Cairns on Cameron, EU funds and elections

Alun Cairns MP
Image caption It never rains but it pours: Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns live on the BBC News Channel

I spoke to Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns after he attended David Cameron's last cabinet meeting in Downing Street.

"It was very professional, but it was also emotional," he said. "It was very dignified but I would also say at the end it was quite emotional.

"He reflected on how many cabinet meetings he had chaired [215], he reflected on people had been in the cabinet from the outset but also there was an awful lot of respect for what he'd achieved from the time when he came into that brave decision of a coalition because the economy needed stability, about saving the economy from the brink of bankruptcy right through to that great win just over 12 months ago."


Mr Cairns praised David Cameron's leadership, even on a policy he personally opposed.

"He confounded the critics - everyone said he would never get away with marriage for example, all the other social changes that have been brought about as well as the economic changes which are the most important, having brought us back from the brink of bankruptcy."

The new prime minister will find Brexit at the top of her intray, with the Welsh Government asking the UK government to make up the shortfall left by the absence of EU funds for poorer areas.

Mr Cairns told me: "Just changing one source of income for another is not the answer. The referendum threw out some clear issues. The sort of projects and the nature of spend wasn't having traction in those communities so we want a much higher level of debate.

"A business person in Wales said to me last week the previous situation was unsustainable. It had to be addressed and this has been brought about now through the Brexit referendum."

'Root causes'

He added: "It's easy to ask for money but I think we need to be looking at what the root causes of those issues are We looked at life chances in the cabinet today, we looked at what the barriers were to allowing people to get on.

"Why are white working class people less likely than their peers to go on to university? Those are the sorts of issues that we need to be addressing, those sorts of literacy skills, those sorts of numeracy skills that we need to overcome, the opportunities we need to give to people so that every person feels that they've got a part to play in society.

"That's what the agenda is about rather than one money coming from one pot and going to another. Focusing on spend is not the outcome."

Mr Cairns also rejected calls for Theresa May to hold an early general election: "The last thing we need is more instability."

And will he be among ambitious ministers keeping their phone fully charged tomorrow?

Mr Cairns said: "There'll be lots of anxious people tomorrow. There'll be many people delighted, many people disappointed but I would say that's the privilege of being prime minister and I would also say one of the burdens".