HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc939-40
3. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

What representations he has received on the future of European structural funds for Wales. [41415]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

We have received numerous representations stressing the importance of structural funds for Wales.

Mr. Jones

Does the Minister recognise that, unless something happens very quickly, Wales could well be at the back of the queue when up to £1 billion of objective 1 money is secured? Does he realise that, with the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary battling for Scotland, and the DTI battling for South Yorkshire, Merseyside and Cornwall, Wales could lose out altogether? What assurances can he give that Wales will not lose out? The credibility of the Welsh Office is at stake on this matter.

Mr. Hain

I do not recognise any of the points made by the hon. Gentleman. I put it to him, in the friendliest possible fashion, that he should be working with the Welsh Office. The Secretary of State has met Commissioner Wulf-Mathies twice; I have met her once. We have made all possible representations throughout the system. Wales's case is well recognised and understood, specifically in terms of NUTS 2 areas and generally in terms of low GDP within Europe. The hon. Gentleman's time would be better spent supporting the Welsh Office in what could be very difficult negotiations with the European Union.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Can my hon. Friend confirm press reports that he and fellow Ministers are deciding to adjust the assisted area status map in Wales as part and parcel of the case that he will make to Europe? If so, has he any assurance from Europe that, if such adjustments were made, we would obtain objective 1 status?

Mr. Hain

As my hon. Friend knows, the assisted area status question is separate from—although parallel with—the question of structural funds and NUTS 2 boundaries. We are reviewing the entire situation. I do not believe that the press reports that my hon. Friend mentions are accurate, but we are considering the best way of reconfiguring the assisted area map to ensure that Wales achieves the maximum benefit.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

Can the Minister confirm that any adjustment to the assisted area status map could have a beneficial effect on applications for objective 1 status for other parts of Wales? Does he accept that Conservative Members are very keen for Europe to give proper support to the most hard-pressed parts of Wales? Can he assure the House, however, that, in anything that he does, he will not risk giving up existing assistance without a categorical assurance that he will receive from Europe a balancing assistance in return; that he is not risking throwing out the baby with the bath water; and that, ultimately, Wales will end up better off overall?

Mr. Hain

For once, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's constructive question on this matter, because he is obviously as aware as Ministers in the Welsh Office of the delicate balance that must be achieved. We do not want Wales to lose out in any way, but we want to ensure that such aid as can be attracted in is focused on those areas, not neglecting the valleys or west Wales, which suffered very badly under the Conservative Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member.

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