Welsh Conservatives in the European Parliament
Dr Kay Swinburne MEP

Welsh Conference Speech, Llandudno 2010

Good afternoon, conference.
 

It seems like a long time ago that I was sitting, listening to Jonathan Evans give this speech last year. Since then, many things have changed - I now have three offices in three different countries and spend my life travelling between them, my life fitting into a carry on suitcase.

But more than that, Wales has changed, and the Welsh Conservatives have changed. We have come out and shown Plaid and the Labour Party that the Conservatives can win in Wales!

For the first time since 1859, we topped the polls in Wales. Whilst across the UK, Labour and UKIP returned the same number of seats to the European Parliament - the Conservatives now have as many as both of them combined. This is due in no small part to Labour's failure in Wales. We, at conference, know precisely who the fringe parties really are!
You all worked hard to win in Wales and win my seat last year.  Now we have to work harder. Instead of fighting for four seats in Brussels, we are fighting for forty seats in Westminster.

By my calculation, that’s ten times as many Conservatives we need to get elected to bring change to the UK. So we need to work ten times harder and be ten times as successful!

 

We've already proven once that the Conservatives can win in Wales. Now, we need to prove it again. We need to go out and tell the people of Wales why we are the only party which actually knows what to do in government - that we will work tirelessly for the people of Wales to bring them decisively out of recession so that they can look to a secure future.
When I first started work in Brussels last July, I expected to be working on those issues I had been campaigning on during the election; agriculture, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, cutting down regulation for small businesses - however the Conservatives in Europe had a different plan for me.
 

In the European Parliament, knowledge and facts go a long way in a debate. On occasion, politicians in Brussels can be persuaded to change their minds based on facts and the strength of an argument, as opposed to following a specific political line. And so, as a former banker, I was given the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee Coordinator job, in the hope that I would be able to use my expertise and knowledge to make a real difference to economic governance across Europe.
 

Now, explaining this to my constituents can be a challenge. Just how do EU economic and monetary affairs relate to Wales? Issues like alternative investment funds, reforming the financial supervisory architecture and derivatives can seem far removed from everyday life. Yet, as I visit different parts of Wales and see companies from many different sectors, I actually get to see some of my work in action - ultimately everything I do on the ECON committee links back to the real economy.
 

Things as basic as the loaf of bread you bought this morning will have undergone many different financial processes to get it to you for a price you can afford - while still allowing each person in the chain of production to make some small profit along the way.
 

When the farmer buys seed from the US, so as to get a higher yield he will enter into some form of derivative transaction as well as a currency trade for protection. The fertiliser he uses to improve the soil for the wheat to grow in will be based upon oil and chemical prices that will have been locked in by a derivative product. The insurance the farmer takes out in case of a bad harvest, bad weather or disease will incorporate a derivative product. When the farmer sells the wheat, he will have guaranteed his price via a derivative product so as not to lose profit. The mill which processes the wheat into flour will have used derivatives for the chemicals required in the process and ultimately, the supermarket will be involved in many different trades and financial transactions to ensure they can give you the best price at the checkout.
 

As you can imagine, this means the one issue of "derivatives" actually affects all businesses in Wales - as well as in the UK and the EU - so making sure the legislation coming from Europe takes into account the needs of Wales, such as the Royal Mint, and Dow Corning to name but two of the companies I have visited in the past few weeks, is of the utmost concern for me. Making sure legislation actually answers the problems it sees to correct and is proportionate, not creating catastrophic unintended consequences at a time when our businesses need a helping hand, not burdensome regulation, that could put the final nail in the coffin.
 

On the plus side, there are many parts of my life as an MEP that should make it all worthwhile.
One of them was being the first MEP to speak in Welsh in a plenary debate in Strasbourg on minority languages. Despite Plaid Cymru's claim this week to be the first - as ever we beat them to it!
An important task will be scrutinising the spending of 2.67 billion euros  of European Structural Funds in West Wales and the Valleys as well as 72 million euros in East Wales. Spending it on areas of Wales that, with a little bit of investment could entirely regenerate. I would love for us to spend the money seeding small businesses and giving entrepreneurs a head start, allowing them to develop into real, viable businesses, creating wealth and jobs for a new generation of young people in Wales.
 

But the Labour and Plaid coalition in WAG have put up a bureaucratic roadblock to our aspirations for Welsh businesses. At every corner they provide yet another form to fill in, yet another stamp is required, yet another department to be consulted.
 

They have no concept of what waiting six more months on the vague hope of some financing at the end of it, does to a small business.
 

In Wales it is not just about cutting bureaucracy for small businesses in the Westminster government - although believe me, I am all for that. It is about using the advantages we have been given to get a better deal.
 

In European Funds we get a 2.67 billion euro bonus to bring us up to speed with the rest of the EU, yet Labour are only concerned with spending targets - "We're so wonderful, we've spent 97% of the money we were given." They don't look at how the money was spent, who benefited from it, or whether it actually improved the lives of anyone in Wales, they just care that they met their targets!
 

After so many years of being in the bottom 75% of regions in the EU, and benefiting handsomely in funds, I am embarrassed that we have to keep going back, cap in hand to Europe, asking for more money because we didn't spend the last lot well enough.
 

Finance Wales is a great example of what we could be doing with European money.
Finance Wales is supposed to take EU funds, add to them with more money from the European Investment Bank, and in some instances then twin it with funding from the private sector and then invest in small businesses, with sound business models, that then pay the money back - funding the next generation of start up companies.
 

There have been some great success stories including Abrioux, Enfis and Accountis where money has gone into companies and has been returned. Yet every day I hear from small businesses that they can't access Finance Wales, that they have been discouraged from applying or that this money is only for charities or government run organisations. Bureaucratic barriers like these will not get Wales or the UK out of recession and back to the forefront of the world's economies.

We need to be at the cutting edge. We need to be looking at new industries while still supporting the old, helping them to innovate and continue to provide jobs for people. Wales is setting an example in creative industries like media, with small companies coming out of Welsh Universities and using their knowledge to set up computer programming companies, such as software design - including writing new and ever popular play station games.
 

I am working to provide support for this via a new EU strategy that is focussing on encouraging growth and innovation in the EU, giving us something to aim for over the next ten years. This could be a great framework for what we should be trying to achieve. We could make Wales an attractive place for both university based research and private enterprises that will invest in making new sustainable industries, that will sustain projects currently being "seeded" in research and move them towards development. Wales can benefit from research clusters in the future, especially in energy based technologies. Wales needs to use all the financing instruments at its disposal to aggressively fund the commercialisation of these technologies in order to transform the Welsh economy.
 

The Labour party likes to boast about how many businesses their programmes have helped yet they refuse to do the simplest of things to get more value for money.
 

If they had wanted to, the WAG could have used the very thing that has been hurting us in other areas to get more funding for the EU and a better deal for Wales - namely, capitalising on the weak pound.
 

The strong Euro may be hitting us when we travel abroad on holiday but as the EU funds are calculated in euros and we spend them in pounds we currently have more to spend. If we allocate the money whilst the exchange rates are at this high point, Wales can reap as much as 700 million additional pounds  in exchange for the EU's euros - literally free money.
 

But the WAG have decided that they don't want to allocate the money based on translation rates, they want to wait for better projects to come along. I am working with businesses across Wales to try and persuade WEFO that in the current economic environment it would be prudent and effective to fast track investments, especially in sustainable projects. This would have two benefits - more money because of the pound’s weakness and money invested earlier, when our businesses need it most.
 

Just as Gordon Brown failed to understand the basics of the market and sold our gold reserves at the worst possible time, so the WAG are doing the same.
 

While bankers may be on the chopping block for the money we have had to spend on them, I would rather see the likes of Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling there for their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.
 

In Europe, we are focussed on the economic difficulties in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, yet in terms of government deficits the UK is in just as sorry a state as Greece, needing politicians to make the hard decisions to put their country back on track. Yet it seems that Gordon Brown has been taking his economic advice from the Southern Europeans. Just as they have used "innovative financing" to hide their debts and mortgage their childrens’ future, so has Gordon Brown. I have to say, "innovative financing" is probably one of the few kinds of innovation that I don't like!
Tying up the UK development budget, pensions funds and even the student loans in complex securitisations which ultimately translate into huge borrowings, is not innovation - it's tying yourself up in complicated knots of debt. Off balance sheet financing of PFI and unfunded public pension liabilities leave the UK in a far weaker state than Labour would like the people of Wales to know - that’s why he concealed it off balance sheet.
 

The EU is an easy scapegoat for Greece - being a member of the euro stops them from making certain changes to their economy. It exposes them to unfair competition from devalued, non euro currencies. It imposes challenging targets on how large its government deficit can be, forcing it to introduce unpopular austerity measures - yet when it comes down to it, Greece is recognising the scale of its problems and is beginning to take responsibility for its own decisions. When is Gordon Brown going to do the same?
 

The WAG is guilty of the same thing. When it comes to spending EU money, it quickly turns into "WAG spending" and "WAG helping businesses" yet when it is a draconian interpretation of an unpopular law - it's because of Europe.
 

They blame EU rules. I and my colleagues have spent months negotiating compromises to get the best deal for the UK and allow Member States the most flexibility to apply the rules as appropriate. Yet the WAG gives up all of that flexibility with a "rule is rules" attitude.
 

I heard from the Farmers Union of Wales that farmers were being fined huge sums of money because the cow they presented to the inspectors was the wrong gender according to its electronic tags. This fine was levied on the basis that the WAG might face a fine in the future. Where is the discretion?  EU rules can be pedantic and seemingly pointless, but when the Labour run WAG gets involved, their Stalinist interpretation of rules is simply ridiculous - even I don't need an electronic tag to work out whether a cow is a cow or whether it is a bull!
 

More than anyone else in the UK, we in Wales know what a Labour Party victory would mean for the country. We've seen their policies in action for too many years. We've seen them waste EU money, taxpayer's money and money they don't even have yet.

We know that the Conservatives are the only party fit to be in government and have a real plan for the future. Now we need to go out there and make sure that everyone else knows it too.
It’s time. Time for change. Change in Wales and change in the UK.

I would like to close in the words of a visitor to my office last week - "To win, you need to be able to run faster than you did yesterday and run faster than everyone else. We are running faster than we were yesterday, but are we running faster than everyone else?"
 

Good luck to you all in achieving a Conservative future for Wales.
 

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Welsh Conservatives
04/12/2013

The European Commission has today designated European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status to the well-known Pembrokeshire Early Potato from West Wales.
 
The Pembrokeshire Early Potato was one of only three quality farm products whose applications for PGI status were approved today.
 
The EU PGI schemes protect product names against misuse and under these schemes more than 1200 products are already protected.
  
Commenting on this announcement from the European Commission today Dr Kay Swinburne MEP – who is from West Wales - said:
 
"I am delighted to see that this application to have "Pembrokeshire Earlies" added to the register of PGI products has been approved by the European Commission today."

"Achieving this prestigious status is a clear acknowledgment of the high-quality and distinctive produce we continue to deliver in Wales. Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes thoroughly deserve their place alongside the well-known food and drink products from right across the EU which already feature on the PGI register."

 
26/11/2013

Kay was delighted to host an event to celebrate Higher Education, Science and Innovation in Wales last night in the European Parliament.  The event builds on the British Council’s “Strategic Analysis of the Welsh Higher Education Sector, Distinctive Assets”.  A number of experts spoke to share their views of Welsh HE at the event and how it can develop in the future.
20/11/2013


In advance of the 'Fox-Hafner Report' vote on the single seat for the European Parliament, Kay and the other UK Conservative MEPs feel it is right to draw attention to the fact that the seven-year cost of the dual-seat arrangement comes to £928,000,000. Since her election to the European Parliament in 2009, Kay has strongly supported bringing the monthly Parliamentary meetings in Strasbourg to an end and therefore saving taxpayers a considerable sum of money.

20/11/2013


Kay was delighted to meet Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the EU's Sakharov Human Rights Prize at the European Parliament today.
 

Following Malala’s speech to the European Parliament, Kay said, “What an inspirational speech Malala gave to the Members of the European Parliament today. As a mother of young children myself, I hope that they can also aspire to achieve like her. Malala is an exceptional young lady who has overcome adversity by tremendous force of character and a passionate belief in the right of everybody to enjoy and benefit from education.”   

12/11/2013



Kay was very pleased to meet with members of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Group at the European Parliament in Brussels, one of four groups set up in key Welsh research strengths to engage with EU research funds. The delegation visiting Brussels included representatives from Cardiff University, Bangor University, Swansea University and Trinity St.Davids University.

23/10/2013
In advance of tomorrow's European Council meeting of leaders, Dr Swinburne has echoed the recommendations made in a recent report published by a number of business leaders, which highlights the importance of removing barriers to business competitiveness in Europe and getting rid of burdensome legislation by cutting EU red tape.

 
Last year Dr Swinburne encouraged businesses in Wales to highlight to the European Commission which over-burdensome regulations they would like to see slashed, by writing to small businesses all over Wales and asking them to tell her their red-tape problems.
08/10/2013


Electronic cigarettes no longer face being taken off the shelves by the EU after Conservative MEPs were successful today in amending EU legislation on tobacco labelling.

Conservative MEP's led the amendment to defeat proposals that would have classified e-cigarettes as medicinal products, meaning they would have to undergo an overly burdensome and costly authorisation procedure, which would go beyond the procedures for traditional tobacco products... (Read more under 'Articles')

 


18/09/2013


Welsh Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne has been sitting down with leaders in Europe's biotech field to choose the top five candidates to compete in this year's EuropaBio Most Innovative EU Biotech SME Award.

As a member of this year's judging committee, Kay is once again supporting the EuropaBio award, which has attracted applications from all three sectors of biotechnology - healthcare, industrial and agricultural, from across the EU... (Read more under 'Articles')

11/09/2013


WELSH Conservative MEP Dr Kay Swinburne today hailed a vote in the European Parliament as a "wake-up call" in the battle to save Europe's endangered languages.

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg backed a report which calls on governments across the EU to develop action plans to encourage continued linguistic diversity.

The report, written by Corsican MEP François Alfonsi, also says governments should be "more attentive" to threats which may lead to languages becoming extinct.

Dr Swinburne, who was a shadow rapporteur for the report, has argued that Welsh can be seen as a positive example of language revitalisation which communities across the EU should follow... (Read more under 'Articles')

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© Copyright Kay Swinburne 2013 | All rights reserved. | Photographs of the Parliament supplied by Adam Issacs.
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