Speech to Welsh Labour conference
Together for Wales, Together for all of Wales
Conference, there are those who would like to pretend that Welsh Labour has nothing to say to our rural communities. I do not accept that. We have a record to be proud of in working for a Wales which is united and connected wherever people live and work.
We know that farming and food is the backbone of rural communities, and we are working more closely than ever with our farming partners to deliver our shared vision of an industry that is modern, professionally managed, resilient and profitable.
Increasing the skills of all those who work in agriculture is crucial to that vision, and this Welsh Government is working to do just that.
And work must pay. Without consulting the Welsh Government, the Tories and Lib Dems in Westminster took the decision to axe the Agricultural Wages Board, taking away a crucial safety net for low wage farm workers. Across the border, thirty percent of farm workers say they have seen their pay fall as a result. Not so here.
We have legislated to retain the Board's functions, and I have used the powers in the Act to award farm workers their first pay increase since 2012. I am pleased to tell you, conference, that that increase, of six percent, comes into force on Friday.
I want to express my thanks to our friends in Unite for their support at every step of the way.
Rural poverty matters to us just as much as urban poverty.
Our Rural Development Programme represents over £900 million of Welsh Government and European investment in Wales over the next seven years. We will use that funding to deliver transformational change, with a strong focus on tackling poverty through the creation of jobs and growth, and developing skills, knowledge and innovation.
Through the RDP we will provide opportunities for investment in small scale community infrastructure, including renewable energy; investment in broadband and digital inclusion; investment in recreational and tourist infrastructure and activities to improve health and quality of life; and improving access to vital services such as childcare, rural transport, and financial advice.
Underpinning all of this will be the sustainable management of our natural resources.
As this highlights, our relationship with the EU is crucial for rural Wales.
We have a lot we can be proud of. Our food and drink industry is the rising star of the Welsh economy, and that is no accident. We are already well on our way to meeting our ambitious target of growing the sector by 30% by 2020 to the value of £7billion because we are a government which listens to and understands the needs of business.
We can also be proud of our record on animal health and welfare.
We work closely with farmers, vets and third sector organisations to identify ways to improve the health and welfare of farm animals at every stage of their lives, including new regulations on welfare at the time of slaughter.
We have legislated to allow action in cases of the fly-grazing of horses.
Our domestic animals benefit from codes of practice, and we have led the way in banning electronic collars for dogs, introducing stricter standards for dog breeders, and introducing compulsory micro-chipping which will come into force this April.
This Government believes there is no place for wild animals in circuses, and I have commissioned an independent review to examine the evidence basis upon which we could take appropriate next steps.
And of course, Welsh Labour continues to oppose fox-hunting - and I welcome the growing evidence that this view is shared by increasing numbers in the countryside as well as in towns.
Labour has shown that it is the party for working people across Wales, wherever they may live. There are no no-go areas for us, and we are making a real and positive difference to life in our rural communities.
Conference, Together for Wales means Together for all of Wales.
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