HC Deb 27 November 1972 vol 847 cc18-22
18. Mr. McBride

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will now make available to hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies a report based on information obtained for him by officials of the Welsh Office who have visited the European Economic Community Commission in Brussels, on the effects on Wales of Market entry.

Mr. Peter Thomas

These are the normal and continuing exchanges between my officials and their European colleagues, and I do not think it appropriate to publish reports on them.

Mr. McBride

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that that is a most alarming statement of incompetency from a Minister of the Crown, coming as it does within a few weeks of our entry? Will he inform Wales of that which is headlined in The Guardian business section this morning, namely the single railway outline plans at present before the European Commission? Will he say whether these planning proposals will provide Wales with new rail networks and will he state the threat that these networks will pose to Welsh people? He must know about this. He will have been asked for his opinion on co-ordination. What did he say, when did he say it and to whom?

Mr. Thomas

That is another question, and if the hon. Gentleman will put it down to the appropriate Minister I am sure that it will be answered.

Mr. McBride

But the right hon. and learned Gentleman is the Secretary of State.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman said it was alarming that I was unable to tell him about the views expressed by my officials. It is a cardinal principle of Government administration that advice and judgment expressed by officials to Ministers are confidential. What I can say is that everything I hear makes me increasingly certain that Wales will benefit from membership of the Community.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman tells the House and Wales that we shall benefit from entry, has he not a clear duty to put this in the form of a White Paper or a Green Paper so that we may consider it?

Mr. Thomas

My duty is to see that the interests of Wales are taken into account in all the activity which is now going on, and that I will certainly do. What the hon. Gentleman must appreciate is that we are going into Europe on 1st January. With respect, it is about time that the hon. Member and certain of his hon. Friends allowed their creaking bones to get into motion and move into the last quarter of the twentieth century.

20. Mr. Elystan Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what part the Welsh Office intends to take in the official celebrations in connection with Great Britain's entry into the Common Market.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Welsh Office rôle is participating in the work of Lord Mancroft's Committee, liaising with other bodies and encouraging local initiatives in Wales.

Mr. Morgan

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that there is a singular lack of enthusiasm in Wales for entry, and that in any event this latter-day little saturnalia would be more acceptable to the Welsh people if the Secretary of State were able to spell out one specific concession which Wales has had from the Commissioners in Brussels?

Mr. Thomas

I am rather glad to find that there is quite a lot of enthusiasm for celebrating this event. Those people in Wales who are not politically motivated think of this as a new prospect for Britain in which, besides the enjoyment of events at the beginning of next year, there will be the prospects of advancement in which we can all happily share.

Mr. Roderick

In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer to my Question last week—that the Welsh Office money spent on the projected Fanfare for Europe will come out of the Welsh Office Vote—can he say which Department will have less money to spend this year as a consequence?

Mr. Thomas

I do not expect that the small amount of money spent will make any difference to my overall budget during the year.

22. Mr. John

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the sums likely to accrue to Wales from the projected regional budget of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Decisions relating to the Regional Development Fund will be taken by the European Community as a whole between now and the end of 1973. In advance of these decisions it is not possible to make any estimates of the size or distribution of the fund.

Mr. John

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer mean that the euphoria so sedulously created by newspapers after the summit meeting is so much eyewash? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is no fund in existence, that no Minister is at present available and that Wales is highly unlikely to receive any tangible benefit from this at all?

Mr. Thomas

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is under that impression. I think the report makes it perfectly clear that the size of the fund will be a matter for the Community to decide next year. The United Kingdom will be very much involved in the discussions leading to the decision, and the method of operating the fund will also be settled between now and the end of the year.

Sir A. Meyer

How can the Labour Party hope to exercise influence on increasing the size of the regional aid programme if they are not going to be present?

Mr. Thomas

My hon. Friend has asked a very pertinent question. The Community budget is determined by the Council of Ministers after consultation with the European Parliament. Hon. Members opposite who are interested in advancing the cause of the regional fund may wish to put forwards their names for the European Parliament.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that he is talking a lot of poppycock? Is he not aware that the Commission will decide and the European Assembly, which is not a Parliament, will have no more influence on this budget than will the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower)—and that is not saying much?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. It will not be the Commission which will decide. It will be the Council of Ministers who will decide and, as I have said, they will decide after consultation with the European Parliament.

Mr. Alan Williams

But since it will be a little time before a decision is taken, is it not imperative meanwhile that all industry which can be encouraged to come to Wales is given that encouragement? In the circumstances, how does the Secretary of State justify refusing, as he did earlier today, to publish apparently objective reports which he claims to have in his Department which reflect favourably on the Welsh economic environment? How does he claim that as fulfilment of his duty to the people of Wales?

Mr. Thomas

Industry will be encouraged, and is showing increasing signs of being encouraged, to come to Wales under the Industry Act and the powers therein passed by the House not long ago.

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