HC Deb 14 February 1983 vol 37 cc8-10
11. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the value of the grants allocated to England from the European regional development fund since its inception.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

A total of £209.6 million has been allocated to England from the quota section of the European regional development fund since its inception in 1975.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a significant sum and that the grants bring considerable advantages to Britian? Is he satisfied that the general public are aware of the extent of the assistance from the European Community?

Mr. Jenkin

No, I am not satisfied about that. We must continue to redouble our efforts to bring home to the British public just what are the advantages to us of membership of the Community, especially with regard to regional policy. The Government and local and other public authorites take all practical steps to ensure that the grants are widely publicised. For example, we erect signboards at project sites and publish details in British Business. Nevertheless, I accept that we must do more.

Mr. Stoddart

Is it not a fact that the sum given by the Secretary of State is chicken feed compared with what is needed by our regions? Would it not be much better if we used our money for this purpose rather than paying thousands of millions of pounds to the EC for the regional development that is badly needed in Britain?

Mr. Jenkin

Without doubt, membership of the Community has brought substantial advantages to Britain. Our trade with the community has risen half as fast again in the past 10 years as our trade with the rest of the world. Millions of jobs in Britian now depend on that business. If the Opposition's policy of withdrawing from the Community were ever put into practice, it would be disastrous for Britain.

Mr. Skinner

Being in has been a disaster.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Secretary of State confirm that application has been made to extend the use of this aid to inner city areas in England? If that is so, will there be further finance from the EC, or will existing aid be spread more thinly?

Mr. Jenkin

I have noticed the questions that the hon. Gentleman has tabled on the subject. I cannot usefully add to the full and helpful answers that he has received from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the substantial regional development fund grants to which he has referred are made infinitely more effective by the large sums that we receive from the European Investment Bank? Is he aware that small firms are especially pleased with the recent scheme to make that money more readily available to small firms at low rates of interest?

Mr. Jenkin

I agree with my hon. Friend. I should tell the House and small firms that the recent change in rules allows those firms to benefit from those funds, even though firms are not in the regional areas. The availability is now national.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Is the Minister satisfied with the amount that is coming from the regional development fund? If so, what contribution have the Government made to supplementing it in Yorkshire and the north-east, where it is badly needed because of high unemployment?

Mr. Jenkin

We always wish to see a better return from the European regional fund. Part of our purpose has been to seek to amend such things as the common agricultural policy so that there can be a more even distribution of the burden and the benefits of membership. With regard to the allocation of funds to the different regions, large parts of Yorkshire benefit from regional policy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that.