HC Deb 01 February 1984 vol 53 cc248-9W
33. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will state his Department's response to the European Community Commission's most recent proposals for modifying the provisions and conditions of the European regional development fund; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier

The Commission's latest proposals for amending the European Regional Development Fund Regulation have been welcomed by my Department as a constructive effort to move towards development of the fund's operations. The proposals must be examined in detailed discussions between the Commission and member states. My Department is taking an active part in the discussions which are under way.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on European Community Instrument No. 11232/82 on specific Community measures under Article 13 of the European Regional Development Fund Regulations.

Mr. Norman Lamont

The Council of Ministers approved by the written procedure on 18 January 1984 proposals for six regulations under article 13 of the European Regional Development Fund Regulation (Instrument No. 11232/82), three of which will benefit the United Kingdom by enabling Community aid worth approximately £86 million to be given for a series of special assistance programmes in areas adversely affected by employment losses in the steel, shipbuilding and textile sectors. The Select Committee on European Legislation recommends the above instrument for debate in association with Instrument No. 10443/81—proposal for a new regulation to govern the operation of the European Regional Development Fund.

No debate on Instrument No. 10443/81 was arranged because fundamental disagreements in the Council made its approval unlikely; and in fact the instrument was withdrawn by the Commission and replaced by new proposals on 22 November 1983. The Committee has recommended that this instrument also be debated in its report No. 11 of 18 January 1984. Unexpectedly, instrument No. 11232/82 was placed on the agenda for the Council meeting on 19 December 1983 at very short notice, following a 12-month failure to agree in the Council's working group on regional policy. At that Council meeting, the Commission was instructed to circulate a revised proposal, to which Member States were invited by the Presidency to agree in writing by 13 January. Since these measures, for which the United Kingdom had been pressing for over two years, would enable aid worth approximately £86 million for the United Kingdom, the Government felt bound to signify their agreement despite the fact that no debate had been held in either House, and despite the fact that the timetable for approval would not permit one.

Unfortunately, certain member states were still withholding agreement on 13 January, and the Commission circulated still further, albeit minor amendments on that day and subsequently for written acceptance by 18 January. Happily, all member states gave their agreement by that date, and the instrument has accordingly been approved.

Whilst I regret that circumstances combined to prevent a debate of this instrument in conjunction with the proposal for a new regulation, I feel sure that the House will wish to join me in welcoming the Council's approval, which will in due course enable much-needed Community aid to steel, shipbuilding and textile areas in the United Kingdom — and, moreover, beyond those originally proposed by the Commission.