First Minister speaks of ‘sadness and pride’ in final speech

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Carwyn Jones spoke of his “sadness” and “pride” in his final statement as First Minister of Wales on Tuesday.

Mr Jones, who has led the Welsh Government for nine years, will tender his resignation to the Queen on Tuesday afternoon paving the way for new Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford to take his place.

In his final speech at the Senedd, the First Minister said it had been a “privilege” to follow predecessor Rhodri Morgan, and defended his government’s record following attacks from “London’s media”.

But there was no mention about the death of cabinet secretary Carl Sargeant, whose son, Jack Sargeant AM, refused to join in with applause for the outgoing Welsh leader.

In his final statement to assembly members Mr Jones said: “As I prepare to hand over the reins, the feelings are bittersweet. Sadness in standing down, combined with pride in the work that has been achieved.

“It has been a huge privilege to serve Wales in this job, and to be at the helm in a time of great challenge, a crucial time in our nation’s history.

“The post I hold has changed considerably since I took it on in 2009, and so has the world around us.

“Perhaps more importantly, the National Assembly and the Welsh Government are very different organisations too, with more powers, more levers and higher expectations of delivery.

“With these new tools, we have achieved a great deal, even in these toughest of times.

“Devolution is now established, not just in law, not just in fact, but now in the hearts of the people of Wales.”

Mr Jones said reduced budgets and benefit cuts from Westminster along with the issues of Brexit had been his greatest challenges in power, but said the Welsh government had still managed to deliver for the “dominant issues” including the Welsh NHS.

He pointed to 118 extra schools being built during his time, more people in work, record inward investment, and more people surviving cancer than ever before.

He also referenced Wales being the first UK nation to introduce deemed consent for organ donation, abolishing child burial fees, and its ranking as second in the world for recycling household waste.

Mr Jones called attacks on the Welsh NHS from England “grossly unfair”, adding: “We responded with calm dignity and we backed our hard working doctors and nurses, not just with extra money, but with something of even greater value, respect.

“We made policy for Wales, not for London’s media.”

He added: “Our growing confidence and self-belief, as a Government, as a country, has come even in the face of a savage decade of austerity.

“But, none of these policies and achievements exist in isolation from the other.

“They all, to my mind, add up to something I will always want for Wales. Fairness and hope.”

Mr Jones ended his speech by praising new Welsh Labour leader Mr Drakeford, who is expected to replace him following a vote in the Senedd on Wednesday.

Mr Jones said: “Mark is someone who can effortlessly match both principles and pragmatism, and I have no doubt at all that he will make a superb first minister of Wales.”

The First Minister received a standing ovation from assembly members, but not from Jenny Rathbone AM, suspended from the party following comments made about anti-Semitism, or Mr Sargeant.

On Monday Mr Sargeant criticised speculation that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is to nominate Mr Jones for a seat in the House of Lords while questions surrounding his father’s sacking and subsequent death four days later remained unanswered.

Mr Sargeant said: “Nothing could be more distressing for the family and friends of Carl to know that such an accolade could be bestowed when there are so many unanswered questions regarding the First Minister’s conduct.

“It would be a real slap in the face to those of us already suffering Carl’s loss. If Jeremy Corbyn gives the nod to Carwyn Jones to go into the House of Lords, we will be distraught.”

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