§ 7. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West)
What recent representations he has received on the criteria for awarding assisted area status. 
§ The Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry (Mr. Michael Wills)
In the public consultation on the review of the assisted areas map, we received more than 300 representations on the criteria that should be applied.
§ Mr. Amess
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I visited Europe last year and had a meeting with a European Commissioner to try to persuade him to give financial 514 help to Southend? He clearly told me that it was a matter for Her Majesty's Government to nominate Southend for assistance. Is the Minister also aware that Southend has high unemployment, a low per capita gross domestic product and terrible transport problems as a result of Government cuts of £600,000? Will he support the bid by the Liberal-Labour controlled council for assisted area status for Southend?
§ Mr. Gwyn Prosser (Dover)
Is my hon. Friend aware of the particular problems of east Kent—the structural changes in employment, the loss of the Kent coalfields in my constituency, the loss of frontier jobs when the single market came in and the impact of the channel tunnel on ferry jobs? Is he aware that in the past five years of the present round of assisted area grants, we have been able to invest £160 million in the constituency and the surrounding area? Will he take all those special issues into account in his deliberations?
§ Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
About a quarter of the existing assisted areas will lose their assisted area status under Government plans. The Government have a treaty obligation to disclose their new assisted area plans and map by 31 March this year. 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?