“I am delighted to be back here, truly amongst friends.
My three years as Secretary of State for Wales were amongst the most fulfilling and enjoyable years of my working life.
I had to work very hard, mind.
Of course I was extremely fortunate to have at my right hand throughout my time in the job that wise counsellor, the great Wyn Roberts, later Sir Wyn Roberts, and now, of course, Lord Roberts of Conwy.
Time and time again, and usually against the odds and all predictions, Wyn would hold his seat at Conwy, from 1970 until he stepped down in 1997, sometimes by nail-biting majorities.
During that time, Wyn established himself as one of the finest public servants Wales has ever had.
A year or so ago, I attended yet another so-called "retirement party" for Wyn, when he stepped down from the front bench after more years than anyone dared remember.
I didn’t believe it for a moment.
Wyn is a bit like Frank Sinatra or Maria Callas used to be.
Another year, another comeback tour.
Sure enough, within a matter of weeks, he was back in the front line, when David Cameron asked him to produce a review of how devolution has worked, together with recommendations about the way forward.
This document was submitted to David a few weeks ago, and a summary of it was published only last week, in both English and Welsh.
I commend it warmly to you.
It is no secret that, when we were in Government, the Conservative Party was overwhelmingly opposed to the establishment of a National Assembly for Wales.
As Wyn's document reiterates very forcefully, this was not because we are ideologically opposed to the decentralisation of power.
On the contrary.
To quote from the Roberts Report:
"We want devolution to be a success, delivering better public services and strengthening the Welsh economy, and our general presumption is in favour of having decisions taken closer to the people, so long as the system chosen operates efficiently and effectively"
In other words, we are open-minded and practical-minded.
What matters is not what looks suitably radical and impressive on paper, in a lengthy treatise by an academic in Llandudno or Lampeter.
What matters is what delivers on the ground, for the people of Wales.
And, more than ever, I believe that what delivers is good, sound Conservative policies.
Back in our Welsh Office days, Wyn and I and our other ministerial colleagues worked tirelessly not to fine-tune governmental arrangements, but to do everything within our powers to bring economic progress, environmental improvement and first-class public services to the people of Wales.
I do not believe there is anything wrong with devolution in principle.
I never did.
Yet we have to face the fact that, on waiting lists, on educational attainment and, most depressingly of all, on the economy, Wales has been falling back since this Labour-dominated era began.
This is not the fault of devolution per se.
George Orwell once likened Britain to "a family with the wrong members in charge".
Post-devolution Wales feels a bit similar.
Beautiful architecture is all very well, but it's what goes on inside the buildings, that really makes the difference.
And look at the difference a Labour Government and, closer to home, the Labour-dominated Assembly-Government have made.
Wales is shedding jobs like autumn leaves.
Violent crime is up by almost two-thirds.
Hospital waiting lists are up, not down, by 40 per cent since 1999.
Council tax bills have more than doubled since 1997.
And Wales is now the poorest part of the United Kingdom.
The responsibility for all these failures should be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the Assembly-Government and the Labour establishment in Wales.
Rhodri Morgan and his team should be ashamed of themselves.
So how do we improve the situation?
Certainly not by abolishing the Assembly and turning Cardiff Bay back into mud flats.
The "Torchwood Tower" is here to stay.
And a good thing too.
Doctor Who has done more to promote Wales than Rhodri Morgan has.
Perhaps David Tennant might consider becoming the next First Minister?
But there is a serious point here.
Culturally, Wales may appear to be stronger and more assertive than ever before, but too much of that is founded upon subsidy from the taxpayer or television licence-payer – subsidy that may begin to melt away in the leaner times ahead.
No one wants to see that public sector work diminished, but private enterprise must take root too, and survive, and flourish.
Only the Conservative Party offers the policies to bring that about.
And the necessary leadership.
I have known Cheryl Gillan as a backbench colleague, a ministerial colleague and, now, as a front-bench colleague once again.
Under her leadership, we have already seen our party become competitive again right across Wales, fighting 41 per cent of council seats last time, as against 27 per cent the time before, and winning five first-past-the-post assembly seats with narrow misses in several others.
Cheryl was born and brought up in Wales.
And she will make a first-class Secretary of State for Wales.
The Conservative Party – our party – was the only party to make advances in the Assembly elections of both 2003 and 2007.
Next time, we need to go further.
Under the fine leadership of Cheryl Gillan, Nick Bourne and their excellent teams, we must make the breakthrough into Government in Wales.
And why not?
It is only 25 years ago that our party came within just a few thousand votes of winning a majority of the parliamentary constituencies in Wales.
Of course those were very different times.
Back in 1983, the Labour Party was led by a shambolic, discredited leader who seemed out of his time and out of his depth.
No one knew whether the Liberals were coming or going …
Well, perhaps the parallels are pretty close after all.
We were also led by Margaret Thatcher, certainly the greatest peacetime Prime Minister of my lifetime.
I have known David Cameron for a long time, since he worked in the Conservative Research Department in the early 1990s.
I believe he has it in him to be not only a fine leader of our party.
Well, he has already demonstrated that.
I believe he has it in him to be a great Prime Minister for our country.
As he has demonstrated by asking Wyn to forge a durable policy on devolution, he will also be a fine Prime Minister for Wales.
Colleagues, friends, Barack Obama swept to his historic victory in the United States because voters there believed it was time for a change.
It is easy to become weary and stale after a lengthy stint in government and "time for a change" is perhaps the most potent campaigning slogan in any language, of any time and in any land.
Here in the United Kingdom, I believe the times are a changin' too.
Barack Obama's other slogan was "yes we can" and, here in Wales, that should be our slogan too.
I would go further.
It's more a case of "yes, we must".
We must, because this land is desperate for change.
Because only we have the policies that will enable businesses in Wales to survive the troubled times ahead, and emerge on the other side in good health.
In business, as in life, survival is all.
As a party, though, we can again set our sights higher than that.
In 2010 I believe we shall see a Conservative Government in Westminster.
And in 2011 I believe you – we – will make the breakthrough we crave in the Welsh Assembly too.
What a prize, not just for us, but also for the people of Wales.
So let us go from here with hope in our hearts, and optimism, and a determination to do the hard work that is necessary to deliver those results, for our party, for Wales and for the United Kingdom.”