§ Mr. Barry Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will seek the restoration of Objective 2 status to North-east Wales. 
§ Mr. Hain
Eligible areas for the European Structural Funds will not be changed before the end of 1999. For the period from the year 2000 onwards, the eligibility of areas will depend on the Commission's proposals for future financing of the EU and of the reform of the Structural Funds. These may lead to a substantial change in the current structure, including the system of Objectives. Once the Commission have put forward proposals for the reform of the Funds and these have been negotiated and agreed, the Government will then consider proposing particular areas within the United Kingdom.
In the meantime, my officials along with local partners, are already seeking to identify those criteria which most closely meet the socio-economic circumstances and difficulties of Wales, including the North East and which can be proposed for inclusion in the Commission's eventual Structural Funds Regulations. It will be against the criteria contained in these Regulations that the merits of North-east Wales will be evaluated.