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Mr. Brady: The hon. Gentleman is talking about large sums of structural fund money benefiting Wales. Is he suggesting that if the British Government were directly responsible for spending that British taxpayers' money and it was not channelled through the EU, it would not be spent in Wales?
Huw Irranca-Davies: I am glad to have received that intervention, as I shall certainly place on record an expression of my confidence that, if the distributor putting such funds towards helping the most vulnerable and ostracised in our society were a Labour Government, that money would indeed go to those communities.
Other youth support projects have been set up in Porthcawl and the Lynfi valley with European social fund grants. To date, more than 2,000 projects have been approved, totalling more than £1.1 billion over the past few years in my constituency alone, or for those who would prefer it, €1.6 billion.
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My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North said that, whatever replaced the structural funding, we should look to ensure that we still protected such communities. I echo that sentiment. Whatever proposals the Minister or the Treasury make, we should ensure that those funds continue to be diverted to the areas where they are of most use.
In Bridgend, a rural economy action project was set up with a European grant enabling strategic support to be given to sustainable regeneration of its rural communities. In particular, an intermediate labour market initiative, again boosted by European support, aims to assist the long-term unemployed back to work and is undertaking programmes of work that aim to contribute to the regeneration of the environment and to help and stimulate the growth of new green businesses and social enterprises.
That use of European funding directly ties in with the Government's overall objectives not only in terms of employment, but of training and skills development. With such projects under way, deprived communities rebuilding themselves and employment prospects rising, people in Ogmore, Wales and across the whole of Britain will want the EU to continue.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his incredible patience in giving way. He will know that I look across the bay from Bridgwater to his constituency. It may interest him to know that the Welsh Development Agency and others have tried to steal businesses from Bridgwater, which is an industrial town, for Wales. He may say that there is nothing wrong with that and that it is merely competition, but my area does not have any European funding at all, while his does. Does he think that that is right?
Huw Irranca-Davies: The only remark with which I take issue is the suggestion that the Welsh Development Agency is stealing investment. It has been singularly successful in attracting investment to Wales. I pay tribute to the work that the WDA has done. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a competitive environment, but the WDA has been singularly successful in attracting investment, as is reflected in my speech. I realise that its success has also meant that other regions have lost out on some occasions. Sometimes we lose out as well.
With the British presidency of the EU next year, the opportunity to fulfil the Lisbon strategy and make it come to fruition as part of a co-ordinated Europe-wide effort led by Britain should not be missed. Britain is already achieving key indicators set by the Kok report, such as those on employment, and is set to be second only to the Danes, Swedes and Finns in areas such as research and development, child care, science and lifelong learning. Why is it wrong for Britain to lead a European effort to achieve those targets, when it obviously benefits Britain, Europe and all of us to continue to seek reform? This country is succeeding as a leader in the EU whose aim is to lift productivity, employment, opportunity and fairness in an environmentally sustainable economy. That success has been nourished, sustained and safeguarded by membership of the Union, which increasingly looks to us for innovative policies that work and for a Europe that works.
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The accession of Turkey is a great opportunity. That point relates to the core of my speech that the EU is a union of not only open financial markets and so on, but of values, not least of which are human rights. The EU cannot, as one Conservative Member mentioned, simply be a trading association. The EU has a greater role as a propagator of fundamental humanitarian values that all progressive EU nations hold, which is its strength. A European Free Trade Association-style organisation would destroy our progress as a community of nations on environmental safeguards, workers' rights and so much more. A pared down economic and trade club is no substitute for a community of nations with shared valuesthe former knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The EU, represented by its member states, has beliefs as well as a balance sheet, which is why the accession of Turkey is to be encouraged.
Despite difficulties such as comparative GDP, their judiciaries and their traditional ties to Russia, countries such as Ukraine should not be ruled out from accession in the distant longer term. I concur with the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that we should not rule that out, because if their values and aspirations are similar to ours, our great EU group should not rule out membership to Ukraine or others.
Mr. David: My hon. Friend has emphasised the need for the European Council to take a positive decision on beginning negotiations with Turkey. Does he agree that Turkey's progress in a relatively short space of time is remarkable? One reason why that progress has been made is the incentive of the possibility of joining the EU at some time in the future.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I agree entirely. My hon. Friend has great knowledge in this sphere and he has made my point far better than I could have done. The EU is far greater than a pure trading entity, because it spreads and propagates values. Although I am extremely positiveI know that my hon. Friend is also very positive about Turkey's accessionwe should not let up the pressure on Turkey to reform its domestic agenda.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I am grateful for the chance to disagree with my hon. Friends, who represent most of south Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) has discussed values, and I have listened carefully to his carefully crafted words. Does he share my view that Turkey cannot accede unless and until it can demonstrate a robust parliamentary democracy and the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria, which cannot be diluted?
My hon. Friend has made a wise intervention. His position does not differ greatly from that of the Government, which is that we must see that those criteria are being met as part of the rules for accession. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend has thrown me slightly. I understand that hon. Members in the process of group therapy will blank, but I am back on course now. To echo the comments made by my hon.
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Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) on enlargement, it is right and proper that we congratulate the Government on the role that they have played at the forefront, sometimes very bravely with opposition from other, more strident voices elsewhere.
In conclusion, where do we go from here? My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston and the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who is not in his seat but was here for the bulk of the debate, both argued for change, but from very different perspectives. My hon. Friend spoke of the need for a new dream or vision of Europe that would inspire the young not only of 1987 or 1997 but of 2007. She may not have been aware that, as she made those comments, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks was nodding strongly in agreement. I do not know whether that is a cause for great joy or concern.
We need some new watchwords as we enter a new era with the European Union and address the issue of the European constitution. I suspect that somebody somewhere at the forefront of a marketing company will come up with something really inventive. However, it needs to be based on reform, renewal and reconnection because, despite my unashamed pro-European credentials, I worry as we see from the latest polling figures that we are failing to make the case strongly. That is partly because of our own failure in not singing from the same hymn sheet and not singing loudly enough, and partly because our Government and other Governments need to work much harder to put pressure more strongly on Europeans to go through the process of renewal and reform much more quickly and seriously.
As I approach the end of this group therapy session, I can honestly say that I feel much better now and that I am sure that I will be back for another session. I hope for continued progress and improvement for myself, for other hon. Members and for the European Union.
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