Wales politics

Lib Dem wipe-out predictions wrong, says Kirsty Williams

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Media captionKirsty Williams says her party has been here before

The Liberal Democrats will confound warnings that they could lose all of their AMs in May's assembly election, the party's Welsh leader has insisted.

Kirsty Williams said that such predictions in 2011 were wrong, and the party went on to win five seats.

"The challenges are the same, and the predictions are the same," she said.

The Lib Dems also backed a call to end parents' rights to remove their children from sex education lessons, at their spring conference in Cardiff.

Speaking to BBC Wales political editor Nick Servini, on the Sunday Politics Wales programme, Ms Williams said: "Obviously these elections are challenging, but they were challenging for us five years ago, when people like your colleagues in the BBC and pollsters said that we would be wiped out.

"We demonstrated, by taking a very strong campaign out onto the streets into communities, and articulating very clearly why Welsh Liberal Democrats needed to be in the assembly, what we would do if we had the opportunity."

Ms Williams said the Lib Dems had then returned a "small but strong group" that had "punched above its weight and has used its influence to do good things".

"My more nurses bill, for instance, the first part of Europe that will have a law that will say that we'll have safe staff levels on all our hospital wards."

'Struggling'

On the final day of the conference, a motion to end parents' rights to remove their children from sex education lessons was backed by party members.

Cardiff West candidate Cadan ap Tomos, who proposed the motion, said the status quo was "woefully inadequate".

He said he had spent much of his teenage years "struggling...mainly because at no point during my education was the message hammered home that being anything other than straight was perfectly normal".

Every child in Wales needed access to sex education, he said, in order to tackle issues including domestic violence, sexual health and teenage pregnancy.

Some activists argued that the move would conflict with the right to religious freedom, but the motion was approved by the party's conference and could now feature in the party's assembly election manifesto.

Earlier, plans to build 20,000 new affordable homes, if the party wins power in May, were outlined.

Double ministers' current target, it would increase social housing spending from £35m a year to £70m.

Money saved from scrapping the Labour Welsh government's planned M4 relief road around Newport would be used to fund the scheme, the party said.

Party housing spokesman Peter Black said: "Wales needs a government that will invest in a house building programme so everyone can have a roof over their heads.

"Social housing will be a priority for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

"We will ensure that there is quality, affordable housing for those who need it."

Labour had an "almost sneering" attitude to home ownership and aspiration, he said, repeating a party pledge to introduce a "rent to buy" scheme to help people get on the housing ladder.

On Saturday, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called delays to a £1bn tidal energy project in Swansea "shameful" and urged the party to challenge Labour's "arrogant sense of entitlement to rule" in May.

Image caption Peter Black says the current affordable homes target is not sufficiently ambitious

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