Welsh Labour `Wants to Sex Down Aid Criticism' Opposition Accuse Assembly Government over Objective One Consultants' Evaluation

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THE Welsh Assembly Government stands accused of seeking to alter a crucial economic report in the same way as Tony Blair's Cabinet is alleged to have doctored intelligence data to justify the war against Iraq.

We can reveal that consultants who were engaged to assess the progress of the Objective One European aid programme in Wales are under pressure to water down their critical findings.

The seven year West Wales and the Valleys Objective One project, covering two thirds of the country, officially began at the beginning of 2000. It is seen as a one-off opportunity to boost the economy in the most disadvantaged areas.

Last Thursday officials of the Assembly Government's Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) met consultants in Cardiff to discuss the mid-term evaluation report on the programme they have written. During the meeting it was made clear that alterations would have to be made before the document was sent to the European Commission and published.

Last night Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives demanded the immediate publication of the report in its original form.

Alun Cairns, the Conservatives' economic development spokesman, said, ``It seems the Assembly Government wants to `sex down' the criticisms of the Objective One programme in stark contrast to the way Tony Blair's government is accused of `sexing up' the intelligence reports to justify Britain going to war against Iraq. Attempts to mislead and hoodwink don't, it appears, stop at Westminster. ``It's extremely worrying that Rhodri Morgan, who claims to preside over the most open government in Europe, should have these allegations made against his administration.

``This mid-term review is the last stab we have at getting the Objective One programme right, and it is essential that any problems are put right. …