HC Deb 14 January 1998 vol 304 cc346-7
Q4. Mr. Tyler

What plans he has to pay an official visit to Cornwall.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so at the moment.

Mr. Tyler

Would I be right in saying that the Prime Minister's briefing notes contain the following facts: that after 18 years of Conservative rule, households in Cornwall have some of the lowest incomes in the country; that our GDP is less than 70 per cent. of the European average; and that unemployment is rising? As other Ministers have come to Cornwall and the south-west and have tried to tackle those problems by endorsing the bid for objective 1 status, even if the Prime Minister cannot visit us, will he, on our behalf, give an absolute assurance to the people of Cornwall that he will advocate this case in the European Council and Commission?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry that I have not been down to the hon. Gentleman's part of the world yet—I have no doubt that I will rectify that in time to come. Objective 1 status is at present the subject of discussion between our various European partners, but I can assure him that we will keep the claims of Cornwall uppermost in our minds.

Ms Atherton

Will the Prime Minister assure my constituents that the new development agency will work to tackle the problems that Cornwall faces, and that some or all of the agency will be located in the county? Does he believe that the agency will significantly help our efforts to create new jobs and support existing jobs, such as those at the last working tin mine in Cornwall and Europe, South Crofty?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, detailed proposals for South Crofty are still being considered by the Ministry. I certainly believe that the regional development agency will play an important part in helping Cornwall, just as regional development agencies around the country will help by operating the single regeneration budget and by drawing in the inward investment that we require. The policies of the Government taken together—for jobs, through the welfare-to-work programme, and for greater health and education spending—will also play their part in raising the living standards of the people of Cornwall. I congratulate my hon. Friend on all her campaigning work on these issues.

Q5. Mr. Andrew George

What plans he has to pay an official visit to the communities of mainland Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the St. Ives constituency.

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I have to say none at the moment, but I shall keep it under review.

Mr. George

I thank the Prime Minister for his reply, and repeat that we would welcome him to Cornwall. The people of Cornwall face a great deal of uncertainty. Can the Prime Minister confirm that he will seize the opportunity of the European presidency to forge ahead with the effective reform of the common fisheries policy, on the principles of sustainability, decentralisation and equality of monitoring and enforcement?

The Prime Minister

I am pleased to say that I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance—that is precisely what we will try to achieve. Before Christmas, we achieved a better than expected outcome at the Commission negotiations. We shall continue to work on the long-term reform of the common fisheries policy. We are pressing the Commission now; I hope that we will be in a position to announce something in the not-too-distant future which will provide us with far better enforcement mechanisms under the fisheries policy than we have.

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