04/03/2015 11:32 GMT | Updated 04/05/2015 06:59 BST

Why I Want Wales to Be the First Living Wage Country

Conservatives have always backed those who want to get on in life, roll up their sleeves and do a hard day's work. We always have and we always will. That's why I want Wales to lead the charge on being the first living wage country of the UK and I'm proud that it's Welsh Conservatives who are the ones doing it.

The living wage is just £1.35 an hour more than the minimum wage in Wales. Of all the research that has been done, the living wage has been shown to cut absenteeism, boost productivity and overall, encourage work. In Wales, it is estimated that it would impact around 30,000 people in the public sector.

I don't just want the public sector to be the only part of this idea - the private sector can lead too.

In fact, Wales' private sector economy is made up of small businesses. 99 per cent of all business in Wales is small and medium sized. We want businesses to play their part, but I'm keen that the lead is taken firmly by the public sector.

At our recent party conference in Cardiff, I announced that by the end of the next Welsh Assembly term, I want everybody in the public sector to be paid the living wage. It would cost around £18 million a year to implement, but would send out a signal that Wales rewards work. There are some in parts of our country who simply think that work doesn't pay - that welfare is a way of life. Thankfully that is changing because of the policies implemented by Iain Duncan Smith, but we now need to ensure that going to work and earning a hard day's pay is the only life style and that is why I want the living wage to be part of this change.

The economic situation in Wales is improving thanks to the long term economic plan put in place by the Conservative-led government in Westminster, but we have to do more in Wales. Sadly manufacturing has declined by 12 per cent in just over a decade, GVA is around 25 per cent lower than the UK average and inward investment has fallen from 15 per cent of all UK investment in the 1990s to now just 4 per cent.

The gaps in disposable incomes between Welsh workers and those in other parts of the UK is currently bigger than it should be. In 2012, figures estimated that this gap is over £2,000.

Many of the economic levers at the Welsh Government's disposal aren't being used effectively, but I want to work with them and all other parties to get the living wage made into a reality.

Our workers in Wales deserve a proper wage, I'm determined to make that happen.