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Hansard 25 March: Column 513 ...
Hansard 25 March: Column 513

Accusations that the government was deliberately delaying news of which places were to lose assisted area status until after the May elections were denied by DTI minister Michael Wills in the commons yesterday.

Former Conservative minister Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, said about a quarter of the existing assisted areas would lose their status under government plans. The government had a European treaty obligation to disclose its new assisted area plans and map by 31 March this year.

He added: 'The minister has not been able to guarantee that the government will do that. Is that because they want to conceal the truth about their plans for reducing the assistance to large numbers of people until after the local government elections in England and the elections for the Scottish parliament and the Welsh assembly?'

Mr Wills replied: 'The short answer is no. We are working towards the commission's prefered deadline of 31 March'.

He told MPs that in the public consultation on the review of assisted areas, the government received more than 300 representations on the criteria that should be applied.

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