HC Deb 15 March 1995 vol 256 cc886-7
3. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress is being made in the utilisation of objective I funding on Merseyside; what representations he has received in respect of the participation of local authority and social partners on the committees monitoring the use of objective 1 funds; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration (Mr. David Curry)

Last November, approvals in principle for almost 800 projects, worth over £175 million, were announced, and 742 schemes have now received formal approval. The local authorities are fully involved in the committees monitoring the use of objective 1 funds, as are a range of other partners.

Mr. Wareing

I notice that the Minister did not answer the part of my question about the representation of social partners in objective 1 funding. I believe that he was told by Mrs. Wulf-Mathies, the Commissioner, as early as last November that social partners should be represented. According to an answer in the European Parliament, representations were made. Is the Minister aware that there is considerable enthusiasm on Merseyside for objective 1 status? People there are keen to get on with the work of the schemes, but they are thwarted by the inadequacy of the secretariat and by bureaucracy on Merseyside. If the Minister does not pull his finger out, Merseyside stands to lose.

Madam Speaker

Order. We shall not make any progress at all today if we have Adjournment debates instead of questions. Perhaps the Minister can answer briskly and questions can be to the point.

Mr. Curry

The Commission has accepted that the social partners are not represented. I accept that we need to get the next round dealt with more quickly; but, with 1,500 applications, there is a great deal of work to be done in the cumbersome scheme that we have to operate.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that, of the 106 applications in the past 12 months, only six have been agreed and that the process is in danger of silting up? Is there not a good case for appointing one person to take control of objective 1 bids to ensure that the programme works effectively?

Mr. Curry

The machinery is cumbersome, but it is imposed by the objective 1 mechanism which we cannot vary or short circuit. On capital projects, 42 regional fund bids have been approved. The social fund training schemes have been done quite quickly; another 25 should come in the next couple of weeks, and 30 had to go back for further work because they were not put together well enough. We hope to bring those forward as soon as we can and we shall try to speed up the processing of the 1995 round bids. However, as I have said, there are 1,500 of them and it is necessarily a difficult process. We shall do our best.

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