HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc8-10
8. Mr. Denzil Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to meet Commissioner Millan in the near future to discuss regional development assistance for Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)

The former Secretary of State met Mr. Millan in Brussels on 15 March and invited him to south Wales. My right hon. Friend intends to pursue that application and to meet other Commissioners when he visits Brussels later this year.

Mr. Davies

Since the ultimate power and authority in granting regional development aid now reside with the Commission and not with the United Kingdom Cabinet, is it not remiss of the Secretary of State still not to have been to Brussels to see his paymaster, Mr. Bruce Millan?

Will the Under-Secretary tell the Secretary of State that when he goes to Brussels and meets Mr. Millan, he should leave the propaganda behind in the Welsh Office and tell him that Wales is the poorest area in Britain, with the lowest income per head, and that it is the lowest economically active area—indeed, lower than many areas in Europe with objective 1 status? If he tells Mr. Millan the truth, perhaps the European Commission will not agree with the British Government, and will not devalue the assisted area status of Wales.

Mr. Jones

I will certainly leave the right hon. Gentleman behind to keep on peddling all his negative propaganda about the Principality. I have already told him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will see Mr. Millan shortly, and the right hon. Gentleman can be assured that my right hon. Friend will fully and properly represent the interests of Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Minister realise that the Secretary of State will not be readily forgiven in Wales because of the nonsensical, bombastic claims, that Wales is leading Britain out of the recession? As a result of those claims, we lose all our regional aid. Is he aware that we have already lost regional development grants, that the special development areas have been abolished, and that those areas that still receive regional aid receive a much reduced sum? The Secretary of State is leading us into further trouble, not salvation.

Mr. Jones

That is not my claim or the claim of my right hon. Friend. It is the claim made by the CBI and the National Westminster bank. A variety of independent and expert commentators are pointing out that Wales is leading Britain and Europe out of recession. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) would do far better for Wales if he welcomed that.

Mr. Ian Bruce

When does my hon. Friend the Minister expect to hear from the European Commission the results of our application for assisted area status? Can he confirm that that scheme is beset by many rules and that the more successful regions, which have succeeded under regional development in the past, are quite likely to lose their assisted area status, not because of anything that Her Majesty's Government have done, but simply because they have succeeded in improving those areas and their relative position within the United Kingdom?

Mr. Jones

: It would he premature to speculate on the outcome or to indicate the likely date. However, I can reassure my hon. Friend and the House that my right hon. Friend has built on the work of his predecessor as Secretary of State in fighting hard for the interests of Wales in this matter.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Will the Minister comment on reports that circulated at the weekend that the map that was submitted by the Department of Trade and Industry on behalf of the United Kingdom on assisted area status has been sent back to the United Kingdom because the Commission in Brussels would not accept the redrawing of that map in favour of the south-east of England? When the map is sent back, will he ensure that Wales is not sold down the river this time?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman must content himself and be patient a little longer. He can be assured that my right hon. Friend has lost no opportunities to fight Wales's corner in this matter.

Mr. Morgan

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Secretary of State for Wales that he is not doing Wales any good by simply trumpeting regional development successes without balancing that with the news about pit closures and factory rundowns which would produce the true, balanced picture? Will he tell him that he must not confuse his hwyl with his hype and that he does Wales no good, and will send all the wrong signals to the European Community's regional development people, if he tells them that everything is going well in Wales? There is still a long way to go and he must not expect the Commission to come in and keep regional development status in certain areas if this Government abandon areas like south-east and north-east Wales.

Mr. Jones

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already anticipated that question by pointing out that we hear all the bad news from the Opposition benches and that my right hon. Friend brings the good news. Quite frankly, if overseas investors listened only to the news from the Opposition Benches, they would never consider investing in Wales.

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