Wales politics

Tories to offer Wales 'magic combination', says Osborne

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Media captionMr Osborne was speaking to business leaders at a Cardiff Bay hotel

The assembly election is a choice between "pro-job, pro-growth" Conservatives and "old and discredited" Labour ideas, the chancellor has said.

George Osborne said Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies could bring a "magic combination" of improved education, a better NHS and competitive businesses.

Mr Osborne was speaking to business leaders at a Cardiff Bay hotel.

A Welsh government spokesman accused the chancellor of chanting a "bunch of weary, re-heated political slogans".

"With the election coming in May, there's a very clear choice between the pro-growth, pro-job, pro-future leadership offered by Andrew RT Davies and the Welsh Conservatives, and the old and discredited ideas offered by the Labour Party," Mr Osborne said.

"A Welsh assembly government, in my view led by Andrew RT Davies, who is delivering a great, competitive business environment for Wales, better education here in Wales, investment in healthcare here in Wales, then I think you would have a magic combination that would really see a boost for the Welsh people and the Welsh economy."

Image caption Andrew RT Davies could transform Wales' public services and its economy, said the chancellor

A spokesman for First Minister Carwyn Jones responded: "We are quite sure that business people of Wales did not turn up today to hear the chancellor deliver a bunch of weary, re-heated political slogans.

"It would have been refreshing to actually hear a plan, or even an apology for missed targets and sluggish responses to the needs of the Welsh economy.

"The Welsh Labour government has always been, and will proudly remain, a confident and pro-business government."

The chancellor also said he wanted a £1.3bn "city deal" for economic development and transport projects in south east Wales signed before his budget on 16 March, comparing it to Cardiff Bay's regeneration in the 1990s.

In November, Welsh ministers challenged the Treasury to match nearly £580m they pledged to the scheme, in a formal submission signed by the leaders of 10 local councils across south east Wales, who promised £120m.

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Media captionBBC Wales economics correspondent Sarah Dickins explains city deals - in 60 seconds

On Thursday, Mr Osborne said: "This city deal can transform this city as much as the development around the bay did a generation ago.

"It demonstrates our ambition for the Cardiff region and I want to see the deal signed by the time of the Budget in March. So let's get on with it."

No specific city deal projects have been identified yet, but it is expected to include better bus and train services as part of a Metro scheme.

A Welsh government spokesman said it awaited details of the UK government's contribution to the deal and would "continue working closely with the authorities in the Cardiff Capital Region to enable the vision to become a reality".

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood welcomed the chancellor's comments, but said he should "announce he is to open a Swansea city deal and a 'rural deal' for west Wales, to spread prosperity throughout Wales".

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Media captionDr Drew Nelson, chief executive of semiconductor group IQE said it was fantastic news

Earlier, visiting Cardiff University, Mr Osborne revealed plans to invest £50m in a "ground-breaking new innovation centre" in Wales.

He said it would specialise in compound semiconductors - technology behind devices including smart phones.

The chancellor said the centre would bring together leading businesses, engineers and experts and receive £10m a year from the UK government up to 2020-21.

Ministers said the location of the centre would be revealed in "due course".

Cardiff Business Council chairman Nigel Roberts said it was a "massive game changer" that would form an important part of the city deal.

But he said there needed to be leadership on the city deal "on behalf of Wales" and business needed to be at the top table so a persuasive bid could go forward.

Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

I can't recall a time when a senior Tory cabinet member has come to Wales and in a speech directly portrayed the Welsh leader Andrew RT Davies as a potential first minister in the way that he did.

It's a sign of how many see this as the best chance ever in an assembly election for the Conservatives because of the relative weakness of Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn leading a UK party struggling with in-fighting.

And by doing that, the chancellor touched on what must be the crucial point for the Tories in this campaign, and the challenge that they need to overcome.

It's all very well being a party capable of knocking the government, but it's another thing to be seen as a government in waiting, and indeed for Andrew RT Davies, to be seen as a first minister in waiting.

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