As a result of the Government’s efforts, European structural funds have made a huge contribution throughout Wales, with some £1.54 billion awarded in the last spending round generating more than £3.8 billion in investments.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that response and for his brave decision in 1998 to include Denbighshire and Conwy in the objective 1 bid for Wales. We were left out and my right hon. Friend included us. Over the course of objective 1 funding, we hope to draw down £500 million in those two counties alone. Why did the previous Conservative Government not draw down objective 1 funding, despite the closure of Shotton steelworks, and the decline of agriculture and traditional seaside tourism? [Interruption.]
I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. Indeed, it was his persuasive case on that issue, put together with his colleagues, that allowed us to extend the boundary to include his constituency. Yes, he is absolutely right: because of their anti-European stance, our predecessors in government refused to draw down the enormous funding available for west Wales and the valleys, first under objective 1 and now under convergence funding. If they got back into power, that funding would be at risk again. That is the choice facing the people in my hon. Friend’s constituency and right across west Wales and the valleys.