Wales politics

Plaid Cymru conference: Leanne Wood's pledge to cut energy bills

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Media captionLeanne Wood said people in Wales pay more electricity than those in England and Scotland

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has announced plans to set up a new body to drive down energy bills in Wales.

She told her party's annual conference that Energy Wales would buy gas and electricity at wholesale prices and sell directly to homes and businesses.

She said surpluses would be split between protecting customers and expanding energy efficiency.

Ms Wood said it would work as an arms-length firm in a similar way to Welsh Water.

"When Labour's energy price freeze begins to thaw and prices begin to spike again, Plaid Cymru would have enabled the building of our cheaper, permanent, people-powered Welsh alternative," she told party members in Aberystwyth.

In her second annual conference speech since being elected party leader, Ms Wood said Plaid would recruit 1,000 extra doctors if it won the assembly election in 2016.

This would be financed by a sugary drink levy of up to 20p per litre, she said, something that would also help the "crisis of obesity and diabetes that it killing us as a nation".

"If a thousand extra doctors sounds over-ambitious consider this.

"With them, Wales would only be brought up to the UK average - so we must have those extra doctors."

She told party members this would help provide a more efficient NHS, as would plans to better integrate hospitals and social care "to get patients out of hospital and back into their own home".

The Plaid leader said funding to begin this integration had already been won as part of a package of measures the party had this week announced with the Liberal Democrats and Welsh ministers in a deal on the Welsh budget.

A spokesman for Wales Labour, responding to the proposal, said: "Linking the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle, in order to pay for improved medical services, is a not sensible way forward.

"This ill-thought idea, shows how out of touch and out of ideas Plaid are."

In a further announcement reflecting concerns over the rising costs of living, also unveiled radical proposals to reintroduce rent controls for the 190,000 households renting in Wales, over the next assembly term.

"The party of Wales wants to see living wages for Welsh workers, but we also have to see living rents that do not eat up a family's entire disposable income.

"Because people have a right to a decent home at an affordable price."

Ms Wood said Plaid Cymru would strengthen planning guidance so local authorities had to consider the impact on the Welsh language of new housing developments and her party would legislate to make councils control second homes in designated areas "to end the housing crisis here in rural Wales".

The Labour Welsh government came in for harsh criticism as she described politics in Cardiff Bay as a "national embarrassment".

"A first minister refusing to answer direct questions, the farce of ministers holding up placards against their own policies - it makes us a laughing stock."

Ms Wood also announced her opposition to fracking in Wales, the controversial method of extracting gas from rock.

"While the technology is untested and the harm to the environment is unknown, we cannot allow a tiny inch of our land to be fracked."

"And we will fight for the power to keep our country safe and green," a reference to Plaid's campaign for all energy policy to be devolved.

Ms Wood had started her speech by saying Plaid would build on recent momentum.

She said this would "carry us forward over the finishing line" to win the assembly election in 2016.

"It isn't a sprint but a marathon and I'm firing the starting pistol here today."

She ended her address by appealing to Welsh voters to give Plaid Cymru the chance to prove what Wales could achieve with the right leadership.

"It is my ambition, over the two terms of a Plaid Cymru-led government, to take this country from where we are now, near the bottom of every performance league table in Europe you care to mention, to the top ten in income per capita, in literacy and in maths," she said.

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Media captionJames Williams reports on the challenges facing Plaid Cymru as it aims to spread beyond its Welsh-speaking heartlands

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