HC Deb 20 July 2000 vol 354 cc535-6
14. Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

What progress he has made in completing financial arrangements for the United Kingdom's European objective 1 regions. [130141]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith)

The spending review announcements ensure that all the UK's objective 1 programmes can now draw down their full structural funds allocations for the next three years. This is very good news for the regeneration of objective 1 areas.

Mr. George

I am sure that the Minister is aware how warmly the Chancellor's announcement on Tuesday was greeted in the UK's four objective 1 regions. However, is he aware how anxious those regions are to secure some further detail, such as the mechanisms that will now be put in place to ensure the efficient delivery of those match funds? What Treasury spending guidelines will be available to the spending Departments in objective 1 regions?

Mr. Smith

I can give the hon. Gentleman some more detail now. The Government will provide full funding for expenditure under objectives 1, 2 and 3 programmes within departmental allocations. That is estimated to total £4.2 billion for EU structural funds in the UK over three years, including an estimated £600 million for new objective 1 programmes in English regions, and of course the extra allocation of £80 million, £90 million and £100 million to Wales to ensure funding of European expenditure under objective 1 there.

We have delivered on our support for the objective 1 programme, regenerating areas of the country that were neglected by the Conservative party. The Liberal Democrats, like everybody else, should welcome it.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Will my right hon. Friend look at areas that fall just outside objective 1 funding provisions and whose objective 2 funding has been seriously cut? I appreciate that borders must be drawn somewhere, but it is difficult for impoverished neighbours such as north-east Derbyshire, which cannot cash in on some of the provisions that have been added.

Mr. Smith

I understand the concerns to which my hon. Friend draws the House's attention. I recently met representatives of the Alliance for Regional Aid, and we discussed precisely these issues. I have asked for a further report from my officials. I should be only too happy to meet my hon. Friend and his local representatives to see how we can ensure that if people are eligible for this support, they actually get it.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Does the Chief Secretary recognise that there is only one objective for the Government on European funding or on anything else, which is to try to con the electorate in 2001 as they conned them in 1997? Is not the reason why they are so desperate to spend their time attacking Opposition policies instead of answering questions about Government policy the fact that they know there are no answers to those questions and that they are preparing to swap Front Benches with the Opposition at the next general election?

Mr. Smith

The one crucial reality that is most relevant to all these issues is that a growing, extreme section of the Conservative party would end this help from the European Union and the support of these programmes because it wants to pull us out of Europe.