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Leaving the EU: Wales — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:42 am on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 10:42 am, 25th October 2016

I thank you, Mr Bailey. I assure you I was not feeling harassed.

It is important to point out that the individuals from the leave campaign who joined the Government will serve in relation to the Government’s agenda, which, to a large extent, is still based on the manifesto commitment of the last election.

I need to move on to reflect on some of the comments of the hon. Member for Aberavon. He began with an important comment about the way a single-industry town is affected by the fact that that single industry has contracted. He highlighted the changes that have happened over a period of years. However, the debate is about European funding in Wales. That funding has been important, but there is no denying that we have qualified for three rounds of such intervention. I do not believe that there is fault with Brussels in the fact that we still qualify for the highest percentage of support from the European Union, but Opposition Members should reflect on the fact that time after time we have ended up still qualifying for the highest level of intervention.

As my hon. Friend Byron Davies stated, when we qualified for the first round of intervention the expectation was that it would be a one-off opportunity, because eastern European countries were joining the European Union whose standard of living was significantly lower than that enjoyed in Wales at that time. However, we have qualified again and again, and it appears that Opposition Members here expect Wales to qualify again in 2020. That is an indication of the failure of the Welsh Government in Cardiff to make the best of the funding available.

I fully accept that some European schemes across Wales have been successful and have made a difference, but no Member can deny that other schemes in Wales have been wasteful and inefficient. The real issue Opposition Members should face is that Welsh GDP per head is continually falling, despite the intervention that has been described by Opposition Members as absolutely crucial to the future of Wales. I believe we need a funding stream in place to support Wales, and I will fight for that as part of the Wales Office, but the crucial point is that to claim the status quo is the way forward is to ignore the realities on the ground in Wales, which were reflected in the referendum. The only two parts of the west Wales and valleys region, which receives the highest level of European intervention, that voted to remain were Gwynedd and Ceredigion. Opposition Members should reflect on that.