He had previously referred to Wales as the "blueprint" for how a UK Labour Government would look, but when Sir Keir Starmer spoke to delegates at the party's conference earlier this month he failed to mention Wales once. Today the UK Labour leader has said he and Mark Drakeford are in contact "all the time".

He spoke to WalesOnline outside the Port Talbot steel works where he was meeting both trade unions and senior members of Tata, the company that owns the plant. Sir Keir was asked about who bore the responsibility for Wales' historically high levels of poverty and whether he agreed with Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford who said that the UK was a "family of nations".

Sir Keir said the reason for economic performance of Wales lay squarely at the feet of the UK Government rather than the Welsh Government and that the union was "four nations" working together. You can read his interview in full below. For the latest analysis of the biggest stories, sign up to the Wales Matters newsletter here.

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WalesOnline: Wales has historically been the poorest part of the UK, and this has remained the case since devolution, why do you think that is?

Sir Keir Starmer: I think because we haven't had the strategic thinking from a Westminster Government that we desperately need. What you've seen is a Westminster Government over the last 13 years, not observing the rules that we need for devolution, and not working with the Welsh Labour government. If we were privileged enough to come into power, and there was a Labour government in Westminster, we would coordinate, we would work with, and that will have huge benefits.

I'll give you two short examples. When we announced a plan recently to drive down waiting lists in England that had consequentials for Wales, the Welsh Government were able to pick that up and say they would do the same. This morning, we've been talking about the future of steel, hugely important for Wales, we need to protect the jobs that we've got, and transition to the jobs of the future. That will only happen if we have a UK-wide strategy for the future of steel and an industrial strategy. So this will be a completely different way of working which will massively benefit Wales, but also benefit the whole of the United Kingdom.

Is the UK in your view, a family of nations or within a single nation?

It is a union of four nations working together. I think the strength of the union lies as much in the future, as in the past. If we look at the big challenge was to grow our economy, to have an industrial strategy for the future of steel, to tackle the climate emergency, clearly, we can achieve more if we pull together. But the examples I give about the way we can get our NHS to work better.

The examples I give about the future of steel here in Wales are dependent on four nations pulling together. So yes, we have the history which is very important but I think that we also have the challenges of future which if we are able to rise to they can become real opportunities that we can take together.

The Labour leader viewing the plant in South Wales
The Labour leader viewing the plant in South Wales

Wales is the only country in the UK where Labour is already in power. Why didn't you mention Wales during your conference speech?

I mention Wales all the time, in many speeches, Mark Drakeford, and I work closely together, our offices are in contact all the time.

Then why not mention it during your conference speech?

Well, we, during conference, we were announcing our NHS plan and working with Welsh Government who said "yes, we will take the consequentials and do a similar thing here in a coordinated, rules-based way". So you see the strength of that relationship and nothing in your questioning, I'm afraid, it's going to drive a wedge between myself and the Welsh Government here because it's a very good working relationship.

It will be so much better if we have the opportunity to be privileged enough to come into power and then what you will see is something very different to what you see now. At the moment you've got a Westminster Government not really observing the rules, no coordination and being in conflict with the Welsh Government and that doesn't help people in Wales one bit. What you'll get from an incoming Labour government is coordination, observance of the rules, working strategically together, and that will help us enormously not just on health, not just on steel, but on all the things that matter so much to people here in Wales.

Commenting after his visit Sir Keir said: "A bastion of UK industry, British steel is integral to our growth and prosperity as a nation. From Port Talbot to Rutherglen, to Scunthorpe, it’s been the fabric of our society for generations but for far too long, our steel industry has been left behind at while our European allies forge ahead. We must turn this around. We must make Britain a world leader again. That means reform, investment, a proper industrial strategy, and proper decarbonisation.

"That means greening the steel that will make the solar panels and wind turbines built to power our homes for years to come. That’s why I’ve made delivering clean power by 2030 one of my five missions for an incoming Labour government. It’s why our Green Prosperity Plan will provide a decade-long programme of investment in clean steel. We won’t stand back while these opportunities pass by. A Labour government I lead will roll up its sleeves and grab them with both hands.

"Our investment will bring growth and economic security. Our planning reforms will turbocharge building of critical infrastructure. Our plans to get Britain building again will mean fuller order books and security for both industry and worker. We will put party politics aside, partner with devolved regions, industry and trade unions alike to give UK steel its future back."