


listening to people and made a reference to people on Brexit. To


what extent are the party listening to the majority of people in Wales


who voted to leave the -- leave the European Union? The truth is they


are not. They believe in the European Union. To be fair to them,


will we have expected Ukip members to become supporters of Europe at


the vote on the other way? Why should a party which has


pro-Europeanism as part of its foundational values abandon that? It


is more of a calculation. Plaid Cymru didn't give up after the 1979


devolution referendum. They carried on pushing and another referendum


came along. The party is saying they respect the result and the verdict


of the people that that doesn't mean our values or our commitment to


Europe has changed. That is a perfect standpoint to take. What you


get into more difficulties as people sense you are trying to prevent the


will of the people from being fulfilled. It is a difficult balance


and people would respect them for sticking to their values but would


resent them if they thought they were using Parliamentary tactics to


draw out the process or prevent the process. We will hopefully hear from


Kirsty Williams who hopefully will be joining me live in no time at


all. In the meantime, let's hear from a former member. We have heard


from a few of them already on the programme. Lynette Parrott has been


talking and taking apart -- taking part in localism. We pride ourselves


on our long term commitment to localism. Some of my earliest


members are running away from dogs on housing estates with focus


leaflets in my hand or folding them in front of the file with my family.


At the core of today's motion is the reason why that is crucial in


today's politics more than ever before. The conference notes section


talks about the disconnect we have between communities and Government


at all levels here in this country. The dangers of that should be


obvious to all of us. We have seen a frightening slide towards the right


in our country over the last few years and people who are desperately


searching for ancestor the problem is that they feel and the


disconnection may feel from decision-making have been throwing


themselves into the arms of people who may offer those easy ounces but


they offer no solutions and they won't attack the needs of those


communities in the long term. We must be an alternative that is


credible and viable. We must be that bridge between our communities and


Government at all levels. Whether we are in a local community council


serving our local commutes or whether we are in the House of


Lords. That connection is crucial. We must be so careful to ensure that


our iteration of localism is consistent with our values, our


aspirations and a recognition of what strategic priorities should be.


Localism must never sink to -- into parochialism. We have to do what is


right for everyone. We can recognise the need for housing, how's our


young families and the homeless. And oppose every planning application.


We have to make brave choices that are consistent with the long-term


needs we have. We must be brave enough and honest enough to


sometimes say no to the community. That is honest localism and it will


protect our values and needs for the future as a party but part of our


local communities to. We need to be brave to reject those campaigns that


may seem expedient now that undermine our belief in fairness and


opportunity for everybody in the long-term. Who else would be that


honest and that brave? Who could fill that gap. If there was no Lib


Dem party, there would be a need to invent because there is nobody else


who will be honest enough to do so. Don't just vote for this motion, go


back and live this motion. Now it is needed more than it ever was. People


need somebody to turn to. Go and give them a reason for it to be you.


Applause macro -- APPLAUSE .


Tim Farron is missing from this conference. He has some family


commitments. It is his wife's birthday, apparently. It is not a


snub. We don't always see the Prime Minister at a Welsh Conservative


conference. I do think Tim Farron is the asset to the party that Nick


Clegg was. Nick Clegg had a very good relationship. He was a very


prominent public figure. Back in the days, the Lib Dems used to get a lot


of their time. The leader of the Lib Dems was someone that people knew. I


am not many -- I am not sure how many people know Tim Farron. He's


having to fight to establish his profile at the moment. He isn't yet


a major asset that the party can deploy because an awful lot of


people have no idea who he is. He's not going to be the one who will be


winning votes for the Lib Dems in May? Not at this stage. It would be


the focus leaflets. Winning elections is what the Liberal


Democrats are good at in terms of targeting of rewards in terms of


campaigning tactics and that is what they will be depending on. We are


joined life by Kirsty Williams, the sole Welsh Liberal Democrat. Good


afternoon. Good afternoon. 75 councillors down from 115. One Welsh


MPs, no MEP's. Is it a back to basics campaign? It has been a tough


time for the party but what we have seen in recent months is a huge


swelling of our membership figures and a new-found sense of


self-confidence to get out there and campaign. We have seen electoral


successes in council by-elections across the UK. A fabulous


Westminster constituency one and we share that sense of optimism and the


need to get out there, working communities and be the community


champions and fight those local elections with optimism, enthusiasm


and a sense of determination. This is your first Welsh conference since


becoming part of the Welsh Government. Have you had any


conversations with anyone within your party who was unhappy about


that move? The party endorsed my move to be part of the Government.


The world's developed -- the Welsh Democrats have a clear mechanism. I


couldn't have done it unless they Welsh Democrats had endorsed that.


They did that last May and we have been able to demonstrate the value


of having a Welsh Liberal Democrat in the Government. In terms of


education, something that the party is traditionally campaigning on a


main previous assemblies it was our priority that prioritised spending


and education. I have a national mission to raise standards, close


the attainment grabbed and ensure our education system is a source of


national pride and conference. Our influence goes beyond education. We


will increase the number of nurses working in that community, sport our


rural communities. We have ensured a better deal for local Government. We


will build more affordable homes. It is not just education. It allows us


to make a real difference in our communities. It sounds like you are


enjoying life with Labour. Hardly a day goes by when we don't see


another expose on Wales' public services. Wales has become the


weakest link. If that still your view? The differences I recognise


there is a job of work to do to improve public services in Wales. My


Cabinet colleagues would say the same. I haven't changed my tune. I


believe it now as Cabinet Secretary. The crucial difference is I now have


the opportunity and the powers to do something about it. Talk is one


thing. Criticism is one thing. The ability to hold the Government to


account is another. I have an opportunity to change our education


system, put in place the investment and leadership in class sizes,


teacher's professional learning that will make a difference for our


children and the teaching profession. You might change your on


public services but have you changed your view on labour who you have


described as Wales' weakest link? Is that still your view? No one Lib Dem


Cabinet member can single-handedly reverse any decline in public


services, surely? What the cabinet can do is work with politicians in


other parties to make a difference. With the best will in the world,


having been good at Prime Minister's Questions, it was a valuable thing


to do but it didn't make a difference. Working with the


Government by agreeing a budget deal that saw additional resources


invested, to support the education of our poorest children, we saw the


gap at GCSE levels between our poorest children and their richer


counterparts close. I got into politics to do things and I am


willing to do it because what is important to me is the policy of


public services. It is important to the Government as a whole. I am to


bring ideas, commitment enthusiast and to make a difference to


communities. You mentioned a people premium. This is what an independent


report said about the people premium. There is some ambiguity


about how the pupil death probation --... It predates his introduction.


This is your flagship policy which has a lot of questions around it. I


was recently in a school in one of our most challenging communities.


The chairman of governors, the headteacher, they are using that


money to invest in additional staff to give the children the additional


help and attention they need. Last year we saw they closing of our GCSE


results. We are seeing at the end of primary school that our primary


schools are able to use that resource to ensure their poorer


children are going into secondary School on the same basis as they're


better off counterparts. If you listen to teachers, school


governors, the parents of that that -- those children, the pupil premium


is giving opportunities to children that would not be there without it.


The message I get is please keep on spending this money, keep on


investing and keep on closing the attainment gap. Can we rattle


through some of the topics. You said you are listening. How are you


listening to the majority of the Welsh people on Brexit to fated


believe -- voted to leave? My party has accepted the fact that the Welsh


party and the UK have made a decision to leave the European


Union. That doesn't mean we should abandon our beliefs. It is about


working to go other and we will move our country forward. My party is


saying that they hope and aspiration for a number of people wanting to


stay in the European Union. They need to be listen to. From a Welsh


context, we need to ensure the Tory Government in Westminster to do news


to negotiate a deal that gives us unfettered access to the single


market. Not to do that, to have a hard Brexit which is where the


Tories seem to be willing to take us, will be disastrous for the Welsh


economy and disastrous for the economy will mean bad news for our


public services because you won't have the wealth to win best. One of


the first speakers was Peter Black. He says it is disappointing haven't


got people here who should be here. Did he have Tim Farron in mind? Tim


has a family engagement this weekend. Politicians are people also


and there been times in the past when leaders haven't been able to


come to conferences for a whole variety of reasons. I Welsh leader,


Mark Williams, it is that commitment to his community that saw him return


so successfully. He is here and our counsel candidates are here. We are


determined to use the opportunity of this we can to share ideas, share


good practice and let communities now that it would be this party that


is willing to listen to them and willing to be their community


Champion in County halls across the country. On a similar conference


programme, we discussed your project. Project 32 or project 35. I


am kindly said it was now Project 3.2. Wheel in a school Assembly Hall


today. Would you conceive that is probably the only Assembly hall that


you are likely to dominate the quite a while? We know as a small party we


always punch above our weight in the National Assembly and in Westminster


we are the only party come despite our small size, that is holding the


Tory Government to account for the disastrous policies it is pursuing.


It has been a difficult time for this party. Membership is up,


council candidates are up. We are determined to be the community


champions the Welsh people need. Thank you very much for your time.


What did you make of that? The Liberal Democrats are keen that


recycling. Kirsty Williams was sure-footed as ever. The party has


no option but put his hands up and say it is in a bad place. They have


to start rebuilding somewhere if they are not going to disappear


entirely. I think Kirsty Williams' job is to hold the fort and hope it


goes well. One thing that is interesting is there was hardly any


apology from Kirsty Williams on the stance on Brexit. Quite obvious


which side of the argument they are now representing. They don't have


the problem Labour has of having two distinct constituencies and they


leave constituency. The SNP showed you can turn a minority in a


referendum into a majority of first past the post election. If the Lib


Dems could get off the Remainers, half the people who voted to remain,


they will be doing three times better than they are now. That is


what they are aiming for. Would a good night in May give them a


springboard, put the foundations in place looking had to the next Welsh


Assembly elections? They have always had a decent amount of Assembly


members. If you look at it, the correlation between how people lived


in local elections and Assembly elections is closer than it is


between local elections and Assembly elections. If you do well in a


sufficient number in a region, it should deliver you a regional seat.


It is a long time. It is four years away to the next Assembly election.


These local elections will have been forgotten. What it does is


councillors give you organisation. It gives you feet on the ground,


leaflets to doorsteps and that is rarely what equips you to get those


regional seats in. On her record since she took office, quite a


robust defence around the things she has been doing, deprived pupils so


one. You would expect that sort of defence. Time will tell on some of


these issues. She said in her speech that there was evidence that


reducing class sizes was beneficial for pupils. The OECD say not. They


say there are more important things than you can do class sizes. We will


know whether she succeeds or not. We can pop over quickly for some more


reaction from the conference. We will get some reaction on Christine


Humphreys. Former President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. Kirsty


Williams has spoken. What did you make of what she had to say? It was


a marvellous speech and I like the fact she started with the fact that


we're a family. When you come to Welsh Lib Dem conferences, it is


like meeting of the family again and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as


well as getting involved in policy. All the things that Kirsty has


delivered as the Cabinet Secretary fair education, they are really


putting Lib Dem policies into action and that makes us proud that she has


been able to do the things that we have decided in conferences in the


past. For Lib Dems, it is the conferences that set policies. She


has been enacting what we want to do. There is no tension with the


fact that she is in the Cabinet? We would like her to have a team around


her again but no tensions at all. Thank you for joining us. It is


lunchtime here and everyone has gone off for their lunch. I will do the


same. 75 councillors, 168 back in 2008.


How much of that can be bridged? The first key is how many candidates


they managed to find. We will find that out pretty soon. Realistically


they need to get back into three figures. Over 100. They will get


back up to 160. If you are drawing a target, I would guess they would be


hoping for somewhere around 120 seats. Thank you very much. We'll


back at S4 C at 2:30pm. Thanks for watching and goodbye.