HC Deb 19 April 1989 vol 151 cc325-6
7. Mr. Knox

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the value of grants allocated to England from the European regional development fund since its inception.

Mr. Newton

The value of grants allocated to England from the European regional development fund since its inception in 1975 is £1,602 million, out of a total United Kingdom allocation of £3,307 million. Since 1975 the United Kingdom has received a larger allocation from the European regional development fund than any other member state apart from Italy.

Mr. Knox

It is a large figure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the grants are making an important contribution to strengthening the British economy, and is he satisfied that the British people are fully aware of the scale of the grants?

Mr. Newton

No, I suspect that people are not fully aware of the scale of the grants and I should be glad to join my hon. Friend in trying to improve their knowledge of that matter. It is encouraging that local authorities and others concerned with the areas that are eligible are increasingly aware of the grants and are being increasingly effective in preparing good plans and playing a key part in making sure that we get our due share of the money.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister satisfied that west Cumberland is getting its fair share of those European moneys? Is he aware that in west Cumberland we have 43,000 sq. ft. of empty new factory in the middle of an enterprise zone in an area of high unemployment? Will he help us to find someone to occupy that factory? How about a bit of the Japanese money which seems to be circulating as we seem to have very little Japanese investment in west Cumberland? Can we have some?

Mr. Newton

First, I welcome the warmth of the hon. Gentleman's implied welcome for some of the investment that has been going elsewhere. I am afraid that I am not in a position to direct Japanese companies, but I shall certainly draw their attention to the existence of one enthusiastic Member of Parliament.

Mr. Soames

Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituency is the engine room of the British economy and that the infrastructure has consequently suffered greatly, especially due to the parsimony and greed of the Department of Transport? Will my right hon. Friend have a word with those responsible for the European regional development fund to see whether they can give us any assistance to build some better roads?

Mr. Newton

I must say that the prospect of the European Commission proposing the distribution of funds designed to help those who are having more difficult times for what my hon. Friend describes as the engine room of the British economy seems remote. I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me not to comment on his remarks about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, save to say, within the terms of collective responsibility, that I cannot quite agree with my hon. Friend.

Mrs. Clwyd

I am delighted that such opportunities exist in England, but will the Minister draw to the attention of the European regional development fund and to incoming industrialists the fact that my constituency of Cynon Valley, which contains the deprived town of Mountain Ash and 45,000 sq. ft. of factory space—2,000 sq. ft more than that in west Cumberland—would be delighted to have any industrialists come to our area, where one in four men are unemployed?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady will have noticed that I gave not just a figure for England but a much larger figure for the United Kingdom which, of course, includes the area in which the hon. Lady is interested. I will draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales to the hon. Lady's remarks, but his response may be that, in general, Wales has not been doing too badly recently.

Sir Hal Miller

Is my right hon. Friend aware that parts of Hereford and Worcestershire have recently been removed by the European Commission from the scope of objective 2 of the European regional development fund? In those circumstances, will he confirm that the parts which remain United Kingdom assisted areas will not suffer in any way in terms of applications for regional selective assistance from the Government?

Mr. Newton

I am aware of the point that my hon. Friend makes and I can confirm that the Commission's proposals for the distribution of objective 2 money have no effect on the existing entitlement to assisted area status in this country and the help that goes with it. There is no direct coincidence between the two kinds of area.

Mr. Caborn

What proportion of the regional funds to which the Minister has just referred has been applied under the additionality rule, on which I understand that the regional funds have been allocated? Will he assure the House that the new European regional development fund and the Community's new structural fund arrangements will be additional to the national spend on regional assistance?

Mr. Newton

The agreed aim of everybody involved is that the European regional development fund shall add to the amount of investment taking place in development areas. The hon. Gentleman will know as well as I do that there can be a great deal of argument—I will not pretend that there is not—about precisely what that means. I do not think that I can give a more specific answer, because the whole question of the allocation under what has recently been announced in defining the objective 2 areas depends on the submission of plans, not all of which have yet been submitted.