HC Deb 12 February 1973 vol 850 cc957-8
5. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what amount will he spent from the EEC budget on development areas in the United Kingdom in 1973; and if he will make a statement as to which industries now facing severe competition from EEC countries will he helped.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Walker)

It was agreed at the October summit that a new Regional Development Fund, to be financed from the Community's own resources, should be set up by the end of 1973. The Community's existing arrange- ments for assisting regional development are not financed from the budget.

Mrs. Short

Was not it agreed that the amount of the Community budget for the purpose would be only 2 per cent., which is very small? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many industries in this country, from shoes and textiles to the steel industry, will be in a very difficult situation once EEC competition really begins? Is he aware that in the West Midlands, for example, thousands of steelworkers will become redundant during the next decade? Does he not think that he should try to get a better bargain than it appears we shall get?

Mr. Walker

As to steel jobs, the steel industry considers that entry into the Community will be of benefit to it and not detrimental. I stated in my reply that the finance to assist regional development did not come out of the budget. For example, for steelworkers in particular the finance comes out the budget of the Coal and Steel Community and not the budget of the Community itself.

Mr. Marten

How much would my right hon. Friend like to get back from the Community for regional development?

Mr. Walker

As much as possible.

Mr. Benn

Can the Secretary of State be a bit more explicit? We want to know what he is asking for. The House is entitled to know what he thinks is necessary so that hon. Members may compare it with what he gets. Can the right hon. Gentleman satisfy the House that the definition of assisted areas which is accepted in this country will be acceptable for the purposes of receiving money under the European Regional Development Fund?

Mr. Walker

The reason why no decision is being made until the end of 1973 is that we want to analyse the total European problem. The Government will then decide what they consider to be correct for this country.

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