Wales

Cheryl Gillan warns of Welsh 'slate curtain' of dogma

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan has warned against a "slate curtain" descending between Wales and England.

Speaking to the Welsh Conservative conference, she said political dogma and ideology must not be allowed to disadvantage Wales.

The Tories' leader in Cardiff Bay, Nick Bourne, pledged to establish enterprise zones to boost the economy.

He accused the Labour-led Welsh assembly government of "managing decline".

Following the Yes vote in this week's assembly powers referendum, Mrs Gillan said the consequence of devolution was that decisions taken in Wales might be different to those taken in England.

"But Wales must not be disadvantaged because political dogma or ideology draws down a slate curtain along the border with England," she said.

"Devolution is not about keeping the peace in one political party. We need devolution to work well and serve the people of Wales."

Image caption Devolution 'is not about keeping the peace in one political party'

Looking ahead to May's election, she urged party members to make sure Wales was "not the place that Labour can use as a springboard to revival across the United Kingdom".

She said: "This will be a tough election against a Labour Party entrenched in Wales, a Labour Party that takes Wales for granted.

"We will work for every vote and we want devolution to work in the interest of Wales, underpinned by our commitment to the Union. It's only the Conservative Party that genuinely offers that hope and aspiration."

This week's announcement on electrifying the Great Western rail line from Paddington to Cardiff was "fundamental to developing a strong economy".

She said the Conservative-led UK government's legacy would not only be an economic recovery: "We want it to be a social recovery as well."

In a taster of the Conservative manifesto for May, Mr Bourne said small firms would be exempt from business rates under a Tory administration.

Chancellor George Osborne told the gathering at Cardiff's Swalec stadium that new enterprise zones will be set up in England.

'Growing confidence'

Mr Bourne said a similar initiative would be introduced in Wales under a Conservative assembly government. Businesses inside the zones will be entitled to full business rate relief, "lighter touch regulation" and other incentives.

The proposed zones "have the potential to revitalise some of Wales' poorest areas, by creating much-needed employment and jobs", Mr Bourne said.

Other policies in what he called an "ambitious programme for government" include a school building fund and free bus travel for military personnel as part of an armed forces' card.

He said: "In Wales we cannot yet speak of a growing confidence in our future.

"Instead Labour and its partners Plaid Cymru continue to preside over a policy of managed decline."

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