On Monday evening, the Prime Minister told David Jones that he was to be replaced as the Secretary of State for Wales.

With a general election on the horizon, the Member of Parliament for Clwyd West was one of the casualties of a revamp of Conservative cabinet membership as David Cameron prepares a new team for next May’s battle with Labour.

When he was appointed nearly two years ago, David was thrilled and honoured to become only the second MP from North Wales, after Cledwyn Hughes in 1966, to become Secretary of State for Wales.

During his period in office, his main priority has been the development of the Welsh economy. Indeed, despite disagreements over the details of the final legislation, he fully appreciated the importance of the current Wales Bill going through Parliament in giving a future Welsh Government, if it wished to, the powers to lower the rate of income tax and therefore boost entrepreneurial activity.

This was not altruism alone as the wily and tactical politician in David Jones also knew that such legislation would give voters a choice between two quite different economic approaches and the opportunity to have politicians in Cardiff Bay accountable not only for the money they spend but for raising it as well.

If that alone is the legacy he leaves Wales, it will have an impact for years to come.

His uncompromising approach and straight talking sometimes rankled with some of those in politics who were used to a less confrontational approach.

But whatever the situation, he was always passionate about ensuring that Wales got the most out of the UK Government’s economic policies.

As a member of the Business Advisory panel for the Wales Office, I saw at first hand the efforts being made to help boost the economy through ensuring that Welsh firms took advantage of the opportunities being offered through working with the UK Government, especially in the field of exporting.

During these meetings, David would especially focus on those reports showing that the renaissance in manufacturing was being led by Welsh-based anchor companies such as Airbus, General Dynamics and Toyota, and he was not slow to remind his Cabinet colleagues of such success.

More importantly, and given accusations that the region had been ignored by Welsh and UK Governments in recent times, he was determined to ensure the success of two major projects for North Wales during his tenure.

The first of these, the investment by Horizon and Hitachi at Wylfa on Anglesey, will be the biggest single piece of new Welsh infrastructure for over 50 years and will create thousands of jobs as well as providing opportunities for local firms to be part of the nuclear power supply chain across the UK.

The second - the construction of a £250 million new prison in Wrexham - will create a thousand new jobs during its operation with at least half of these to be recruited from the local area.

He was also a strong supporter of growing Welsh businesses via the Fast Growth 50 project and met many of the winning companies during his tenure.

In fact, his first event as Secretary of State for Wales was at the 2012 Gala Dinner in Cardiff. As expected, his civil servants had prepared a long rambling speech for him, assuming this was just a normal business dinner. When I told him that the businesses would probably give him a maximum of three minutes before they continued with their celebrations or worse still, started throwing breadrolls, he dumped the script in the bin and gave a short and well-received off the cuff speech on the importance of government in supporting Welsh firms.

And what many people do not know is that he would stay right until the very end of the Fast Growth 50 awards, which was normally around midnight, and then drive himself back to North Wales so that he could be at his constituency meetings first thing on Saturday morning. It at least answered our question as to why he was drinking water whilst the rest of us were digging into the wine.

Therefore, David should be proud of what he has achieved in the post since his appointment in September 2012, and I am sure this focus on developing the Welsh economy will continue under Stephen Crabb, the new Secretary of State for Wales.

As one of the rising stars of the Conservative Party, Stephen comes from a commercial background and understands the needs of the business community. He will undoubtedly have his own style in office but I am also certain that he will continue to build on the work of his predecessor, especially in ensuring that Wales makes the most of the opportunities from a growing economy.

A different hand at the tiller may also alleviate some of the issues that you undoubtedly get when strong personalities with sincere but opposing beliefs come up against each other, as is often the case in Welsh politics.

Of course, the former Secretary of State for Wales will be disappointed that the dispute over the electrification of the London to Swansea and Valleys railways lines had not been satisfactorily concluded before his departure but will be pragmatic enough to appreciate that in such negotiations, a new broom may be needed to end the impasse between Cardiff Bay and Westminster over this issue.

I am sure that David Jones appreciates that his beloved North Wales will face many challenges over the next few years in ensuring that it attracts the vital investment needed from both the private and public sectors to secure its economic future. However, the one thing I am certain about is that he will face such challenges from the backbenches with the same focus and determination that he displayed during his eventful tenure at the Wales Office.

Popular posts from this blog