HC Deb 07 May 1973 vol 856 cc22-3
23. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made in his discussions with the EEC about the designation of areas as central and non-central for the purpose of regional development aids.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Discussions are still in the exploratory stage and my right hon. Friend will make a statement to the House in due course.

Mr. Taylor

When is a decision likely to be made in view of the great concern in some areas about this? Will my hon. Friend say precisely what will happen if the EEC decides that we are not permitted to pay more than a 20 percent. industrial grant in certain areas when this House has already decided to pay it? Would amending legislation be introduced? What is the procedure for appeal?

Mr. Grant

The latter part of my hon. Friend's question is purely hypothetical because we are not in a position to say what will or will not be decided. It is a matter for negotiation. It is expected under Article 154 of the treaty that these matters should be settled by 1st July, and I have no reason to suppose that this will not be the case.

Mr. Heffer

Will the Minister tell us exactly what the Government are to negotiate about? Is he aware that over a long period of time we have been told that it is open for negotiation but never once has any Minister told us precisely what is the Government's policy and whether areas such as Liverpool, for example, with its 55,000 unemployed, will be involved? Will he come clean and tell us what the Government intend to do?

Mr. Grant

I can tell the hon. Gentleman what the Government intend to do. They intend to put clearly in these negotiations the interests of Liverpool and all other regions of the country.

Sir R. Cary

Would it not be much better if the Opposition were to send their own team to Europe?

Mr. Grant

I am not certain whether it would be better or a lot worse.

Mr. Varley

Why cannot the Minister be more forthcoming about this matter, which is of crucial importance? Can he answer this simple question about the stand which the Government are taking? Can he give a categoric assurance that all intermediate areas will continue to retain their existing status and benefits?

Mr. Grant

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it would be extremely unwise in advance of negotiations to commit our negotiators in any way. I can assure him that the policies we have adopted and our regional problems will be made known to the EEC.