HC Deb 09 June 1999 vol 332 cc635-6
5. Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

What arrangements are proposed for the representation of Wales in the EU Council of Ministers in the draft concordat drawn up by the Foreign Office and the Welsh Office. [85159]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alun Michael)

Such European matters will be covered in an overarching concordat between the UK Government and the devolved bodies.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

A what?

Mr. Michael

It would be as well for the right hon. Gentleman to wait until I have finished my answer before he gets too excited.

Assembly Secretaries will be able to form part of the UK delegation to the Council of Ministers, to speak to the agreed UK line where appropriate and to raise Welsh issues. There will be close co-operation between the Assembly Secretaries and Ministers in the UK Government.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that Secretaries of State from his Government who are members of UK delegations in the Council of Ministers will be able to speak up in the interests of Wales and will not have their opinions suppressed, as has happened in the case of the report by John Humphries on the impact of the European Union on Wales? It has been suppressed by the Kinnock Cabinet in Brussels because it highlights the need for the Government in London to provide matching funding to take advantage of objective 1 moneys for Wales.

Mr. Michael

I will answer gently in case the right hon. Gentleman gets overexcited and feels he has to rush from the Chamber again. Indeed, he is getting overexcited on this point. I have seen the reports, but I have no idea as to the decision-making process. The relationship between Assembly Secretaries and Ministers at Westminster will be one of partnership. The representatives of Wales will participate—as junior Ministers and I have done in the past-in agreeing the United Kingdom line to be fought for at European meetings, and will be part of the delegations. Where appropriate, they will be able to put the case for Wales. This is a question of partnership—which is what devolution is all about.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Does the concordat contain details of the regional assistance that is to come from Europe this year? Is not it strange that the Labour party claimed yesterday that it had got the best deal ever, but that it has refused to announce what that deal is until the election is over?

Mr. Michael

It depends on what the hon. Gentleman is asking about. His question is muddled. We have received the best deal ever for Wales, because the Prime Minister and the Chancellor—working with Welsh Labour MEPs—were successful in winning objective 1 status for large parts of Wales. It is an extremely good settlement. There are other issues in terms of structural funds that have yet to be finalised, and those will be discussed within the Government, and between the Government and our colleagues in Europe.