With the dust now settling after the elections, attention must turn to the issues and challenges in Wales.
My overriding priority as Secretary of State is to work with the new Welsh Government to deliver economic security for people living in Wales.
On Friday, I spoke with colleagues in Cardiff Bay to re-iterate my aims from here on in.
In my view the new Welsh Government has five clear priorities when it comes to working with Westminster.
- Working with the UK Government in its continuing efforts to secure a sustainable future for Tata Steel.
- Unlocking the potential of North Wales: one of my first acts when I became Secretary of State was to convene a meeting of council leaders, higher education leaders and business groups to discuss what a growth deal for North Wales could achieve. The Northern Powerhouse has been set up to foster business links in a region that extends from North Wales to Newcastle. We need the Welsh Government to relinquish powers to local communities and people to help them realise their potential and drive growth.
- Improvements to the M4: the UK Government has underwritten Welsh Government borrowing powers of up to £500 million to help deliver improvements. The economic advantages of tackling M4 congestion are clear but the Welsh Government has been curiously silent apart from the occasional internal spat over when or even if this project will go ahead. We need to make this happen soon.
- The European referendum: we need to unite across the political divide and explain our common belief that Wales will prosper by staying within a reformed European Union. The UK Governments leaflet which will shortly be distributed to every home in Wales sets out our case for this. How we vote on June 23rd will have profound repercussions for decades to come. We need to shelve party politics to ensure Welsh voters make an informed choice.
- Taking advantage of the opportunities offered in the forthcoming Wales Bill to deliver a real Parliament for Wales, with greater powers and a Government responsible for raising as well as spending money.
Welsh politics has been characterised too often by tribalism and opposition for opposition’s sake at either end of the M4. Its time for a new spirit of pragmatism.
As Wales advances to the next stage of devolution, my message to the new Welsh Government is that we put aside political differences and get on with the big job of delivering projects that will really benefit people’s lives. If we can, then the Welsh people will be the real winners of this election.
Notes to Editors
A longer version of this article was published in the Sunday Times