HC Deb 17 April 1996 vol 275 c703
9. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what further incentives he proposes to assist industrial development in those rural areas in the United Kingdom experiencing depopulation; and if he will make a statement. [23924]

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. John M. Taylor)

The Government provide a number of measures to encourage industry and commerce in rural areas. Some rural areas, such as the hon. Gentleman's constituency, also qualify for European structural funds objective 5b programmes and from Community initiatives programmes such as Leader II, for which further funding will be announced shortly.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the Minister confirm that unemployment levels are still the determining factor for eligibility for regional selective assistance? Does he accept that some rural communities—such as Hawick in my constituency, which is not unique because there are similar communities throughout the United Kingdom—find that people leave the area to find work rather than sign on and register as unemployed? Will the Minister therefore give urgent consideration to making rural areas potentially eligible for regional selective assistance, where they can show long-term population decline as a result of job losses?

Mr. Taylor

The hon. Gentleman is right; unemployment has always been one of the dominant criteria. However, many factors are included in the RSA calculations. I pledge that I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about depopulation is considered when the criteria are next reviewed.