HC Deb 19 November 1986 vol 105 cc558-9
10. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the assistance available within the rural development areas as designated by the Development Commission.

Mr. Waldegrave

The Development Commission has a wide range of schemes in rural development areas designed to promote new job opportunities and to help maintain or improve rural services. The budget of the Development Commission has been increased since 1983 by about 21 per cent. in real terms.

Mr. Beith

Bearing in mind the very high levels of unemployment in areas such as Northumberland, do the Government accept that rural development areas should have access to European regional development funds, as the mid Wales development area already has? Will the Government support an approach to try to secure that? Will they also look again at the funds available to the Development Commission for starter workshops for small businesses, a scheme with considerable potential, which is being held up in areas such as Northumberland due to lack of funds?

Mr. Waldegrave

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the European Commission has made it clear that any further extension of assisted area status will cause it to review all regional development assistance to the United Kingdom, so the risk might not be worth it. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a strong supporter of the Development Commission and has travelled around his constituency with the commissioners looking at schemes in which the commission is involved. The commission could use more resources and we are giving it more resources next year.

Mr. Marland

Is my hon. Friend aware that part of my constituency in the Forest of Dean is a rural development area and that the allocation of that status has made a fantastic difference to the morale of the district and the number of jobs created? Is he further aware of the considerable contribution to its success made by the chairman, Lord Vinson, a man of great ability for whom nothing is too much trouble?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am certainly aware of that. Indeed, I met Lord Vinson this morning to discuss these issues. In the period of farming readjustment now taking place as surpluses are reined back, the Development Commission has, perhaps, an increasingly important role to play.

Forward to