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EU Referendum

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2015

1. What discussions he has had in Wales on the implications for Wales of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. (900270)

As this is the first Wales Office business since the election, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome new and returning Members, especially new Welsh Members. I look forward to working with them all over the next five years in the best interests of Wales.

On the EU referendum, I have been listening to what people and businesses across Wales have to say, and what they want is a less intrusive, less costly and less burdensome membership of the EU. We intend to secure that and deliver an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the spectacular U-turn by the Labour party demonstrates just how out of touch it is with business and local opinion in Wales?

The Secretary of State will focus his reply on the Government’s position. A brief sentence will suffice.

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The Labour party fought its entire election campaign by scaremongering about the EU referendum, showing that it was wrong on that issue, as on so many others—wrong in Gower, wrong in Cardiff North and wrong in the Vale of Clwyd.

Order. I was being very generous to the Secretary of State, but he must not abuse my generosity. I was trying to be kindly to a new Member.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that it is important to have an objective assessment of the implications for the people of Wales of pulling out of the EU. Will he therefore commission an objective report on the issues and publish the results?

The right hon. Lady makes an extremely useful and important point. We want the people of the UK to make an evidence-led decision. It is not for the Wales Office to commission such a report, but I suspect that many other independent organisations will be looking at such evidence, and we look forward to seeing the results.

The provisions of the European Union Referendum Bill that relate to the dilution of purdah would apply no less to the Welsh Assembly Government than to Her Majesty’s Government. Will the Secretary of State please undertake to mention that to his right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe so that the people of Wales can expect a fair referendum?

I have had several discussions with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe on issues relating to the EU referendum in Wales, and the important decision that has been taken is to avoid the referendum clashing with the Assembly elections.

I welcome the Secretary of State and his team back to the House, and I offer the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith), who has been detained on urgent personal business.

Given that more than 150,000 jobs in Wales depend on our membership of the EU, can the Secretary of State say whether any members of his ministerial team belong to or support the Conservatives for Britain group? What does he have to say to sceptical Government Members about the benefits of EU membership for Wales?

I am absolutely clear: I want to approach the EU referendum campaigning for Britain to stay in a reformed EU. We have huge support from people and businesses across Wales for the Prime Minister’s strategy of seeking a less costly and less intrusive membership of the EU, and one of the most useful things we can do in this House is give him our full-throated support in those renegotiations.