§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the policy of the Government towards the proposals of the European Parliament for increases in the appropriations for the European Regional Development Fund in the 1979 Community budget; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett
As I stated in my reply dated 15th December to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd), at its meeting on 5th December the European Council maintained the position it had adopted a year previously on provision for the Regional Development Fund, including commitments of 620 MEUA in 1979. The Budget Council was informed on 12th December that the budgets committee of the European Parliament was likely to recommend to the Parliament maintenance of the total provision for the RDF in the 1979 budget at the level accepted by the 20th November Budget Council, but the Budget Council on 12th December was unable to agree to a new maximum rate of the size believed to be envisaged by the European Parliament. The budget as finally adopted by the European Parliament on 14th December included total commitments provision in 1979 for the Regional Development Fund of 1,100 MEUA but, as I have explained in my answer today to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), the present position on the 1979 budget is unclear and will be the subject of further Council discussion this month.
As the Prime Minister stated to the House on 6th December—[Official Report, c. 1434]—we would be glad to see increases in the Regional Fund, but in view of the burden being borne by Germany and by others it would be far better to restructure existing funds away from CAP support and into regional assistance of this sort, rather than try to increase the budget beyond the point that some countries are willing to bear.