HC Deb 30 July 1998 vol 317 cc412-3W
Mr. Denis Murphy

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) which Government departments were charged with drawing up the criteria in respect of the review of NUTS 2 statistical areas; and what criteria were used in each area; [51838]

(2) what consultations were undertaken with Her Majesty's Government, by Eurostat in respect of the review of NUTS 2 statistical areas, with specific reference to Northumberland and Durham. [51839]

Ms Hewitt

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Tim Holt to Mr. Denis Murphy, dated 30 July 1998: As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary questions on the new NUTS-2 statistical areas for the UK. Following a public consultation exercise in Summer 1996, the Government Statistical Service Committee on Regional Statistics drafted proposals for a new NUTS structure for the UK which were submitted to Eurostat in July 1997. The document "Proposals for the UK Nomenclature of Territorial Units (NUTS) (May 1997)" describes the departments involved and the criteria taken into account, including those principles applied by Eurostat. Copies of this document are available in the House of Commons library. Throughout the subsequent negotiations, Eurostat stressed that in their view the UK proposals contained too many NUTS-2 areas and that changes from the old structure were unjustified. Within the North East, the old structure contained two NUTS-2 areas— (i) Cleveland and Durham, and (ii) Northumberland and Tyne & Wear. The proposals suggested the creation of three NUTS-2 areas within the North East—(i) Cleveland and Darlington, (ii) Durham and Northumberland, and (iii) Tyne & Wear. The sizes of the existing two areas, in population terms, were already smaller than the EU average, and creating three areas would reduce the UK average further. Also, in Eurostat's view this proposal was not consistent with their criteria. We continued to press the case for the UK proposals in respect of the North East throughout the negotiations. However, after a lengthy impasse, Eurostat made it clear that this proposal was not going to be accepted. In order to reach agreement for the UK as a whole, we had to accept their position. In the absence of an agreement, Eurostat, with whom the final decision on the classification rests, would have continued to use the existing NUTS-2 structure for the UK with virtually no change in any region. The NUTS structure finally agreed with Eurostat was published in a News Release on 29 June, and copies are also available in the House of Commons Library.

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