WATCH: Jane Dodds’ speech to Welsh Lib Dem Conference

Welsh Liberal Democrats have been holding their Conference this weekend, also online.

In her leader’s speech, Jane Dodds talked about making Wales the green economic power house of a reformed UK, of the need for greater mental health support and investment in housing and tackling poverty with a Universal Basic Income trial. She talked of the importance of both people and planet to Wales’ recovery.

Watch it here:

The text is below:

Prynhawn Da Cynhadledd/Croeso Gynnes i chi gyd.
These have been hard times for us all.
Personally, professionally, politically.
We have all needed to dig deep to find extra resilience, additional emotional resources, extra bandwidth in our efforts to get through these times.

Covid has dominated our lives over the past year;
A year when we lost people.
When people lost jobs and livelihoods
When loneliness became an even bigger killer
When Welsh businesses were brought to their knees, especially small and family owned businesses and those across the hospitality and tourism sector.

But Wales is a resilient nation.

Welshness through the centuries has been more than just a political or legal identity. It has been a way of life, an attitude of mind. Our community spirit has inspired the greatest social reformers who have transformed Britain.

One hundred and ten years ago, under the leadership of David Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Liberal Government passed the National Insurance Act, setting up the first scheme to give workers the right to sick leave, access to a doctor, and treatment for the greatest scourge of the time, tuberculosis. Later, another Welshman, Aneurin Bevan updated the idea on the principles of another Liberal, William Beveridge, to found the National Health Service.

Today, the same values inspire our deep gratitude to our outstanding health workers and care workers.

That Welsh community spirit extends an unqualified thank you to our delivery drivers, our shopworkers, our pharmacists, refuse collectors, teachers, headteachers, social workers who have worked on through the pandemic.

And we now celebrate the achievements of the vaccination program in Wales with a million does already delivered.

It is an achievement that matches other great campaigns against illness and disease. One hundred years ago another great Welsh Liberal, David Davies, former MP for Montgomeryshire, established the Welsh National Memorial Association to build sanatoria and treatment centres across Wales to deal with the greatest scourge of the time that killed thousands of young people every year, tuberculosis.

You see, working together, in the Welsh spirit of community endeavor, we can achieve so much, and contribute so much, to fighting disease and creating a fairer, more just and equal society.

But that Welshness also drives our sense of outrage that health inequalities has played a huge part in this pandemic. Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf having suffered more deaths per capita from Covid than any anywhere else in the UK since March of last year.

That Welshness makes us still angry as we see poorer people getting poorer and an increase by 21% in demand for food parcels across Wales, with North Wales being hit the hardest

That Welshness saddens us when we know that before the pandemic, up until March 2020, 15% of people said they were lonely, and they were most likely to be poor, aged 65 and under, have a mental illness and be in poor general health.

Sad.
Angry.
Outraged

That is what drives us to action as Welsh Liberal Democrats.
But it also makes sure we set out a progressive and inspiring vision for the Wales we want to see.

At this critical moment in our future anything other than securing our recovery from Covid and the havoc it has reigned on every aspect of our lives would be foolish.

That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be putting Wales’ Recovery First.
At the heart of our recovery will be:
Mental Health;
The economy;
The environment; and
Your family

We will create a Wales where everyone is equal, where no one is enslaved by poverty, ill health or circumstance.

As a country and as a world we’ve made huge leaps in green technology, but there’s a danger we’re about to stall. We need to make sure any environmental gains are built upon and improved. We need to make our homes greener, have a smarter travel plan based on electric vehicles, and public transport and invest in active routes.

Currently for every pound the Welsh Government spends just one penny is spent on decarbonization – this simply isn’t enough for a country like Wales in the 2020s. I want to see more commitment to greening our economy, creating jobs and listening to people at the local level to create an impact on the environment in their communities. Farmers and businesses need to be included. I want to see a centrally funded scheme of Citizens Assemblies across Wales which will harness the ideas and commitment to tackling the climate emergency from all age groups – particularly our young people – to bring about change.

Welsh Liberal Democrats will create a Centre of Excellence in Wales with our first class Universities and seats of learning to champion green energy research and development. It will attract expertise, academics and students building on the work of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. It will be pioneering in developing sustainable and low cost energy solutions in wind, solar, tidal and water – on the micro and the macro level. I want this Centre to be world beating, where young people will want to come to and learn and take their new skills out to their own communities.

We will work with all other parties in Wales to put the green back into our economy and champion Wales as the greenest nation – not forgetting we are the only country in Britain with green in our flag.

We will not tolerate poverty of ambition, but will push the boundaries in all we do – particularly when it comes to saving our planet.

Poverty of ambition extends to looking at new solutions to support families living in destitution. Where there is not enough food on the table, where their houses are in poor condition and where there is little hope of a life of aspiration and excitement. As a child protection social worker, I know only too well the pain and distress caused by deprivation. In Wales 25% of our children live in poverty; we are deeply ashamed of this situation and must be bold in changing this. Families need well paid jobs, good education to give everyone better outcomes, and to have a financial safety net so that food and basic essentials are not missed out.

Universal Basic Income is that safety net creating an income floor under which no-one will be without. Universal Basic Income means no-one will be left without enough money to buy what they need. We need to be clear that the wickedness of sanctions and the horrors of Universal Credit should be left behind, – they are abominations. We cannot continue to just see queues of people for food banks, families desperate for hope, and children living in poverty. Welsh Liberal Democrats can and will do better for those families who deserve a dignified life, not a life of desperate existence. Wales needs the powers to trial Universal Basic Income.

We also need families to have good homes. Did you know in government the Welsh Liberal Democrats have used our influence to double the number of affordable homes built in Wales with, £1.5 billion spent on affordable homes in the over the past five years.

That’s £1.5 billion worth of housing we’ve delivered – you’ve delivered.

That’s the value of the Welsh Liberal Democrats being in government

But that’s not enough is it. Too many people of all ages are struggling to afford a house of their own to call a home. Over the next five years we will match the target given to us by shelter Cymru of building 30,000 new affordable homes in Wales.

And that’s not all – I want the next Welsh Government to go further. Welsh Lib Dems will invest in new housing and not just any housing – green housing utilising the latest in design, heating and insulation.

We’ll also challenge the Welsh Government to set an ambitious target to end homelessness for good. In Wales this can be achieved not only by building more homes and more suitable accommodation, but through the development of a national empty homes strategy.

Families need to make sure they have well paid and sustainable work. Work cannot be threatened by Brexit. Our ports in Wales are starting to signal the loss of trade from Ireland – not just because of Covid – but because of the border in the Irish Sea.

The trade arrangements from Brexit are only just taking shape, but we are beginning to see some of the signs of concern that we as Liberal Democrats were worried about.

We have sadly been torn out of Europe. Many manufacturers are wondering what the future holds for them. Our farmers have no certainty, our ports may be at risk and our imports and exports are getting stuck at our borders. This will directly affect families and introduce further uncertainty.

We cannot be scared of saying we want to rejoin the EU when the time is right; this is the best for Welsh jobs, best for Welsh farmers, best for our economy. Meanwhile, to save businesses and jobs under threat right here and right now due to the trade barriers our government has created, THE UK must rejoin the European Single Market and the Customs Union to enable the free flow of people and goods between Britain, Ireland and the EU.

So what can we do in this Covid time for recovery. We need to work across parties and we want a cross-party Economic Recovery Council to help every business in Wales – big and small through these next tough few years and into a better tomorrow.

The Economic Recovery Council will not only be cross party, but cross sector and it will ramp up our support to businesses, the tourist industry, hospitality and starts by scrapping crippling business rates and listening to what our businesses need and put it in to action.

The Welsh and UK Governments have helped with one off grants and the furlough scheme, but for many businesses this has just kept them afloat. Many businesses are seeking ways to rebuild and renew themselves once it is safe to do so.
I want the Welsh Government to listen to business, and to commit itself to action, so that business and Government can work together in the difficult times we face.

That is why our Cross Party Economic Recovery Panel would be chaired by the Economy Minister of the day and have representatives from all major parties as well as experts from businesses organizations working alongside welsh academics to ensure Welsh businesses thrive and prosper as we emerge from this awful pandemic.

Wales is a country of small towns, with local businesses at their heart which keep prosperity flowing in their local communities. Recovery in Wales depends on the success of the small businesses of our towns, and in particular on the vitaility of the Welsh High Street.

Our high streets don’t just face the challenge of lockdown, they face the challenge of competitors who pay less tax, and contribute less to our local economies. It’s time to create a level playing field between the local retailer and the global internet retailer.

A first step to doing that is to scrap the unfair and outdates business rates and replace them with a fairer system of tax to which all businesses contribute fairly.

The risk of losing your job, losing your business and losing your home and your livelihood compounded by the stains of loneliness and bereavement has created another health epidemic amongst us, our mental health.

Fixing our economy is one thing, fixing our overstretched and under resourced health system will be another.
And there is one aspect of our NHS which for too long was overlooked and often ignored.

In government our fantastic health minister Norman Lamb rightly took mental health to the top of the health agenda after being ignored and under funded for too long by both conservatives and Labour governments and I’m equally pleased that thanks in part to Kirsty Williams here in Wales mental health is finally getting the budget and attention it deserves.

In the next Senedd we will fight for increase in investment in mental health services.

We will also care for carers – supporting their mental health and wellbeing, including by paying all care staff the real living wage.

This last year our front line healthcare workers have done so much and faced so much trauma it’s important that we recognise that work as we look ahead.

As we hopefully emerge from Covid, we need to make peoples’ lives better.

One in four people experience mental health problems in any given year and the last twelve months has been a year like no other. The pandemic is affecting more than people’s physical health. It is therefore vital that mental health continues to be a priority for us all in the years to come.

People of all ages, but especially the young, wait too long for treatment. People find themselves barred from careers due to prejudice and many firms take a dim view of people who’ve suffered and taken time off work. Whilst it’s encouraging that there has been an almost 6% increase in positive public attitudes towards mental health over the last decade, and we need to build on this figure so that no one in no scenario is victimised or looked down on.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a long championed better mental health services and want to educate individuals and organisations people on the impact poor mental health can have.

Last year Kirsty Williams announced £10 million worth of funding designed to support university students, the cash is available to bolster student financial hardship funds and improve mental health provision.

That’s just the start. We want to train and support teams of community mental health first responders who will be funded through the volunteer groups already set up. We want long-term funding to sustain these amazing groups and make sure that we put our emotional well being at the heart of all we do.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a long-standing commitment to working towards ending mental health discrimination and Welsh Lib Dems in the Senedd will make that a priority – you have my word on that.

We need to work with others professionally, constructively, and compassionately to build a better future for all of us. That future involves a modern forward-looking Wales in a union of equals. That doesn’t mean the status quo – the status quo is Boris having his own way.

For a former journalist and man who was twice elected mayor of London, you would think Boris Johnson would understand scrutiny, localism and devolution – but he doesn’t. He wants to control and centralize everything, he wants to do away with the scrutiny that the opposition and media provide. He is the most anti-devolution Prime Minister we’ve had. And it’s not just Wales and Scotland he ignores, he ignores anyone who disagrees with him.

Ministers and aides have been dispensed with journalists and whole media organisations have been ignored for daring to asking questions that he doesn’t fancy answering.

That’s not what Wales needs, heck that’s not even what Uxbridge needs.

A modern forward looking Wales, needs to be part of the green economic power house that is a reformed UK, one that provides options available to everyone.

Some say we should go it alone and cut ourselves away from the UK, but that would be ten times more complex and ten times more painful than Brexit. It would damage not just the next generation, but the generations which follow.

A true Liberal Way is what great Celtic liberals like Jo Grimond, Geraint Howells, and Emlyn Hooson were championing and as we emerge stronger and more confident from this pandemic that is where we should firmly plant our flag, a strong, equal and confident Wales inside a strong, equal and confident federal United Kingdom.

And for a stronger more confident Wales we need people to take control of what matters to them

Next year’s elections are a true turning point, our Senedd now grown and matured into a Parliament, will be electing new members and we must make sure that our voice will be there.

You know the difference that Welsh Liberal Democrats can make, now imagine what could happen if we’re not there

A minority Conservative government propped up by Abolish and the Brexit Party – rowing back on devolution? following the advice from Boris? Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

But imagine what the Senedd could achieve with a bigger Welsh Liberal Democrat team, building on Kirsty’s legacy.

Our candidates next year are incredible, and all have something to offer

We cannot allow the Senedd to operate without a Liberal voice
Tribute to Kirsty

And what a Liberal voice we have had over the last 5 years in Kirsty Williams. There have been a lot of tributes to Kirsty Williams as she nears the end of her time both as a member of the Senedd and as our Education Minister.

Wrap up and my pledge to you

My pledge to you is that the Welsh Liberal Democrats will put the wellbeing of our people and planet comes first

We will balance the needs of our people with the needs of our Planet, and concentrate on the jobs, housing and healthcare we so desperately need.

Truly, when it comes down to it, all that our people of Wales want, all that we all want in life, as human beings no matter who we are, is a secure job, a decent house, food on the table, the odd night out and a happy family.
And to achieve this it is our duty as Welsh politicians to balance our human needs for health, housing, employment, education and social services with those of our environment.

It is our duty as a People to co-create a safe, protected, supportive, bio-diverse and interconnected environment and economy throughout our land.

Wales in twelve months time will be very different from the Wales of today

I have a vision for a Wales post Covid.
I have a vision for a progressive, exciting and dynamic Wales post Covid.

It’s for a green Wales – all of Wales, not just the valleys and the fields of mid and west Wales, but an urban green wales. Where green jobs and green technology not only power our homes but pay the wages of local people

I have a vision for Wales: A Universal Basic Income trialed in Wales

A Wales where people don’t worry about living from pay cheque to pay cheque, where people are free to retrain or take time out to care for the relatives and children.

I have a vision for Wales: Our communities to be more attuned to our emotional health where nobody is discriminated against because of their mental health.

I have a vision for Wales: Our businesses thriving in our towns and villages with our food produced locally by our farmers and food producers and proper local cooperatives thrive employing local people.

A compassionate and caring Wales which looks outwards and forwards.
And for this to happen

And the team that needs to do that, are the Welsh Liberal candidates in your towns, constituencies, regions. So go out there and get them elected.

Diolch/thank you

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2 Comments

  • George Thomas 8th Mar '21 - 6:32pm

    Good speech.

  • Good speech indeed. I sometimes read an article on LDV an wonder if I’ve come to the right site, but this was spot on. A focus on mental health provision, green technology, UBI and promoting local business. I’ll vote for that !
    Da Iawn.

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