Rhodri Morgan praises devolution 'successes'

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Rhodri Morgan hailed the success of devolution today - his last full day as Wales's First Minister.

He will submit his resignation to the Queen tomorrow after nearly a decade in the job.



His successor, Carwyn Jones, who was elected Welsh Labour leader last week, is due to be nominated for the post on Wednesday.



Mr Morgan will chair his last Cabinet later and will face AMs for his final weekly question session tomorrow.



He will tender his resignation after question time and following a Senedd debate on the Welsh Assembly Government's budget.



Mr Morgan is sticking to his long-held plan to retire around his 70th birthday, which he celebrated in September.



He was elected First Secretary in February 2000 and became First Minister later that year when the job was renamed.



On the eve of his departure, he pointed to some of the most eye-catching policies of his Labour-led administrations, including free prescriptions for all and the Scandinavian-inspired foundation phase for primary school children.



Although he was retiring during a recession, he said the downturn had "caused everyone to pull together remarkably well" and had given rise to the ProAct scheme which subsidises training for redundancy-threatened workers.



He said: "Devolution has brought many changes to Wales and its successes include free prescriptions - the simplest way of ensuring maximum benefit for patients - and free hospital parking, free bus travel for the over-60s and the highly successful new learn through play curriculum for children from three to seven years old.



"Devolution has also allowed us to become a small, clever country, shown in the way we responded so decisively to the challenges of the recession."



He added: "In one sense, the last thing I would want is to retire from office while the recession is still on.



"In another sense, the recession has caused everyone to pull together remarkably well in resisting the rising tide of unemployment, business failures and house repossessions.



"That is how the outstandingly successful ProAct anti-redundancy scheme was born."



If the Conservatives win the next general election, and with a nationalist administration in Scotland, Bridgend AM Mr Jones could become the most senior governing Labour politician next year.



He must also see out the remaining 18 months of Labour's One Wales coalition with Plaid Cymru, which includes the offer of a referendum on full law-making powers for the Assembly.



Mr Morgan said: "It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be First Minister and I have enjoyed it immensely. I am now looking forward to spending more time on constituency work in Cardiff West and relaxing with my ever-expanding family as well as walking the dog and digging the allotment.



"And of course I want to wish my successor all the best in the role."



He went on: "I am proud of what we have been able to achieve as a nation in the last decade, and grateful to all the people who have helped and supported me throughout that time.



"Most of all, it has been an honour and privilege to serve the people of Wales - diolch yn fawr i chi gyd (thank you very much everyone)."

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