HC Deb 07 May 1973 vol 856 cc12-4
12. Mr. Gwynoro Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will ask the Welsh Council to research into the implication for Wales of the EEC Green Paper on Regional Development to be published soon.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Commission's report on regional policy is being published in order to stimulate discussion, and I have no doubt that the Welsh Council will wish to consider its relevance to Wales.

Mr. Jones

Does not the Secretary of State agree that, before the EEC can make any effective contribution to Wales, the assistance provided by the regional development policy must be lavishly given to the Principality? Is he aware that the criteria put forward in the report list areas with preponderant agricultural problems? Those are areas where structural change is taking place. As such problems are clearly present in the Principality, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ask his Department and the Welsh Council to prepare schemes for submission to the relevant authority when the policy becomes effective?

Mr. Thomas

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Commission's report was made available to the Government only on Friday of last week. I am studying it with great care, it would be wrong for me to comment now on the report. Perhaps I can say that it appears to provide a sound basis for further discussion. I was happy to see that the Commission appreciates the problems facing regions in Wales. I shall be going to Brussels on Friday and I look forward to discussions with the Commissioners and officials. I have no doubt that these matters will be raised.

Mr. John

Does not the Secretary of State realise that when he goes to Brussels on Friday, or on any other day, he will have to put forward certain viewpoints about the amount and nature of aid to be given to Wales? Will he ask the Welsh Council to give him some ideas as he is manifestly bankrupt of any ideas of his own?

Mr. Thomas

The report, of course, provides a good oasis for discussion. Discussions will take place in future on the report. We have ourselves no doubt about the views that we wish to express on behalf of Wales.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

This is not the time for general platitudes. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give two undertakings to this House and, through this House, to the people of Wales: first, that he will press for the inclusion of the whole of the Principality as a peripheral area which will receive assistance from the Community; and, secondly, that the total amount of moneys spent in future on regional development in Wales will be not less than the sum of £80 million expended by the Labour Government in 1969–70?

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman knows that no decisions have yet been taken about central and peripheral areas in the United Kingdom, but discussions on these matters under the terms of Article 154 of the Treaty of Accession will be taking place over the coming weeks. The hon. Gentleman also knows that in advance of the discussions it would be wrong for me to make any firm statement such as he asks concerning the outcome.