Regional Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1994.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North 12:00 am, 28th November 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the Government's policy on the concept of Europe of the regions.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

Diversity is Europe's strength. We believe that that can best be enhanced by leaving as many things as possible to local and national decision taking.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department disbursed some £6.4 billion throughout Wales last year while the European Community disbursed only £50 million? Is it not worth remembering that the European Community is seeking to harness regional sentiment against national Governments so as to centralise power and not necessarily to improve the condition of the regions?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

It is very important that that should not be the aim, although I think that there are probably some in Europe who are centralisers rather than having a sincere belief in more regional and local independence and autonomy. We should resist that very strongly, because diversity and choice are crucial to successful trade, friendship and co-operation. It would not be helped by the latest Labour proposals for a senate for Wales, which again would probably end up taxing people for the privilege of being Welsh, spending more of their money and asking them to obey more laws for the privilege of being Welsh.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

Will the Secretary of State confirm that if he is to maintain his credentials as one of the Cabinet's leading Euro-enthusiasts, at least relative to his hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), he will provide the funding for research back-up for the Welsh Euro-forum, which he and his party helped to set up, and for the six members and alternates from Wales on the European Committee of the Regions?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

I cannot make that promise. The reporting-back system has been set up by Welsh local government. I and other hon. Members hope that invitations will be forthcoming to some Members of Parliament and to Members of the European Parliament because we think that that may help their deliberations. However, it is a local government initiative and therefore can be paid for out of the very generous total funding and grant from the Welsh Office to local government.