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Eec Commission (Minister's Visit)

Volume 887: debated on Monday 3 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the visit of the Under-Secretary of State to the EEC Commission.

I had valuable discussions in both Brussels and Luxembourg dealing in particular with ECSC housing assistance and the rĂ´le of the Welsh Development Agency in relation to institutions of the European Community.

Does the Minister accept, from his studies and from ours last week, in Brussels, that the social and regional policy of the Community lags far behind its industrial and competition policy, and that therefore the effects of industrial centralisation on Wales could be disastrous? Is it not therefore right that the Welsh people should be allowed to express their view separately in the coming referendum on membership?

One of the most fundamental features of the renegotiation undertaken by this Government is the question of regional aid and the right of the British people to decide for themselves whether they wish to stay in the EEC. The referendum will decide this latter point. Our renegotiations will make considerable progress towards satisfying our needs in regional terms.

In view of the disquiet in Wales some months ago, which arose from a suspicion that some Government Departments, for perverse reasons, were not fully utilising the opportunities and moneys which existed in the EEC, will the Minister ensure that his right hon. Friends know that the people of Wales expect the Government to seize such opportunities on behalf of Wales with vigour?

One readily acknowledges that during the renegotiation period all Government Departments are getting what they can for Wales from the Common Market pot, but does the Minister consider that it will be possible to renegotiate the geographical location of Wales so that we can take advantage of a centralised market, if, unfortunately, we have to stay in the EEC?

I doubt whether even our powerful renegotiation team can achieve that. The aim of renegotiation is to ensure that the successful regional policies followed by Labour Governments will be able to continue within the EEC if the British people decide that we should stay in.

Does the Minister agree that the Departments of Trade and Industry have not applied for the various grants which could be available for Wales from the EEC? Does he accept that the regional policy agreed at the summit meeting and at recent meetings of the Council of Ministers will be administered to the advantage of Wales in the coming months and years?

I am sure that the Secretary of State for Industry would deny some of those remarks. Considerable progress has been made on the regional fund. It is true that, unlike the previous Conservative Government, we have treated renegotiation as a serious defence of the interests of both Britain and Wales.