HC Deb 30 June 1980 vol 987 cc1061-3
2. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much aid the European Economic Community has given in loans and grants to Wales in the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

A total of £162 million in the year ending 31 May 1980.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that the EEC's contribution to the wellbeing of Wales is impressive? What steps is he taking to draw to the attention of the people of Wales the advantages that membership of the Community brings them?

Mr. Edwards

I agree about the scale of the EEC's contribution. Since accession, the receipts in Wales have totalled about £668 million in identifiable grants and loans, and we are taking every opportunity to publicise them. We are examining additional ways to do so; for example, by identifying projects that have gone ahead thanks to EEC assistance. In that way the people in the locality affected will be aware of where the finance has come from.

Mr. Anderson

How does the Secretary of State reconcile what the Government say here and what Conservative Euro-MPs do in Strasbourg? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last Friday Conservative Euro-MPs voted against proposals to increase expenditure under the regional and social funds, and therefore missed the opportunity for extra funds to come to Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe that that is accurate. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is disagreement about the budget proposals put forward by the Commission. Nothing has so far happened to prevent Wales from taking full advantage of existing Community resources.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend endeavour to encourage greater use of European money for roads and infrastructure projects in Wales? Can he give a categoric assurance that the results of the survey to see whether there should be a tunnel under or a bridge over the Conway crossing will be made known before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Edwards

With regard to my hon. Friend's first point, it is advantageous that the recent negotiations in Europe have reduced the total resource cost to the United Kingdom of our membership. That therefore gives the Government resources for essential expenditure, such as on the A55, without imposing too great a strain on the economy. We shall make an announcement about the future road programme and the Conway crossing before the Summer Recess.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Secretary of State arrange for early discussions with British Rail to ensure that an application is made to obtain EEC regional development grants for the reconstruction of the Barmouth bridge, which it is estimated will cost about £2½ million?

Mr. Edwards

I shall discuss that matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, who is directly responsible for British Rail, and will endeavour to see that if an application goes forward it does so in good time.