HL Deb 31 July 1984 vol 455 cc646-7

2.43 p. m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, in the absence, through injury, of my noble friend Lady Sharples, and with her permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much money from the EEC has been received for the restoration of Britain's piers.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, in 1983 the European Regional Development Fund made a grant of £62,400 to strengthen the structure of the Victorian pier at Southport. More recently the EEC Cultural Fund approved a £2,600 grant for a feasibility study of repair to Brighton West Pier.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, coming, as I do, from a town which boasts not merely a west pier but also a palace pier, may I express gratification at the facts and thank the noble Lord the Minister for bringing them to the attention of the House? May I ask him whether he feels there is not scope for a slightly more generous treatment of this important form of our antique heritage, and whether we can have an assurance that the European Parliament will not interfere with this very important aspect of the activities of the EEC?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the interference of the European Parliament is, I would have thought, a matter for them; but, rather like some public bodies close at home, the Commission have only recently discovered piers. They are being as generous as they can be, bearing in mind that, of course, they have responsibilities for the whole of the European Economic Community.

Baroness Elles

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, as regards this particular form of pier, the Commission's attention was drawn to it possibly by a peer and certainly by colleagues of mine in the European Parliament?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, yes, I am very well aware of that. There has also been a certain amount of pressure on this subject from the Council of Europe.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not encouraging to hear something good emerging from the EEC, but is it not also heavily Outweighed by the loads of nonsense which emanate from that quarter?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, nonsense, like other things, probably lies in the eye of the beholder.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is there any indication of how much we can hope to get from this lucrative source, now suddenly made available to us, towards saving the Brighton piers?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am afraid it is not a very lucrative source. About 400,000 European currency units are involved for 12 projects, spread among the entire Community. The grant of £2,600 referred to in my original Answer was for a feasibility study, and I have no doubt that when that has been completed a further application to the fund will be put forward.

The Earl of Mansfield

My Lords, bearing in mind that Wigan has now set up a tourist operation, could that come within the bounds of this largess?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I have no doubt that, if applied for, it could, but this would be routed by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England.