HC Deb 17 June 1976 vol 913 cc715-6
4. Mr. Marten

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the net receipt of funds from the EEC Regional Fund for 1975.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Joel Barnett)

The United Kingdom contributes to the budget of the Community as a whole and not to individual funds. Gross receipts up to 15th January, the end of the fund's operating year, were £7.75 million. In the same period the United Kingdom received commitments of £35.9 million.

Mr. Marten

Is the Minister aware that in a reply to me recently he said that the gross receipts in 1975 were only £307,000, that for 1976 they were estimated to be £10 million, and for 1977, £14 million? These are very small figures compared with what this Government give—and what successive Governments have given—in general regional aid to industry. Will he put this EEC regional aid in perspective, as the European movement is putting out somewhat misleading figures about it?

Mr. Barnett

There may be some mis-understanding on the part of the hon. Gentleman. The difference is between payments and commitments. The payments will invariably come a considerable time after the commitments have been made. The total availability to this country from from the Regional Fund is £150 million. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and would like to see it considerably higher. That will be our objective in later years, but for the period we are talking about the commitment is £150 milion.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Has the Minister any plans to abolish the green pound? If not, will he consider holding an inquiry to see what effect it has on the agriculture industry?

Mr. Barnett

I have no plans to abolish the green pound. It is not quite within the terms of the Question, but the answer is "No."

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister assure the House that the £150 million that we are getting from the European Regional Fund is in addition to the money available from United Kingdom sources and will not replace it, so that the net benefit to the areas that need help will be very low?

Mr. Barnett

The total expenditure in the regions will be decided separately, and the amount that we receive from the Regional Fund will be taken into consideration in deciding the total amount. The amount that we receive from the fund will enable us to do more in the regions than would otherwise have been the case.

Mr. Fairgrieve

In spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) said, does the Minister appreciate how grateful Scotland is for the money we have received from the European Regional Fund, especially in recent years for the fishing industry in North-East Scotland?

Mr. Barnett

I note what the hon. Gentleman said. That applies not only to Scotland but to other areas of need throughout the United Kingdom.

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