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Andrew George: The Minister says that the debate needs reality, but it also needs parity. It is not beyond
12 Jan 2005 : Column 412
the wit of man or woman to conceive of a scheme that allows for a 1 per cent. budget but that also targets that money at those regions in Europe that are entitled to objective 1 aid. That would mean that regions in some of the 15 earlier member states would be entitled to objective 1 status, just as the accession states will be.

Jacqui Smith: But the argument comes back to whether we want to see contributions being recycled from richer member states back down to richer member states, through Europe, or whether we want to focus domestic resources on regional policy. That is part of the fundamental difference that we have.

In contrast to the Commission's proposals, the Government's guarantee represents a firm commitment, if our approach to reform is adopted, to increase resources for regional policy in the UK for the whole of the next structural funds cycle. We therefore believe that the guarantee offers far more certainty for current objective 1 regions than the Commission's unrealistic and unsustainable approach.

Fundamentally, I want to underline again this Government's determination to tackle persistent regional disparities within the UK and to achieve a successful outcome to the negotiations on reform of the structural funds. We are convinced that our reform proposals, and perhaps even more importantly our proven commitment to regional policy, will ensure the best deal for the UK's nations and regions. We will set EU regional policy on a sustainable footing. We will ensure genuine solidarity between member states. We will also ensure prosperity and continued economic growth in the constituencies of hon. Members present here today.

Question put and agreed to.

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