The Prime Minister has said that the European Union's cohesion and structural funds, which aid west Wales and the Valleys, need to be cut. David Cameron was answering questions in the Commons about EU leaders' failure to agree a new budget last week.
I am concerned that the Prime Minister says that there are savings to be made in cohesion and structural funds. He is aware that many areas of the UK, such as west Wales and the Valleys, enjoy receiving such payments. Is he saying that he can foresee a cut in that support?
There is a need for cuts in the overall cohesion and structural funds budget of the European Union. We should be frank and honest as a country in saying that, although there are regions of the UK that still benefit and should go on benefiting from structural funds, such funds should, on the whole, be for the poorest regions of the poorest countries. Britain’s negotiating position is different from that of many countries in that we do not go to Brussels and simply defend every penny that we receive; we try to seek an outcome that is right for the whole European Union.
When west Wales and the Valleys got aid from the 2000-06 EU budget, it was thought it would be a one-off. But the current budget, covering 2007-13, includes1.2 billion Euros for the region. In 2014-20, the European Commission expects Wales to concentrate on advanced manufacturing and research.
There will also be help with improving transport links but the overall amount of money will depend of the size of the budget for the next seven years. The Commission insists that the aid must come from the European Union and that the UK Government should not run Britain's regional aid programme.
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