Madam Presiding Officer,
Thank you for your kind invitation to speak to the National Assembly today.
Standing in this great building, I am conscious of the role Wales has played in shaping the United Kingdom.
Whether it was mining copper or coal, iron or slate, Wales richly deserves its title as the world’s first industrial nation.
It was a Welshman who created our most cherished public service, the NHS.
Events like the National Eisteddfod remind us of the precious nature of Britain’s rich culture.
And the Mabinogion sheds a light on our Celtic and early mediaeval history which spreads far beyond the borders of Wales.
Of course, while many traditional industries may have gone, today Wales’ international reputation is earned in other areas.
The mountains of Gwynedd, the beaches of the Gower and Pembrokeshire, and the rolling hills of Powys attract tourists from far and wide.
World-leading research at places like the Optic in St Asaph and the Life Sciences centre at Swansea University put Wales at the forefront of advances in technology.
The wings of Airbus and the engines of Toyota and Ford - built right here in Wales -keep the world moving.
And while speaking about the part that Wales has played in our past and our present, I want to put on record here my gratitude to the brave Welsh regiments.
From the trenches of Northern France to the mountains of South Korea, they have fought and died in defence of our nation and our values.
Today, in Afghanistan, they continue to serve with courage and distinction- and I want to pay tribute to them.
For them, and for all the people of Wales, I will always be an advocate of this country and everything it has to offer.
What We Must Do
But Madam Presiding Officer, being an advocate of Wales does not mean ignoring the huge challenges facing Wales today.
And we all know the challenges.
Wales has some of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom.
Unemployment remains unacceptably high.
Too many people are trapped in benefits dependency.
Thousands of children are growing up in severe poverty.
This is an affront to everything we know Wales can and should be.
The task for everyone in this room is to pull Wales from this predicament and give it a future as glorious as its past.
And today, I want to speak about what we must all do to achieve that.
There are some things we must do together.
There are some things you as Assembly Members here are responsible for.
And I’d like to say a few words about each.
But before I do, let me say something about the constitutional future of Wales.
Four months ago, Wales held a referendum, and the people of Wales spoke decisively.
No longer will the Assembly have to ask permission from Westminster to legislate on devolved matters.
It is clear there is no turning back from devolution - and nor should there be.
But I believe that, along with this new level of power you now hold, should come new levels of accountability.
So as we promised, we’ll establish a process similar to the Calman Commission in Scotland.
The strength of Calman was that it worked by consensus: Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Scotland coming together and agreeing a way forward.
I am therefore asking the political parties to seek a consensus on the future direction of devolution.
And whatever the outcome of this process, I want you to know:
I will always be here to work with you for the good of Wales, as part of a strong United Kingdom.
I welcome the cooperative approach that the First Minister Carwyn Jones is taking and look forward to our discussions today and in the future - and for our relationship to continue in a spirit of mutual respect.
And it is in that spirit of co-operation that we must work together to strengthen the Welsh economy.
The drive for growth, jobs and wealth for Wales is a task we must do together.
As I have said, Wales is a country with industrial flair and enterprising people.
Yet, when a former Labour Secretary of State has accepted the private sector in Wales is too small, we must all recognise the Welsh economy is far too dependent on the state.
And when we are dealing with the largest budget deficit in our peacetime history, this is simply untenable.
Of course, I recognise that for Wales to develop a more sustainable economic future, we in Westminster must act responsibly and thoughtfully.
That’s why we made sure Wales was less affected than other parts of the UK in the Spending Review.
By the end of this Parliament, the Welsh resource budget will have gone down by 7.5 per cent - less than the 8.3 per cent UK average, and much less than the average cuts to most Whitehall departments of 19 per cent.
As well as this, we have taken many vital steps to protect the poorest.
We are restoring the link between pensions and earnings, benefitting 630,000 pensioners in Wales.
We are increasing child tax credits, helping more than 215,000 families in Wales.
And our decision to increase the personal tax allowance will benefit over one million Welsh taxpayers.
Indeed, 52,000 people in Wales will be taken out of tax altogether.
At the same time, we are also protecting the investments you need to grow.
We are electrifying the Great Western Main Line from London to South Wales…
…remain committed to working with the Welsh Government on the case for electrifying the Valley Lines to and from Cardiff…
…and we will continue to keep the case for electrification to Swansea under review.
Last month we also announced the sites we consider are suitable for new nuclear investment - including Wylfa on Anglesey.
And today I have a new announcement.
We know broadband is vital if businesses are to grow and create new jobs - especially in rural areas.
That’s why today, I can announce that Wales is set to receive £56.9 million to help take superfast broadband to 90 per cent of homes and businesses here.
So yes, we are acting responsibly in Wales. And yes, we are making the necessary investments.
But no: that doesn’t mean there are blank cheques.
The simple truth is this: the size of the fiscal deficit we inherited, larger than the deficit in Greece or Portugal, means the days in which you could just ask the Treasury for more money are over.
So our focus must be on all the areas we can drive growth: skills, education, business start-ups and regulation.
It is the responsibility of all of us to think of new and more imaginative ways to boost enterprise and jobs in Wales.
The issues are the same as in England.
So where Wales has good ideas, we should learn from them in Whitehall - and vice versa.
Already our two Governments are working together.
The Secretary of State and Lord Green are working closely with the Welsh Government Ministers to promote trade and investment in Wales.
There is regular dialogue between the Secretary of State and the First Minister on creating new Enterprise Zones here in Wales.
And the decisions we’ve taken at Westminster to cut corporation tax - plus your commitment to invest in training and skills - will help businesses here too.
Working together, I know we can bring prosperity - lasting prosperity - to the Welsh people.
If that’s a job we must do together, let me briefly talk about a job that is yours alone.
With the powers you have, come immense responsibility.
A responsibility to the children in your schools…
…students in your universities…
…doctors, nurses and patients in your hospitals.
They are looking to you to provide dramatic improvements to their lives.
But, let me be frank.
Like many other parts of the UK, some public services in Wales are currently too bureaucratic to deliver those improvements.
I believe now is the time to modernise our public services…
…and in England, that is what we’re doing.
We are opening up choice - in the schools we send our children to and the hospitals we are treated in.
We are breaking open the state monopoly and inviting new providers in.
We are making the whole system more transparent.
Together, I believe these changes are going to revolutionise public services in England and improve lives.
I also believe that more open public services could do the same in Wales.
Let me put it another way: devolution of power from Westminster to Cardiff is not enough.
We need real devolution, where power is passed from here in Cardiff…
…to patients and parents, doctors, nurses and teachers, charities and social enterprises.
Collectively, they have the ideas and the energy and the commitment to improve our schools, build a fantastic NHS and make Wales a better place to live for everyone.
Let me be clear: it is not my intention to interfere in decisions over devolved matters.
But it is my duty to give my opinion where I feel it could benefit the Welsh people.
And just as I believe Cardiff can learn from Westminster, so we in Westminster can learn from you.
Your decision to appoint the UK’s first Older People’s Commissioner, to raise the profile of elderly, end age discrimination, and give our pensioners the security and dignity to deserve…
…sets a positive example to the rest of us.
So this, I believe, is what healthy, mature devolution should be about.
The sharing of ideas.
The spirit of collaboration.
So Madam Presiding Officer, it has been a privilege to address the National Assembly today…
…and I would like to end by saying this.
I know devolution will not always be easy.
I know we will not always agree.
But I know we share common aims.
To work together to make life better for the people of Wales.
To give them a more prosperous future, a stronger future, a better future.