Wales politics

David Cameron attacks Welsh Labour on schools and NHS

Prime Minister David Cameron has attacked Labour's handling of education and health services in Wales.

On the campaign trail ahead of May's local elections, Mr Cameron said Wales was in danger of "falling behind".

He also said that the UK government wanted to electrify railway lines in the south Wales valleys.

Labour accused Mr Cameron of being "out of touch" and challenged him over the government's policy on rail electrification.

On a visit to Cardiff Mr Cameron told BBC Wales he "respects" Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Welsh government.

"But I make no apology whatsoever for coming to Wales today and pointing out that when it comes to education and health care we are in real danger of Wales falling behind," he said.

'Radical agenda'

"It's not my job to come and say everything is fine in Wales.

"If I see a problem - and there is a problem with educational attainment - I think it's my job to point it out and to encourage politicians, including my own party the Welsh Conservatives, to do more, to have a more radical agenda."

Mr Cameron said he was "very clear what works in education," including publishing results and regular testing.

"You need to make sure schools can be compared with each other and different years with each other and you need to challenge the system to raise those standards," he added.

School league tables have not been published in Wales since 2001, although the Welsh government started grouping schools into performance bands last year.

Mr Cameron's Westminster coalition has been under sustained pressure in recent weeks, including over its handling of the petrol tanker dispute.

He acknowledged his government had gone through a difficult period, but said it was taking "difficult decisions" in the country's long-term interest.

He said it was "absolutely right" to put "proper contingency plans" in place.

"The key is are you making the right long-term decisions for the good of the country," he said.

'Difficult decisions'

"We have to take difficult decisions. We inherited one of the biggest budget deficits anywhere in the world."

He defended changes to the working tax credit system and pointed to the raising of the threshold at which income tax is paid.

"I don't accept what we have done is unfair. It's been very much based on rewarding people who work hard and do the right thing," he said.

"We need to make sure this is fair and seen to be fair."

The Welsh government wants to see the electrification of railway lines in the valleys and the electrification of the Great Western line to Swansea. The UK government has so far committed to electrify the line from Paddington to Cardiff.

Mr Cameron said: "We are also going to be going ahead with the electrification of the valleys line.

"It's in black and white in the Treasury documents. We've got some details to work out with the Welsh government.

"We've got to determine the exact finance and the rest of it, but be in no doubt this is something we want to do."

The Tories will be defending more than 160 seats when elections take place in 21 of Wales' 22 councils on 3 May - all except Anglesey, where the election will be in 2013.

Labour criticised "a Tory-obsession for a model of education that's driven by antagonism and competition".

Labour AM Lynne Neagle said: "Unlike the Tories in England, Welsh Labour in government has worked with the teaching professions to implement successful change.

"That's why we don't have league tables. That's why we've abolished Sats, introduced the foundation phase and created a skill-based curriculum.

"Welsh Labour has maintained faith in the comprehensive model of education because it delivers for all our children."

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